I’m staying in Vienna for the next 10 days. And, of course, if you know me or know how I write, you will also know the only reason I would be in Vienna is for Conchita Wurst (well, that, and to figure out if Vienna is a city I can live in — and, yes, it is, yes, I’ll be moving here next year, and, yes, I’m moving because of her).
Last night, I was at the Voices for Refugees concert. An incredibly well-organized event that was attended by over 100,000 people, and that was put on to show the world how strongly many Austrians feel about welcoming refugees to Europe. It was a powerful concert, with some fabulous artists, and a stream of refugees brought on stage to introduce themselves to the audience, so that people can see they are human just like we are and want nothing more than to be treated with respect and to live in a place where they are not in daily fear of losing their lives.
But the highlight for me, of course, was being able to see Conchita Wurst sing live for the first time. Because, after a year and a half of writing about her, I wanted to see if she is what I expected as a performer, and if the talent I have seen on videos is as immense as it seems.
And, yes, live she is exactly what I expected but even more so. Because her voice is even richer and stronger live than on video, she has an incredible musical range, an ability to hit and hold high notes for what seems like forever that, if you think she’s good on video, just wait until you hear her live, and a stage presence now which is mesmerizing.
The first time I heard her sing yesterday, I was lucky enough to be a few meters away from her when she sound-checked in the afternoon. Or at least, I was in the middle of the field when I suddenly heard booming out from loud speakers that familiar voice as clear as the clearest water trickling down from an Alpine stream. (What? I’m in Austria. You get an Austrian-style analogy. Live with it).
So I ran the length of half the field to get closer to her in time to hear her sound-check ‘Put That Fire Out‘, a song that she’s never sung live before, at least as far as I know, and a song she was slaying with the most beautiful voice.
And my first sense of Conchita Wurst, from the closest I’ve ever gotten to her? You know that article I wrote about why she’s so huggable? Something I’m convinced is partially due to that vulnerability she always has……
Well, when she’s on stage practicing, in the middle of sound technicians all getting set up and with her social media manager video taping what she’s doing and taking photographs, she is absolutely focused on the mission at hand, does not even acknowledge the audience of superfans screaming her name because she’s already in that world in her head, and that amazing vulnerability she has is pouring off her in waves.
My second chance being able to hear Conchita sing live was several hours later when she performed in the concert itself. And here I was, again, a couple of meters away from her right up at the front. And, although her first appearance was when she walked on stage with every other artist performing that night, so they could observe a one minute silence for the refugees, I could sense almost every one of those 100,000 people on that field was transfixed by her.
Because, no matter who she is standing next to (even the President of Austria, who also made an appearance), you are not physically able to take your eyes off her. As she has this magnetism that only the world’s biggest stars have, and it pulls you in so much you literally cannot break free from it.
Then, once the minute’s silence was over, and the on-stage photographs had been taken, Conchita was left alone standing at the side of the stage waiting to officially walk out there and sing. My eyes never left her for the entire time she stood there, several minutes at least, and I’ve never seen focus like that. It’s so strong, you can feel it, and she is so obviously in a world in her head preparing herself to sing, she is simply spectacular to watch.
As for her performance, it was beautiful. Because, not only did she sing both songs with such emotion and power (minus a tiny lyrics mistake in Put That Fire Out, which was completely inconsequential in the grand scheme of things), her demeanor for that particular event was perfect.
She was quiet within herself, completely cool and controlled without a hint of flamboyance or an attempt to get attention for herself, and projecting a feeling of utmost respect for the event and for the refugees the event was about.
She sang two songs (“Heroes” and “Put That Fire Out“), she gave a short speech, which was touching and lovely, she said “Thank you and good night” and then immediately walked off stage. All done with no drama, no interest in pulling the attention to herself, and done so beautifully and so understated it could not have been more perfect.
And as for her performance, let me just say, when you’re as close as I was to her, you will have no doubt in your mind the only possible outcome for her is a massive career as a world superstar. Because she is one of the greats. She’s one of those people with that indefinable ‘something’ that lets you know she’s almost other worldly she’s so rare.
She has what it takes to mesmerize you with her voice, a stage presence that will drag you to the floor, and a way of just ‘being’ there’s no-one else like her.
To me, someone who has always known what her ultimate destination will be, Conchita Wurst’s performance at Voices For Refugees last night was just the icing on the cake. A cake that is the most delicious one you will ever come across, because she is just that bloody perfect.
And as for my only criticism about Voices For Refugees, Conchita Wurst’s name should have been at the top of that bill of artists performing last night, and not the fourth one down the list. As, while it was lovely that every artist gave their time for this event, and there were some extremely good acts, there was no-one on that stage even remotely in her league. German, Austrian or otherwise.
As for some additional things —
I was also lucky enough to be able to meet René Berto, Conchita Wurst’s manager, who I saw by chance out on the field and quickly introduced myself to, for no other reason than that man is God to me. and I wanted him to know it. Because if it wasn’t for him fighting to get her to Eurovision, I would never have heard of Conchita Wurst and I can’t even imagine the hole I would now have in my life.
I also ended up two feet away from Conchita’s best friend and assistant, Nicole, who appeared at one point in the pit below the stage and right next to me, and she has the most calming and most amazing positive energy that just radiates from her.
And I only mention these two people because I am of the firm belief that, while you can learn a lot about someone from watching them, you can learn just as much from the people that person chooses to surround themselves with. And if you see who Conchita Wurst has chosen to be in her inner circle, you will immediately see who she really is.
Kind, gentle, calm, focused, incredibly professional, very respectful to everyone, and with a belief in herself and what she does that nobody is ever going to break. She’s one of the world’s soon-to-be biggest superstars. I absolutely guarantee it.
Now watch Conchita Wurst singing at Voices For Refugees last night, and be in suitable awe. Because few people will ever have the amount of talent she does.