For the past six months, I have been struggling to find the level of interest in Conchita Wurst I used to have. A strong statement coming from someone who has written more than 500 articles about her, and recently moved to Vienna, Austria because of her.
The extreme change in style over the last year has something to do with it as, with the eternal pants, the thick beard, and the hairy chest constantly on show, when that transformation began I, sadly, started to lose interest.
So, I must admit, when I set off to see Conchita Wurst perform at the Wider Die Gewalt benefit concert at Ronacher in Vienna on Monday night, a small part of me was wishing I could stay home and watch Netflix instead.
The evening became more interesting, however, when I arrived at Ronacher and was told by one excited fan Conchita had stopped by a fan meeting at a local restaurant that evening, and announced she was not only singing at Wider Die Gewalt but would be hosting the entire show.
The first thought that flashed through my head was one of these days I’ll buy a clue, and get to one of these fan meets so I can actually see her up close and personal again. (I sat down with her right before last year’s Wider Die Gewalt, and haven’t met her since). Then I became more interested in the event itself as I was curious to see her hosting, considering she did such a stellar job of it at the Eurovision Song Contest in 2015.
So, when the concert began and Conchita strode onto the stage with co-host Alfons Haider, it wasn’t a surprise to see how well she did. Relaxed, funny, (well, I had to go off her facial expressions and the crowd’s reaction, as my German is still almost non-existent), and with a beautiful and elegant speaking voice, her pacing was perfect and she had incredible comedic timing. In fact, she made an already enjoyable show much more so.
What was surprising, however, was that her actual performance right at the end of the show only comprised two songs. Considering last year she sang four, I expected there to be more. Particularly as Conchita Wurst was the closing act.
Then again, it’s exhausting keeping mentally on point to host an entire show, so I could certainly understand the need for just two.
But, what a lovely two they turned out to be.
Conchita began her performance with her self-written song ‘Blue Bloom‘ — a pretty song, especially as it is the first one she has written, but not one that grabbed me that much during the performance she gave of it on a demo video on YouTube in August.
Or, at least I thought so until she sang ‘Blue Bloom‘ at Wider Die Gewalt.
Because this time, instead of going for acoustic guitar, Conchita Wurst was accompanied by the Janoska Ensemble, a group of classically-trained musicians from Vienna that was superb.
And an ensemble that had created an arrangement for ‘Blue Bloom‘ that opened with the prettiest solo piano and then violin, then morphed into a classical-goes-funky-light-pop piece that included a simply stunning musical interlude from the Janoska Ensemble. A twist that suddenly set this song above what it had been before.
And this, of course, is one of the things that is so incredibly clever of Conchita Wurst and why, even though I have periods where I think I’m over her, (well, it has been two and a half years of being fascinated by her and, for me, with most other artists two weeks is often long enough) I always come back.
Because her performances with live music are not only always spectacularly good, she takes chances with each new one, as the style she chooses is also far from what you would expect. Yet, they always, always work.
As for Conchita Wurst’s voice while singing ‘Blue Bloom‘ at Wider Die Gewalt? Like night and day compared to her voice right after her win at Eurovision 2014, when she sometimes struggled to get the richness and maturity her voice now has almost effortlessly.
Because listening to her sing ‘Blue Bloom‘ live, you can tell how hard she has worked to get the vocal consistency she now has, and how there is no longer that strain her voice used to sometimes have on stage. So, yes, on Monday night, her voice was spectacular.
After ‘Blue Bloom‘, Conchita ended the evening with a Janoska Ensemble accompanied version of Cher’s ‘Believe‘. A song that, again, became something ‘other’ when sung the Janoska Ensemble way. And that, interestingly, also had the most masculine Conchita I think I’ve ever seen perform. (The energy, the facial expressions, the intense power).
And so that brings me to this comment.
As much as I do not like some of what Conchita is doing with her persona nowadays style-wise, I have to admit I still really like that she’s doing it anyway.
And I like that she’s standing up for herself and her choices, by asking her fans to respect them because, as she says, “the only thing I ask you for is that you will forever allow me to be who I want to be. And I don’t say that you have to like it, but it’s the same person.”
Because, for me, while I personally like less of what she does nowadays (and, if I’m honest, that does flip backwards and forwards for me depending on the day, so that fact could definitely change), I do still like her, and… she is absolutely right in what she says. She should be allowed to do what she wants. Her life, her career, her body.
Besides, when you think back to all the horrendous bullying that boy had to put up with for half his life just fighting to be who he was and who he wanted to be, it would be pretty horrible of me, or anyone else, to insist he goes back to someone else’s idea of the ‘acceptable image’. Just because we want him/her/whoever to forever be that supremely girly girl we all fell in love with.
So, yes, Conchita, please keep ignoring my opinion. It really is for the best.
And one final thing, going back to Conchita’s performance of ‘Blue Bloom‘ for a moment — and do watch it in the videos below. As she finishes singing, remember one thing. This is the first song she has ever written, so it is always going to hold a special place in her heart.
And you can tell that is true right at the end of the second video below, when she turns to thank the Janoska Ensemble and then turns back to the audience.
Because there’s this look on her face. The same look she had two years ago when she went back to her hometown of Bad Mitterndorf to perform in front of the whole village. A look that tells you she is so emotionally touched by having sung that song and by the audience’s reaction, she could quite easily cry.
And, for me, when I see that look, as much as sometimes I’m dead sure I will eventually walk away from her, I know there’s not a chance I ever will.