Mon 7 Aug – Tom WaitsI'm still in computer limbo, so I've fallen way behind on reviews and such. I'm going to write up reviews for shows I've recently seen, however, since they're still quite fresh in my mind. I've been lucky enough to see some artists I really adore, which is always a good thing.
Getting tickets to any of the Tom Waits
venues proved a difficult task. I unwisely passed up some really horrible seats in both Nashville and Chicago, so the lesson here shall be, "If you want to see Tom Waits, be willing to take shitty seats." I've never been to any show where the desperation to get tickets has been so insane. It took numerous tries at several venues to end up with $55 tickets to Louisville, by far one of the cheapest and most available.
The Palace Theater is one of those lovely restored atmospheric theaters, with a bright and showy paintjob and great Baroque-ish architectural details. Even though we had seats way up in the balcony, we had a pretty good view, as many such theaters were designed with that very thought in mind. So the view ended up superceding the expectations of my boyfriend and I quite a bit.
We got there right before he began and nearly missed the first song while finding the restrooms and bar. We both rushed back to our seats and quickly sat down to take everything in. Now, I'm a pretty enthusiastic fan; I'd definitely consider Tom Waits my favorite music artist. I'm not the sort of fan who quibbles over details, buys every bootleg and compilation, but I know albums and songs and can discuss them at length. My boyfriend is a more casual fan but still loves the guy. I can restrain myself at a show, clap when necessary, wait for the cues. However, this crowd was extremely enthusiastic, I suppose because the guy never tours. They never hesitated to cheer at the most inane cue. I guess, at the very least, they really wanted to see him and showed their appreciation, which isn't so bad, really.
This was the set he played:
Make It Rain
Hoist that Rag
God's Away on Business
All the World is Green
Tom Traubert's Blues
Tango til they're Sore
House Where Nobody Lives
Who's Been Talkin' / Til the Money Runs Out
Murder In The Red Barn
Lie to Me, Baby
Get Behind The Mule
It Rains on Me
Goin Out West
He did one encore, playing:
Day After Tomorrow
Don't Go Into That BarnSome thoughts on specific songs...
"Shore Leave" was rather different from the original, with more emphasis placed on the music, less of a cool, relaxed approach to the vocals.
Perhaps my favorite song from my 2nd favorite album, "Black Rider," "November" was perfectly restrained, with the climax emphasized by careful percussion.
I recognized "Falling Down," but could not for the life of me recall what album it was on. It's been a while since I've watched "Big Time."
Tom forgot an entire verse on "Tango 'Til They're Sore," but he handled it with a lot of humor and dignity; the crowd even tried to help him remember the words. Actually, he forgot lines and verses to several songs throughout the night, which is excusable, considering these were songs written well over 10 years ago. It never got in the way of enjoying the performance, either, as Waits is such a solid entertainer.
He opened "'Til the Money Runs Out" with a cover of Howlin' Wolf's "Who's Been Talkin'," which I didn't recognize at first. I've always had less interest in Tom Waits's pre-Island work, and I've not listened to "Heartattack and Vine" a great deal. I didn't recognize "Lie to Me, Baby" and "It Rains On Me," but I thought the performances were excellent.
What's most interesting about Waits and his band live is how they add new twists to the work. For instance, the sparser, rougher feel of "Eyeball Kid" with the beatboxing (via Casey Waits) was excellent, and the layering of rhythm and sound very tight. Definitely the highlight of the show. Also, "Shake It," a song it's taken me many listens to really adjust to, was much stronger live, the cut between verse and chorus still abrupt, but feeling more natural. I'm liking that song more and more as time passes.
The encore was also excellent, with "Day After Tomorrow" serving as a strong shift from the previous set. Although he did a few songs on just piano earlier in the show, this song was the most intimate, with the timely lyrics getting lots of hoots and hollers from the crowd. After this, he went into the more rhythmic, spooky sound of "Don't Go Into the Barn," which was very close to the album cut. He also finally brought out the bullhorn, so everyone got their money's worth.Conclusion...
All in all, I'd say it was an excellent show. I'll add that the lighting design was fantastic. The simple use of colored lighting and the spot was just enough to draw attention to the performers and overall mood of each song. The simple white curtain behind the band was filled with their cast shadows, which somehow added to the atmosphere of the show.
The band played well, and the guitarist, though not ungodly amazing, was capable of capturing the feel of Marc Ribot's flourishes. I was glad that most of the show stuck with the heavier, more rhythmic songs, even though "Alice" was all but absent from the set (it might have been nice to throw just one of those cuts into the piano portion of the night). But overall, it was great stuff. If you're lucky enough to catch one of the later dates on the tour, you certainly won't be disappointed.