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Monday, June 23, 2008

Tom Waits: Glitter And Doom

It's almost been a week since I left for Phoenix to visit with an old friend and see Tom Waits perform at The Orpheum Theater and I have finally found some time to sit down and recap that experience.

My friend dropped me off on Wednesday evening in plenty of time to stand in the line that had already formed outside The Orpheum. It was an ungodly kind of heat that I was being subjected to. I can't even imagine what it's like to live there and deal with it being 115 degrees out daily. I could already tell by the crowd in line that this show was going to be awesome. A Tom Waits show brings out a variety of circus freaks, goths, bikers, and folk music fans.

When I finally got inside, I made a b-line directly to the tshirt booth. Leave it up to Mr. Waits to do things differently. The three shirts that were on sale had no mention of The Glitter And Doom Tour on them. Instead, there were three different oil stain paintings that Tom Waits created at random dates in random locations. Accompanying the image is his signature. On the backs of each, had the name of the oil stains all Untitled, where they were created, and the date. The shirt I purchased was a black one with what looked like a peg legged man shooting a gun. With that, I also purchased the chapbook containing the Tom Waits True Confessions interview conducted by Tom Waits himself.

I eventually made my way to my seat which was Section A, Row 11. I was something like 150 feet from the stage! I sat there staring at the stage which looked a bit vaudville and a bit gypsy-ish. There were a variety of old bullhorns put together in what looked like an art installation along the back of the stage. I took a few pics that came out horribly from my phone. Cameras weren't allowed in and later I found my phone in jeopardy of being confiscated.

My row became more and more crowded and I can best sum up the people I was sandwiched between as a scenario sung about in a Tom Waits song. To my left were a rotund bald white man in overalls. He looked like a biker. His friend was a stickly asian man in acid washed tight jeans, a black shirt tightly tucked into said jeans, slicked back ponytail, and a skull patch covered fanny pack that held his gin beverage disguised as vitamin water. He smelled like how I remember my dad smelling the few times I was around him. Then to my right was a group of five russians. They gave me the circus folk vibe. The girl sitting next to me had jet black hair and porcelain skin. Her friend was a 2 1/2 foot tall dwarf. The show hadn't even started and my experience so far was amazing.

I heard from the usher that on Tuesday he had played for 2 1/2 hours so I was even more excited and expecting a long night. A half hour late, and finally the lights went off. The crowd around me went fucking nuts, as did I. See...I'm always surprised when I meet a Tom Waits fan. You're either a fan or you're not. Since the man hardly performs, I was excited. Multiply that by the capacity of this venue. I can only imagine the energy is the same at every venue of his "PEHDTSCKJMBA" tour.

His band took the stage, soon followed by the man himself who waves his long fingers at the crowd. He stepped up to the elevated part of the stage where the microphone was. Immediately beginning a lovely combo of Lucinda/ Leadbelly's Ain't Goin Down to the Well

Those clips above give you the general feel of the performance. I'm curious how the person got away with taking those clips. If you still want a taste of the song live, here's his performance from Conan in 2006

I remember watching that clip on Conan and got shivers when Tom Waits came out and stomped with the dust rising. He reminded me of a preacher or carnival barker from the era of The Great Depression. By the way, a combination of his music and the tv show Carnivale is very lovely together.

From there, he proceeded to play for about 2 hours. Here's the complete setlist:

Lucinda/Ain't Going Down To The Well
Down In The Hole
Falling Down
All The World Is Green

During Misery's The River Of The World , he had the audience shouting "Everybody row" which was awesome as his band changed up the song to include a waltz as the chorus.

Day After Tomorrow

Sins Of The Father
Trampled Rose

Metropolitan Glide
Dead & Lovely
Cemetery Polka
Dirt In The Ground
Hoist That Rag
A Little Rain [on piano]

During Innocent When You Dream [on piano], he had the audience sing along much like previous live performances of this song.

Lost In The Harbour [on harmonium]
16 Shells From A Thirty Ought Six
Jesus Gonna Be Here

After which, the band left the stage. There was a brief period of stomping, cheering, and clapping from the audience followed by the band retaking the stage.

I was pleasantly surprised at the choice of the songs for the Encore. He played November off The Black Rider which is my favorite song off that CD.

He then followed that with an 8 minute version of Eyeball Kid as the closing song. During the few breaks in the song, Tom Waits took off his bowler hat, the lights went out, and then four spotlights shown on him as he put on a mirror ball bowler. The pieces of glass on the hat then reflected out in the audience as his spun around in circles.

Overall, I couldn't have asked for a better experience. Sure, he played longer the night before but to keep a show fresh, I'm sure he wanted to mix things up. Afterall, he has over 30 years of material to work with. Highlights of the show was Lucinda, Down In The Hole, Cemetary Polka, Dirt In The Ground, 16 Shells From A Thirty Ought Six, and November.

I'm hoping this won't be the only time I see this man play live. But if it is, I am happy to say I was there.

1 comment:

Quiet Arrogance said...

I'd be lying if I said I wasn't jealous. Waits provided the soundtrack of a lot of late night driving throughout high school.

I've had the pleasure of seeing him twice; once after "Big Time" and again in support of "Mule Variations".

He puts on a great show.