Thursday, June 26, 2008

The Tom Waits Show

Monday night I went to see Tom Waits in concert. I still kind of can’t believe it – Tom doesn’t tour very much at all. I’ve been very lucky to have seen him now twice in the last two years. There was a time when I wasn’t sure I would ever get to see him.

I went with a friend who lives here and a college friend who happened to be in town. The doors were scheduled to open at 7, with the show starting at 8. We got there at about 6:30 and there was a huge line to get in. Unlike Aimee, this wasn’t a show where you could just show up late and expect to get right next to the stage. By the time we walked to the end of the line it started moving. The ticket process was kind of weird. In an effort to deter scalpers they used electronic tickets. You went up to a guy right inside the doorway with a handheld scanner. You gave him the credit card that you purchased the tickets with, he ran it through the scanner, and then the tickets printed out right there. One unfortunate side effect was that these have to be the least photogenic ticket stubs I have ever seen. They pretty much look like a receipt you would get at 7-11.

The show was general admission – no seats – so I wore my shoes with the insoles that I bought before the Radiohead show. We got inside about 5 minutes after 7, and there was already a pretty good-sized throng of people in front of the stage. We staked out a spot at the back of that crowd and proceeded to wait. And again there were no cameras allowed, so I wasn’t able to take photos.

One thing that became clear a little before the show started was that it was becoming very, very hot in there. It pretty much felt like being outside. After a while there was sweat trickling down my back. It was unpleasant, but it wasn’t enough to keep me from enjoying the show. I’ve heard several explanations, but the one that makes the most sense is that it was turned off to reduce noise because the show was being filmed.

Tom was a little late starting; he came on about 8:25 or so. He was wearing a suit and a hat, and he looked like an old bluesman. He wore that suit for the whole show. I know if we were hot, he had to be melting up there.

It’s still surreal to hear that voice in person. I can’t talk like him for more than a couple of sentences without messing up my vocal chords.

The show was a really nice mixture of older and newer material. At one point Tom put on this hat that was covered by little mirrors like a disco ball. There were all these light beams shooting off of his head in different directions, which was really cool. Tom was quite animated all night. He was gyrating and doing these weird movements with his hands. He had lots of funny comebacks for all the people that were constantly shouting out stuff between songs. I’ve seen it mentioned that Tom kind of takes on all these different characters during his performances, and there’s some truth to that.

There were 2 songs that I really wanted to hear – “Chocolate Jesus” and “Misery Is The River of the World” (side note: lyrically maybe the darkest song I’ve ever heard, but unfortunately it’s hard to refute), and I got to hear both of them! So I was happy. He did a couple of his spoken word songs, including “Frank’s Wild Years”. That one reminds me of Bukowski. "Way Down In The Hole" and “16 Shells from a Thirty-Ought Six” were also highlights. In the middle of the show Tom sat down at the piano and did about 4 songs with only the upright bass accompanying the piano. At the end of this was one of the coolest concert moments I’ve ever experienced. Tom played “Innocent When You Dream”, and on the last verse he asked everyone to sing along. Everyone did, and Tom stood up and said to sing it again and he stopped singing and conducted the audience in singing the verse one more time. I’ve never heard a better audience sing-a-long.

The band was pretty amazing, especially the saxophone/harmonica player. The sax solos were outstanding and reminded me of James Brown songs, and at a couple of points he was actually playing two tenor saxes at the same time! Crazy.

Side rant: Can we stop the yelling out of song titles in the space between songs unless requests have specifically been asked for? Most of the time you’re wasting your breath when you do that and just annoying the crap out of everyone, including the performer. Most large shows these days are planned out in advance for reasons of timing and so the band can learn the songs. If the band hasn’t rehearsed something there’s not a very good chance that they are going to play it on the spur of the moment. If someone has a back catalog of 1000 songs, there’s no way in hell they’re going to know every song. They may not have played a certain song in 30 years. They pick songs to play based on what they like to play and what they think people want to hear. So quit trying to show everyone that you’re SuperFan by shouting out obscure requests, and shut the hell up!

Whoa, got a little bowed up there for a second! Anyway, it was an amazing show and I’ll always remember it. Tom’s a one-of-a-kind performer, and I’m glad I got to see him do his thing.

Way Down in the Hole
Anywhere I Lay My Head
Chocolate Jesus
Frank's Wild Years
Hoist That Rag
Get Behind the Mule
Such a Scream
Eyeball Kid
Lucky Day
Invitation To the Blues
Lost in the Harbour
Innocent When You Dream
16 Shells from a Thirty-Ought Six
Lie to Me
Fannin Street
Black Market Baby
Misery Is The River of the World

Make It Rain
Jesus Gonna Be Here
9th and Hennepin



Blogger REENblack said...

Wow, I'm so glad you were able to go and had a great time...besides the heat! I listened to that song you linked to...and another one ("Hold On"). He has such a unique voice! I've never heard something like that...although I did have a hard time understanding the words! Maybe thats just me?!

6/27/2008 12:44 AM  
Blogger paintergirl said...

I'm so glad you got to see Tom W. I'm a little sentimental when it comes to Frank's Wild Years, because that's the first cassette I bought of his.(Remember those-I also have a Jane's Addiction on cassette.)I'm proud that I'm the one that introduced Tom to my friends. Rain Dogs is also an oldie I love. His voice is soothing in that bar fly kind of romantic way.

6/27/2008 7:19 AM  
Blogger buffi said...

I don't know if I could have made it thru with the heat. I'm such a wuss that way. Glad it was worth if for you, though!!

6/27/2008 1:30 PM  
Blogger hollibobolli said...

I agree - I hate when people spend half of the show screaming out the songs they want to hear, when you know they are going to be played anyway.

And I still have your ticket saved. Somehow I have managed to not lose it. Amazing.

6/29/2008 11:48 AM  
Blogger Anne said...

I can never forgive you for going to this show without me. Good Christ, you are one lucky bastard.

6/30/2008 12:38 PM  

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