In 2008 I was lucky enough to attend 3 of Tom Waits‘ Glitter and Doom Tour dates. This was the e-mail I sent to my friends after the opening night in Phoenix, AZ…it’s mostly just a recap of the setlist, but thought I’d post it anyway. It is Tom Waits afterall!
We arrived at the venue about an hour early because I was afraid of the long lines that would form due to the scanning every credit card on entry. This turned out to be an unfounded fear. The process was very simple and fast; run the credit card through a handheld machine and it spits out the receipt with seat numbers and you’re ushered into the theatre. This was great since it was still well over 100 degrees out even at 7:00pm and with everyone wearing fedoras, porkpie hats, and slim suits…that kind of heat is unbearable.
The first thing I noticed about the Orpheum was its size. This was a very small venue; smaller than the Warfield. I’m guessing it held about 1000 people and there was not a bad seat in the house. We were 19th row, direct center.
Before Tom took the stage, I went and fought the crowd at the merch booth. This was the only low part of the night, as the booth and the bar were right across from each other, so the lines clashed and it was just chaos. They were also right by the open front doors, so it felt like it was a thousand degrees. Only one guy working merchandise, but lucky for him there wasn’t much to sell. White and Grey T-Shirts with an oil stain piece of art by Tom on the front, a few CDs, and a small book with Tom’s interview with himself. A little disappointing really because I wanted a tour T-shirt.
Tom and his band took the stage at 8:30. The theme was something like a carnival in a junk yard…perfect setting for Tom and his crew. They opened with a medley of Orphans songs, including Ain’t Going Down To The Well and Lucinda. The stage was semi-dark, with a red light shining on the man as he threw his arms around and stomped his feet in the dust he brought on stage with him. He went from this straight into Hoist That Rag and then Come On Up To The House.
Everyone was here to see Mr. Waits, but the band he brought along with him was amazing and included a guy who played two saxophones at the same time throughout most of the show.
Tom: “It’s nice to be here, it was either come here or bring you all to California. It was a hard decision to make.”
Heckler in Balcony: “Half of us were already there!!!”
Jesus Gonna Be Here was next and a highlight. He was a cross between a manic street preacher and a carnie tweaker. Then a song ‘because it’s too damn hot and this song is about a cooler month’, November from The Black Rider. Which was followed by Black Market Baby.
Female heckler in front rows: “You look great Tom!”
Tom: “So do you, especially in the dark.”
Rain Dogs was next and for the first time in the evening, the crowd went crazy! But following it with Trampled Rose was the one mistake in the set; it just brought the crowd down from a high. It was the only time in the night where my mind wandered elsewhere.
But he bounced right back with Going Out West. Not one of my favorite songs on CD, but amazing live. This was a crowd favorite as well. Murder in the Red Barn was more told like a story than actually sung. Tom seems to like to change up the composition of his songs until sometimes they are hard to recognize. But everyone knew the next song instantly…Anywhere I Lay My Head. I got chills on that one.
A song ‘about a family reunion’, Cemetery Polka was performed before telling us that this next song is called Get Behind the Mule so we need to ‘get behind it’. Next up was Eyeball Kid. Again not one of my favorites, but awesome live. A completely different take on the song and one of the highlights of the night was toward the end when he put on a mirrored hat, had 4 lights shine directly on it as he spun around creating a disco ball effect in the entire theatre.
Then he did what he does best and unfortunately, rarely…he sat down at his piano. As much as I love the theatrics, this is why I started to follow this man. Christmas Card From A Hooker in Minneapolis was hands down the best song of the night.
Throughout the show Tom threw out laws that are still on the books in Arizona. No kiss can last longer than 3 minutes. A one-armed piano player can only charge half-price. And in Baltimore it is illegal to bring a lion to the movies, but evidently it is not in Arizona. After listing too many of these he decided to move on with the show “because it’s not fair to talk at these prices!”
He stayed at his piano for Picture In A Frame, Invitation To The Blues, and Innocent When You Dream before standing back up at the mic, bringing the band back out, and busting into his twisted Elvis impersonation on Lie To Me.
Chocolate Jesus performed through a police bullhorn was followed by the closer, Make It Rain…another big highlight.
He got a standing ovation when he said goodnight, and came back on stage after a few minutes of the crowd chanting “Tom, Tom, Tom, Tom”
When he came back for the encore the back of his suit was soaked through with sweat. It was hot in this theatre and he was working his ass off. But that didn’t stop him from an amazing performance of Way Down In The Hole which led into Gods Away On Business. He ended the night with Time and it was perfect.
We thought there might be another encore because the lights were left off for a few minutes, but Tom was done. The lights came back on and as disappointing as that was, nobody could complain. He played 25 songs over a 2 hour period and it was pure genius from start to finish.
* On a side note, I thought it was interest that he didn’t do anything from Swordfish or Alice. Not complaining, just interesting.