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 El Paso…it’s mostly just a recap of the setlist, but thought I’d post it anyway. It is Tom Waits afterall!
I am sitting in the El Paso airport right now and I feel like I’m part of some secret club. I compliment the guy across from me in the security line on his Okkervil River shirt; he says thanks and after glancing at my black shirt with some grey stain splashes on it, says “hell’va show!” The girl sitting next to me has a Band of Horses hoodie on. The flight across the way to Austin looks like a beatnik convention. Walking down the halls of the airport there is a quick smile, wave, or thumbs up when you pass anyone with facial hair and a funny hat. Tom Waits has taken over El Paso. Not only was he served with a key to the city on stage last night (to which he commented “I think the key is superglued on here, I don’t think I’ll ever get this fucker off. Does it really fit every lock in El Paso? Well, don’t blame me if you come home to me in my underwear in your living room.”), but his fans came in from Austin, Santa Fe, Albuquerque, and even as far as San Francisco, San Diego, and L.A.
No matter where they came from, they were in for a great show. He followed his band on stage around 8:30 and opened with Lucinda and Ain’t Going Down to The Well. This was the same as Phoenix on Tuesday night, but from then on the set list was much different, with Tom playing around 8 songs that were not included in the Tuesday night show.
The Plaza Theatre was very similar to The Orpheum in Phoenix. It fact, they could have easily been designed by the same person. The stage was setup exactly the same as well. But Tom had decided on black leather suit this time, and I guess he left his mirrored disco hat in Arizona. He was in good spirits, recapping how he was afraid to go to Phoenix because of the laws on the books, how the male spider plays music with his web to attract the female spider and how it keeps him up nights wondering what that sounds like, and how shrimp don’t give to charity because they are ‘shellfish’.
Another highlight was when he had both Waits boys on stage with him. His older son played drums the whole show, but he had his youngest come out play a huge bongo for a bit. The other highlights included Jesus Gonna Be Here (which was even tighter than the excellent version in Phoenix), Falling Down (really excited he did this), Get Behind the Mule, and House Where Nobody Lives. His encore of Make It Rain and Dirt in the Ground was a great way to end the night. I had forgot how good Dirt in the Ground was until it was stuck in my head for the rest of the night.
So now that I have listed all the wonderful things about seeing another Tom Waits show, I have to air my disappointment in the set list. In Phoenix he played 25 songs over a 2 hour period. He played songs from the 70’s, 80’s, 90’s, and this decade. It was perfect. But last night he opted out of any 70’s music, only 2 songs from the 80’s (Singapore and Way Down in The Hole) and the rest was from the 90’s and today. Don’t get me wrong, I love the newer stuff, but to remove Christmas Card from a Hooker, Innocent When You Dream, Invitation to the Blues, Anywhere I Lay My Head, and Rain Dogs and replace them with Lucky Day, Singapore, Metropolitan Glide and On The Other Side of the World just makes for a weaker show. But on the flipside, he did add Falling Down, Fanning Street, The House Where Nobody Lives, and Lost in the Harbor which was a good change up from Phoenix.
This show was also cut a little short, weighing in at 20 songs over about an hour and 40 minutes. We all really thought there would be another encore because the lights stayed off for about 5 minutes…but then they came on to the disappointment of us in the audience. But can’t be too disappointed, we did just see a rare Tom Waits performance, he could have played for 4 hours and we would’ve wanted more!
So overall, excellent show. I don’t think Tom knows how to be anything less than extraordinary. Also, great job at mixing up the set lists every night, giving each audience their own unique show. I thought the El Paso set list was a little light on the great stuff, but that’s just one guys opinion.
Dark, but good audio clip I took of Dirt in the Ground