Life's a riddle
Man's a fiddle that life plays on
(Tom Waits, Starving in the Belly of a Whale)
Every one's favorite deranged troubadour came to town last week...lifetime highlight, my dear people, lifetime highlight.
Okay - I'll concede he may not be every one's favorite, Tom's probably better described as an acquired taste, but for those that have tasted and liked his flavor, this was an monumental event, not to be missed.
Ticket prices were exorbitant and my expectations were high, it would have been a pretty simple task for him to disappoint me, but I walked away from the show with a giant smile on my face, feeling lucky and exhilarated. Even a half hour in the pouring rain trying to flag a taxi in the middle of Phoenix park with 3,000 other suckers couldn't dampen my mood.
We arrived to find a giant blue and yellow circus tent, reminiscent of Cirque du Soleil's traveling shows. This started the cracked carnival vibe for me and it just kept going all night; Tom Waits is all showman. He displays shades of Charlie Chaplin, freak-show hawker, drunken blues-man, cabaret entertainer and beat poet but he is entirely his own man and his own musician. His sense of humor is as warped as his growling voice, his world view as twisted and genius as his lyrics. I loved every second of it.
I have never been so impressed with an artist's uniqueness as I was that night. Tom Waits is truly is an American poet, and truly one of a kind. His songs are populated with the drunk & disillusioned, the down-trodden & depressed, the heartbroken & the homeless but they manage to celebrate the odd, the ugly and out of place. You cry with his Minneapolis Hooker on Christmas Eve but you also laugh with his freaks and weirdos, with names like Knocky Parker and Bowlegged Sal. The legless and bodyless Table Top Joe dreams of playing at the Sands 'I had trouble with the pedals, But I had a strong left hand.' That's some funny shit people.
His talent floored me. I tell you, I'd meet this man at the bottom of a bottle of bargain scotch anytime.
During the show I was pleased to recognize more than half the songs he played, as I don't claim to own all the albums spanning his 35 year career. But even the songs I didn't know had the power to enthrall, owing just as much to his amazing song writing as to his spastic yet rhythmic performance style. I include a song list for those that remember these kinds of details (nicked from someone else's review.) I, for one, can only mention a highlight song or two (or four or five or nine) and tell you that the overall show was blow-me-down fabulous.
Dressed in a suit and bowler hat straight out off a depression era soup line, stomping up clouds on his dusty pedestal, standing with his guitar, sitting at his piano, warbling, rasping, talking, mumbling, singing, snarling, howling in a shower of glitter...every thing he did had all 3,000 of us captivated.
We all worshipped at the church of Tom and had a damn good time.
Set List (pinched from this guy's fantastic review):
Lucinda / Ain’t Goin’ Down to the Well
On the Other Side of the World
I’ll Shoot the Moon
Get Behind the Mule
Cold Cold Ground
Circus / Tabletop Joe
God’s Away on Business
Tom Traubert’s Blues
On the Nickel
Christmas Card From a Hooker in Minnneapolis
House Where Nobody Lives (false start)
Innocent When You Dream
Lie to Me
Hoist that Rag
Bottom of the World
Way Down in the Hole
Dirt in the Ground
Make it Rain
Jesus Gonna Be Here