Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Tom Waits: "Glitter and Doom Live" (album review)

I don't know about you, but ever since I was a teenager I've been keeping a list of musicians that I "must see before I die".  I've been doing a pretty good job of it, with only a handful left to cross off.  One of those lingering on my list is the legendary musician and storyteller Tom Waits.

Unfortunately the raspy-throated singer did not have a Toronto stop on his 2008 Glitter and Doom tour.  I can't help but feel he's trying to make up a little bit for it with the release of Glitter and Doom Live, a 17-song album culled from performances on his most recent world tour.

Waits turns in a very strong performance here.  His rendition of classics like "Fannin Street" and the yearning "Falling Down" are teeming with effusive emotional impact.  His gruff vocals sound even more powerfully raw in a live setting as they do in a studio, particularly on tracks like the bluesy "Trampled Rose".

Any artist who has had a career as lengthy as Waits' is going to begin to get bored playing certain songs.  That's probably why the first nearly 20 years of his career is almost completely ignored here.  Furthermore, he keeps it fresh by rearranging many of the tracks.  "Singapore" gets a rocky makeover while "Get Behind the Mule" morphs from a bluesy rocker into a groovy jam.

Not every song is a winner.  Even though the live audience may be excited, on the album "Dirt In the Ground" comes across as uninspired.  "The Part You Throw Away" and "Green Grass" also fail to ignite.

Along with the strong songwriting, it's the famous Tom Waits banter that live audiences look forward to.  Much of the between track storytelling has fallen victim to the constraints of the format.  The decision to take the performances from multiple shows means the inclusion of much banter would ruin the flow and make the album sound disjointed.  Waits finds other ways to keep the crowd laughing though through the track "Story", a tale of his eBay purchase of "Henry Ford's dying breath", and the songs themselves..  The spoken word "Live Circus" is an example of a song itself packing a comedic wallop.

I still need to see Waits in person to cross him off my list but I'll have to make due with this album until he decides to add Toronto to his tour itinerary.

Best tracks: "Trampled Rose", "Falling Down"

Track listing for Glitter and Doom Live:
  • Lucinda/Ain' Goin' Down
  • Singapore
  • Get Behind the Mule
  • Fannin Street
  • Dirt In the Ground
  • Such a Scream
  • Live Circus
  • Goin' Out West
  • Falling Down
  • The Part You Throw Away
  • Trampled Rose
  • Metropolitan Glide
  • I'll Shoot the Moon
  • Green Grass
  • Make It Rain
  • Story
  • Lucky Day
Tom Waits' website

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Sinuslift said...

Tom Waits is really awesome! I love this Album.

Anonymous said...

Surely if it's that important to you to see Waits live, then do as everybody else does and get off your arse and seehim wherever he plays

Unknown said...

I'm sure this is a great set of songs and I can't wait to pick it up, but for a real taste of this tour, go to itunes and hunt down his whole set from the Atlanta stop at the Fox Theater. Take it from a guy who was there-- incredible.

Unknown said...

Thanks Richard, I'll hunt that down.

Unknown said...

it's at the NPR "All Songs Considered" section of itunes (and it was free last time i checked).

nameles said...

I second the comment by Anonymous. TW was on my must see before I die list and when he toured in 2006 I scored tickets for a Show in Asheville NC; a place I'd never even heard of. I packed up my family and my tent trailer and we did a road trip from Winnipeg to Ashville (2,430km one way according to Google Maps but our trip was actually much longer). In your case, he played Cleveland on that tour as well, just on the other side of Lake Erie from you, only 471km.

Unknown said...

Yes, but sometimes work and family responsibilities hamper one's ability to travel for shows.

Cleveland is a great city though. I've been there and highly recommend it.

JD, Buffalo said...

I was lucky enough to see him in nyc for mule variations with my very best friend. It was then I understood that this is a show i must see at any cost. I put two tickets on the credit card for Glitter and Doom in Columbus OH with my wife and Im happy im still paying for it.