Nighthawks at the Palace Theater – Part 2

Tom Waits
Palace Theater
Louisville, KY

Tom Waits – Lead Vocal, Guitar, Piano
Larry Taylor – Acoustic Bass
Duke Robillard – Lead Guitar
Casey Waits – Drums, Beat Box
Bent Clausen – Keyboards, Percussion, Banjo

Beat Boxing / Blues / Many Applause for the “Day After Tomorrow”

It was probably an hour or so into the set by the time the piano was escorted off the stage, but it felt like five minutes. At one point, I leaned over to my fiancé and said, “Can this just go on forever?”

Tom was now standing back up, ragged and awkward. At times, he would take his hat off and bow to the crowd, revealing a struggling peninsula of bushy hair that cut a path through his sweaty forehead. The red shirt he wore underneath his jacket had long turned a darker color, but the warmth didn’t seem to affect him. He would put on his toothy smile, under bite in full glory, and shake like a diabetic seizure.

Once his feet were back to the stand, “Lucky Day” was next and then he went into an unfamiliar tune that wound up preceding an interesting version of “’Til The Money Runs Out.” After perusing the fan blogs, I found out that the song was called “Who’s Been Talkin.’” I’m pretty sure that it’s a cover, but I’m not sure who originally wrote it.

Casey Waits, drummer and fortunate son of Tom, put his beat-boxing skills to use for an onstage rendition of “Eyeball Kid,” which was yet another amazing studio arrangement brought to justice on stage. Bent Clausen took to clanging metallic objects with sticks while Tom shakily shrieked about the ”…not conventionally handsome” Eyeball Kid. A perfect display of orchestrated noise.

Tom slung an axe over his shoulder for a very bluesy “Murder In The Red Barn.” Duke Robillard’s smooth solos worked perfectly through the new variation, Tom providing a gorgeous rhythm the entire way through. It reminded me of “Downtown” or “In Shades,” utilizing those simple and stylin’ blues riffs and rhythms so prevalent on Heart Attack and Vine.

Waits followed with another unfamiliar tune called “Lie To Me, Baby,” and then stomped into “Shake It.”

”Feeeel like a preacher wavin’ a gun aroooooooown’…shakeitshakeitshakeit”

He’d paused for a moment:

“When I was a child I joined the circus…”

From there he went into “Circus,” tunneling both sides of his mouth with his hands, creating this amplified whisper. The crowd responded here and there with moments of laughter when Tom described one-eyed Myra:

”She looked at me squinty with her one good eye in a Roy Orbison t-shirt as she bottle fed an Orangutan named Tripod,” adding, “I’m not going to go into why they called him that.”

I don’t remember if that’s exactly what he said, but it was along these lines.

At about this point, the set began to feel a little rushed. “Trampled Rose,” one of my favorite songs off of Real Gone, made its way into the set list much to my surprise. Clausen picked up the banjo and Tom sang behind closed eyes. An almost perfect rendition of “Get Behind The Mule” and a very passionate version of “It Rains On Me” followed.

The last song of the set wound up being “Goin’ Out West.” Tom’s sandpaper vocal loudly boasted his physical attributes as the band paused at the punchline.

”…I got hair on my CHEST! I look good without a SHIRT!”

The band stopped. Tom stood there with a smile that took over his entire face and the crowd clapped and cheered the whole time. It was tough to know if the smile was a sarcastic little nod at his 50-something year-old body, or just a moment of internal clarity, brought about by the realization that he’d just rocked a Louisville crowd and that his show had gone perfectly. Either way, he gleamed and could’ve lit the room by himself.

Once the song ended, the band took its leave. The crowd didn’t. We all clapped our hands, stomped our feet, whistled and yelled. It was maybe thirty seconds and Tom came back out.

The rowdy crowd took a seat though once the onset of a pinnacle moment took hold. Tom picked up an acoustic guitar and played “The Day After Tomorrow,” to which we all just sort of held our breath so we could hear every word.

It was one of those moments where you were actually proud of the crowd. Usually you’re dealing with others in a setting like this and all you can think is “Man, shut the fuck up!” The best lines of the song received their due attention, light applause of acknowledgment. It was a beautiful moment, one that seemed to affect everyone.

Once the song ended, the applause was deafening. The male counterpart to the woman who’d been vomited on earlier remarked that that “was the best song he played all night.”

To end the night with a bang, the selection was “Don’t Go Into That Barn” and I’m sure that the inclusion of Louisville to the lyrics took part in his motivation to use it. He rattled the lyrics off like a drunken drill sergeant and, once the song was over, it was “good night.”

Words failed me. Once the lights lit the theater, I got caught in an exiting crowd of smiles and exclamations that seemed to carry me onto the humid sidewalks outside. I almost ran into the side of beef with the “Yankee Go Home” brand who had an intense look of determination chiseled into his face. I, on the other hand, was still mesmerized. I may as well have still been sitting in the theater watching intently, even though I was trying to avoid collision with all the dehydrated human traffic.

The remaining hours, most of which were spent looking for a late-night bar, had Tom Waits as the soundtrack. The bounty of promise made by these albums that I’d listened to for hours on end had been delivered.

I hope you never die, you beautiful, beautiful man.

Letters From A Tapehead


I copied something a fan at another weblog site submitted that maybe you'd like:

The Observer
Monday March 21, 2005

What the stars are listening to

'It's perfect madness'

In the first of an occasional series in which the greatest recording artists reveal their favourite records, Tom Waits writes about his 20 most cherished albums of all time. So for the lowdown on Zappa and Bill Hicks, step right up...

1 In The Wee Small Hours by Frank Sinatra (Capitol) 1955
Actually, the very first 'concept' album. The idea being you put this record on after dinner and by the last song you are exactly where you want to be. Sinatra said that he's certain most baby boomers were conceived with this as the soundtrack.

2 Solo Monk by Thelonious Monk (Columbia) 1964

Monk said 'There is no wrong note, it has to do with how you resolve it'. He almost sounded like a kid taking piano lessons. I could relate to that when I first started playing the piano, because he was decomposing the music while he was playing it. It was like demystifying the sound, because there is a certain veneer to jazz and to any music, after a while it gets traffic rules, and the music takes a backseat to the rules. It's like aerial photography, telling you that this is how we do it. That happens in folk music too. Try playing with a bluegrass group and introducing new ideas. Forget about it. They look at you like you're a communist. On Solo Monk, he appears to be composing as he plays, extending intervals, voicing chords with impossible clusters of notes. 'I Should Care' kills me, a communion wine with a twist. Stride, church, jump rope, Bartok, melodies scratched into the plaster with a knife. A bold iconoclast. Solo Monk lets you not only see these melodies without clothes, but without skin. This is astronaut music from Bedlam.

3 Trout Mask Replica by Captain Beefheart (Straight) 1969

The roughest diamond in the mine, his musical inventions are made of bone and mud. Enter the strange matrix of his mind and lose yours. This is indispensable for the serious listener. An expedition into the centre of the earth, this is the high jump record that'll never be beat, it's a merlot reduction sauce. He takes da bait. Dante doing the buck and wing at a Skip James suku jump. Drink once and thirst no more.

4 Exile On Main St. by Rolling Stones (Rolling Stones Records) 1972

'I Just Want To See His Face' - that song had a big impact on me, particularly learning how to sing in that high falsetto, the way Jagger does. When he sings like a girl, I go crazy. I said, 'I've got to learn how to do that.' I couldn't really do it until I stopped smoking. That's when it started getting easier to do. [Waits's own] 'Shore Leave' has that, 'All Stripped Down', 'Temptation'. Nobody does it like Mick Jagger; nobody does it like Prince. But this is just a tree of life. This record is the watering hole. Keith Richards plays his ass off. This has the Checkerboard Lounge all over it.

5 The Sinking of the Titanic by Gavin Bryars (Point Music) 1975

This is difficult to find, have you heard this? It's a musical impression of the sinking of the Titanic. You hear a small chamber orchestra playing in the background, and then slowly it starts to go under water, while they play. It also has 'Jesus Blood' on it. I did a version of that with Gavin Bryars. I first heard it on my wife's birthday, at about two in the morning in the kitchen, and I taped it. For a long time I just had a little crummy cassette of this song, didn't know where it came from, it was on one of those Pacifica radio stations where you can play anything you want. This is really an interesting evening's music.

6 The Basement Tapes by Bob Dylan (Columbia) 1975

With Dylan, so much has been said about him, it's difficult so say anything about him that hasn't already been said, and say it better. Suffice it to say Dylan is a planet to be explored. For a songwriter, Dylan is as essential as a hammer and nails and a saw are to a carpenter. I like my music with the rinds and the seeds and pulp left in - so the bootlegs I obtained in the Sixties and Seventies, where the noise and grit of the tapes became inseparable from the music, are essential to me. His journey as a songwriter is the stuff of myth, because he lives within the ether of the songs. Hail, hail The Basement Tapes. I heard most of these songs on bootlegs first. There is a joy and an abandon to this record; it's also a history lesson.

7 Lounge Lizards by Lounge Lizards (EG) 1980

They used to accuse John Lurie of doing fake jazz - a lot of posture, a lot of volume. When I first heard it, it was so loud, I wanted to go outside and listen through the door, and it was jazz. And that was an unusual thing, in New York, to go to a club and hear jazz that loud, at the same volume people were listening to punk rock. Get the first record, The Lounge Lizards. You know, John's one of those people, if you walk into a field with him, he'll pick up an old pipe and start to play it, and get a really good sound out of it. He's very musical, works with the best musicians, but never go fishing with him. He's a great arranger and composer with an odd sense of humour.

8 Rum Sodomy and the Lash by The Pogues (Stiff) 1985

Sometimes when things are real flat, you want to hear something flat, other times you just want to project onto it, something more like.... you might want to hear the Pogues. Because they love the West. They love all those old movies. The thing about Ireland, the idea that you can get into a car and point it towards California and drive it for the next five days is like Euphoria, because in Ireland you just keep going around in circles, those tiny little roads. 'Dirty Old Town', 'The Old Main Drag'. Shane has the gift. I believe him. He knows how to tell a story. They are a roaring, stumbling band. These are the dead end kids for real. Shane's voice conveys so much. They play like soldiers on leave. The songs are epic. It's whimsical and blasphemous, seasick and sacrilegious, wear it out and then get another one.

9 I'm Your Man by Leonard Cohen (Columbia) 1988

Euro, klezmer, chansons, apocalyptic, revelations, with that mellifluous voice. A shipwrecked Aznovar, washed up on shore. Important songs, meditative, authoritative, and Leonard is a poet, an Extra Large one.

10 The Specialty Sessions by Little Richard (Specialty Records) 1989

The steam and chug of 'Lucille' alone pointed a finger that showed the way. The equipment wasn't meant to be treated this way. The needle is still in the red.

11 Startime by James Brown (Polydor) 1991

I first saw James Brown in 1962 at an outdoor theatre in San Diego and it was indescribable... it was like putting a finger in a light socket. He did the whole thing with the cape. He did 'Please Please Please'. It was such a spectacle. It had all the pageantry of the Catholic Church. It was really like seeing mass at St. Patrick's Cathedral on Christmas and you couldn't ignore the impact of it in your life. You'd been changed, your life is changed now. And everybody wanted to step down, step forward, take communion, take sacrament, they wanted to get close to the stage and be anointed with his sweat, his cold sweat.

12 Bohemian-Moravian Bands by Texas-Czech (Folk Lyric) 1993

I love these Czech-Bavarian bands that landed in Texas of all places. The seminal river for mariachi came from that migration to that part of the United States, bringing the accordion over, just like the drum and fife music of post slavery, they picked up the revolutionary war instruments and played blues on them. This music is both sour and bitter, and picante, and floating above itself like steam over the kettle. There's a piece called the 'Circling Pigeons Waltz', it's the most beautiful thing - kind of sour, like a wheel about to go off the road all the time. It's the most lilting little waltz. It's accordion, soprano sax, clarinet, bass, banjo and percussion.

13 The Yellow Shark by Frank Zappa (Barking Pumpkin) 1993

It is his last major work. The ensemble is awe-inspiring. It is a rich pageant of texture in colour. It's the clarity of his perfect madness, and mastery. Frank governs with Elmore James on his left and Stravinsky on his right. Frank reigns and rules with the strangest tools.

14 Passion for Opera Aria (EMI Classics) 1994

I heard 'Nessun Dorma' in the kitchen at Coppola's with Raul Julia one night, and it changed my life, that particular Aria. I had never heard it. He asked me if I had ever heard it, and I said no, and he was like, as if I said I've never had spaghetti and meatballs - 'Oh My God, Oh My God!' - and he grabbed me and he brought me into the jukebox (there was a jukebox in the kitchen) and he put that on and he just kind of left me there. It was like giving a cigar to a five-year old. I turned blue, and I cried.

15 Rant in E Minor by Bill Hicks (Rykodisc) 1997

Bill Hicks, blowtorch, excavator, truthsayer and brain specialist, like a reverend waving a gun around. Pay attention to Rant in E Minor, it is a major work, as important as Lenny Bruce's. He will correct your vision. His life was cut short by cancer, though he did leave his tools here. Others will drive on the road he built. Long may his records rant even though he can't.

16 Prison Songs: Murderous Home Alan Lomax Collection (Rounder Select) 1997

Without spirituals and the Baptist Church and the whole African-American experience in this country, I don't know what we would consider music, I don't know what we'd all be drinking from. It's in the water. The impact the whole black experience continues to have on all musicians is immeasurable. Lomax recorded everything, from the sounds of the junkyard to the sound of a cash register in the market... disappearing machinery that we would no longer be hearing. You know, one thing that doesn't change is the sound of kids getting out of school. Record that in 1921, record that now, it's the same sound. The good thing about these is that they're so raw, they're recorded so raw, that it's just like listening to a landscape. It's like listening to a big open field. You hear other things in the background. You hear people talking while they are singing. It's the hair in the gate.

17 Cubanos Postizos by Marc Ribot (Atlantic) 1998

This Atlantic recording shows off one of many of Ribot's incarnations as a prosthetic Cuban. They are hot and Marc dazzles us with his bottomless soul. Shaking and burning like a native.

18 Houndog by Houndog (Sony) 1999

Houndog, the David Hidalgo [Los Lobos] record he did with Mike Halby [Canned Heat]. Now that's a good record to listen to when you drive through Texas. I can't get enough of that. Anything by Latin Playboys, anything by Los Lobos. They are like a fountain. The Colossal Head album killed me. Those guys are so wild, and they've gotten so cubist. They've become like Picasso. They've gone from being purely ethnic and classical, to this strange, indescribable item that they are now. They're worthwhile to listen to under any circumstances. But the sound he got on Houndog, on the electric violin ... the whole record is a dusty road. Dark and burnished and mostly unfurnished. Superb texture and reverb. Lo fi and its highest level. Songs of depth and atmosphere. It ain't nothin' but a...

19 Purple Onion by Les Claypool (Prawn Song) 2002

Les Claypool's sharp and imaginative, contemporary ironic humour and lightning musicianship makes me think of Frank Zappa. 'Dee's Diner' is like a great song your kid makes up in the car on the way to the drive-in. Songs for big kids.

20 The Delivery Man by Elvis Costello (Mercury) 2004

Scalding hot bedlam, monkey to man needle time. I'd hate to be balled out by him, I'd quit first. Grooves wide enough to put your foot in and the bass player is a gorilla of groove. Pete Thomas, still one of the best rock drummers alive. Diatribes and rants with steam and funk. It has locomotion and heat. Steam heat, that is.
Sean Caldwell said…
Hi Andrew,

Thanks for this list. It was a great read. A couple of these I can attest to, but others I'm not too familiar with. Yet another reason to go out and hit the record stores.

Thanks again.
Anonymous said…
Part two was worth waiting for!


PS - the girl whose boyfriend dumped her.
Sean Caldwell said…
To Kelli:

I'm glad that you enjoyed the review and very much appreciate you reading it. I don't think I can actually convey through words what its like to see him live, but I am glad that I was able to at least provide you with some insight.

Thanks again for reading.

Popular posts from this blog

Ellie Greenwich (1940-2009)

The Mailbox Giveth: Sleaford Mods

What I Heard This Morning: Breton