Saturday, June 21, 2014

Tom Waits Live From Austin - Romeo is Bleeding

I'm in the process of reading two books at once - in my "spare time" - one of them being a Tom Waits retrospective. This reminded me that I hadn't watched this terrific DVD in ages and that I never wrote about it. This live show from 1978 is before he went into his noisier direction and was still the jazzy/scattin'/hobo prophet. I actually prefer thus era and his band on this tour was pretty stellar.

Opening with "Burma Shave", Waits is posing between two dirty, lit up Union 76 gas pumps with an old Chevy on stage behind him while the band - guitar, stand-up bass, drums and trumpet - riffs on "Summertime" as he raps a vague version of his song and eventually scats a bit of the Porgy and Bess number.

He takes to the piano for a version of "Annie's Back in Town/I Wish I Was in New Orleans/Ain't Gonna Rain" and then he picks up a great, old, funky, big-box Gibson guitar to pound on rhythmically while the band grooves behind him on "A Sweet Little Bullet From a Pretty Blue Gun" and he poses in unlikely and uncomfortable - but highly visual - stances.

"On the Nickel" brings him back to the piano and he gives a bit of the background of the story as an introduction to the tune. The audience is very appreciative throughout and gives each solo the "proper" jazz applause. Waits moves up front to just take the vocals on "Romeo is Bleeding" which has him doing the words to a jazz jam that sounds nothing like the recorded version of the song - though funnily enough the sax man is reading charts even though it sounds fairly free-form.

Tom introduces "Christmas Card From a Hooker in Minneapolis" with "Silent Night" from the piano and pretty much talks the song rather than singing it. A street light appears on stage and with a sax solo in the background and wearing a trench coat, Waits talks of living in the Chelsea Hotel in NYC as he tells the tale of "Small Change"and closes out the night.

As I said, I love this period of his work and was sorry that I never had a chance to see him so this is an excellent document of the time period. Fine stuff!