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reports and thoughts on legal issues, music, Orthodox Christianity and/or whatever else strikes my interest

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Location: Houston, Texas, United States

My name is David Stone. I live in Houston, Texas. I am a 30-something single white male. I am an Orthodox Christian and am a member of an English-language parish of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia (ROCOR).

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Tom Waits at Jones Hall

Photo by Mark C. Austin (Photo Source)

Last Sunday night I was fortunate enough to see Tom Waits in concert at Jones Hall.

A Tom Waits tour is rare enough but a tour stop in Houston is an exceedingly rare event. He last played here 27 years ago! As one would expect this show sold out shortly after the tickets went on sale over a month ago.

I knew I was in for a big event but I didn't realize just how big until I arrived at Jones Hall. I arrived two hours early for the show and even then the line to get in was almost a quarter of the way around the building. An up-and-coming singer-songwriter from Austin (whose Houston shows I have attended on occasion) was waiting in line a few places behind me. Even other performers have to make a Tom Waits show!

The people-watching aspect alone was hugely entertaining. There were plenty of "hats and tatts" to be seen as another local blogger has mentioned. The audience featured more beards, hats and tattoos than I have ever seen in one place before. There were also a number of heavily tattooed (and revealingly dressed) ladies in the audience. There were even a few guys who were "Tom Waits lookalikes" who were decked out in three-piece suits complete with Tom's trademark bowler hat.

Once inside I joined another long line for the merch table which featured: cds, a printed chapbook edition of Tom interviewing himself, as well as tour shirts based on photographs of an oil-stain on a Houston sidewalk that Tom took back in 1989. The lines at the bars were also quite long as everyone seemed to be doing their best to get a little hammered before the show.

I then found my way to my seat (which was a pretty good one) in the mezzanine section. This was followed by one of the few minor disappointments of the night. The concert start time was billed as 8pm but the show did not actually start until almost 9pm. This delay resulted in scores of audience members continuously having to leave for the restrooms throughout the show. I was sitting near one of the lobby doors and it was distracting.

I was amazed at how far people had traveled to see this concert. Many people in the audience had driven in from Austin. The couple sitting next to me (who graciously loaned me their binoculars for one song) drove in from San Antonio, the couple next to them had flown in from Canada and the guy sitting in front of me had flown in from Scotland.

When the show finally did start the crowd let out one of the biggest roars I have ever heard at a concert. Here is the set list for the Houston show (courtesy of the Houston Chronicle):

Way Down in the Hole
Falling Down
Dead and Lovely
Lie to Me
Day After Tomorrow
Hoist That Rag
Get Behind the Mule
Cemetery Polka
Trampled Rose
Jesus Gonna Be Here
Lucky Day
Tom Traubert's Blues
House Where Nobody Lives
Innocent When You Dream
Make It Rain
Murder in the Red Barn
Come On Up To the House
Dirt in the Ground
Eyeball Kid

Going Out West
All the World Is Green

I've never been a huge Tom Waits fan though I've enjoyed a number of his songs. My first exposure to his music were his Bone Machine and The Black Rider cds. I have only occasionally listened to his later albums. After seeing him perform live, however, I can see why he has such die-hard fans. Tom, who is approaching his sixties, performed an energetic set stomping up clouds of smoke from the stage floor and employing all of his unique vocal stylings. His band for this tour is comprised of: Larry Taylor on upright bass, Patrick Warren on keyboards, Omar Torrez on guitars, Vincent Henry on woodwinds and Casey Waits (Tom's son) on drums. Tom played guitar as well as piano on a few numbers. Vincent Henry in particular stood out as he was frequently playing with two saxophones strapped across his body.

The highlight and surprise of the night had to be Tom's performance of "Tom Traubert's Blues (Waltzing Mathilda)". I've heard that he almost never plays this song these days. Many in the audience were moved by the performance. One of the persons sitting next to me nearly hyperventilated and then began to softly cry as Tom bellowed out the opening lyrics "Wasted and wounded, it ain't what the moon did, I've got what I paid for now". By the end of the song I was getting a little teary-eyed myself. Unfortunately, the highlight of the show for many was also the occasion for the one major disappointment of the night. Some drunk idiot in the balcony decided to shout out something incoherent during the last verse of the song. Fortunately it was only a short scream and Tom was able to quickly recover and complete the song...but it managed to break the magical spell that had fallen over Jones Hall up to that point.

Another highlight came during "Eyeball Kid" when Tom donned a "mirror-ball" bowler hat. He then turned around a few times which resulted in a lighting display that had laser-like beams of light shooting out from his hat into the audience.

There were a few other minor disappointments. I thought Tom stretched out a few of the songs too long by just simply repeating the chorus over and over and over again. I had the urge to look at my watch once or twice. He's Tom Waits though and he can do whatever he wants...and usually get away with it.

Another disappointment was the continued boorish behaviour of some in the audience. Shouting out requests to the stage to "play some Skynyrd" is a very tired and very unfunny joke...especially when it is directed towards an artist of Wait's caliber.

My personal highlights of the show were: "Lucinda", "November", "Cemetery Polka", "Tom Traubert's Blues", "Innocent When You Dream" (complete with a Tom-led sing-a-long) and "Come On Up To The House".

All in all I thought it was an incredible concert. Probably the best I have been to this year. Hopefully I won't have to wait another 27 years for Tom to come back to Houston again.



Anonymous Mark C. Austin said...

Nice photo. :-)

Please ask next time.

3:36 PM  

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