Friday, August 04, 2006

Tom Freaking Waits

I'm still buzzing pretty hard that I actually got to see Tom Waits two days ago in Asheville. That was one of those things that I never imagined having the opportunity to do in my life. There are now two shows that I'll always brag about: Johnny Cash and Tom Waits.

First Asheville....

Everybody I know kept telling me that I would love Asheville. It sounds great....a little hippy town hidden in the mountains. The drive was pretty long (six hours), but not bad. It was a beautiful drive, a nice tour of southern Appalachia.

I didn't actually get to see much of Asheville itself because we arrived right before doors openned and the venue was literally right off the exit. The first thing we saw was a parking attendent, big bearded dude in overalls, covered in dirt. I mean, completely covered in dirt, head to toe. I don't know how you get that damn dirty parking cars, but whatever. We went right to the waiting line, and stood right next a giant pile of dog poo. Actually it was so big I was a little suspicious that it may have been human.

Now, I like hippy towns. I'm no hippy, but I always like towns like that. Always plenty of culture and art and open-mindedness. However, the biggest drawback to a hippy town is the smell. There were many, many smelly people. Neeley and I didn't get to sit next to each other at the show, but we both had bad smells surrounding us. I sat two seats down from some kid that smelled like bologna.

Okay, enough ranting about Asheville. I'm sure I'd love it if I saw more of it. The show was too good to let some filth ruin it.

I was totally expecting Waits to phone in his performance. I was thinking that he didn't like performing, since he never does, and that he was just traveling around to show he was still alive. Thankfully, I was completely wrong. After the band emerged, Waits came out blowing kisses and waving and doing his scarecrow pose and immediately went into a very energetic version of "Singapore." He was bouncing around and posing like a champ.

He was mesmerizing. It was hard to look away. He was as enigmatic as I can ever remember. I'll be honest.....I haven't listened to him too much since high school, when he was as legendary in my eyes as anybody I've ever idolized. Once he hit the stage, however, every bit of love I ever had for him instantly returned. I was transported back to my old coffee shop days: drinking black coffee, reading Kerouac, not doing homework, and loving cold autumn days listening to Tom Waits.

He looked great. It was kind of hard to see from the balcony, but he seemed thin and fit. He sounded great.....well as great as Tom Waits can sound. His growl was as wicked as ever and his twisted falsetto was as strong as I've ever heard. He was pretty weak in speaking, but that's Tom Waits. He got some great lines out. One of the first things he said was very out of nowhere, but about the best line I can use to summorize my love for Tom Waits: "You know, it's getting harder and harder to find a really bad cup of coffee."

With my earlier complaints about Asheville, I'll have to give them this.....the acoustics at the Thomas Wolfe Auditorium are second to none. Every line he sang and every note from the band was perfect.....and man did they sound great. Here's the full set list, shamelessly copied and pasted from the Eyeball Kid:

Make it Rain
Hoist That Rag
Shore Leave
Gods Away on Business
'Til the money Runs out
All The World Is Green
Tango 'Til Their Sore
Invitation to the Blues
You Can Never Hold Back Spring
Clap Hands
Whistling Past The Graveyard
Heartattack and Vine
Who's Been Talkin'
What's He Building in There
Trampled Rose
Get Behind the Mule
Murder in the Red Barn
Goin' out West
Down In The Hole
Blue Valentine
Dont Go into that Barn

Obviously it was a long set and we got a great mix of songs ranging his whole career. I swear I was crying when he played "November." That was the song that got me to love Waits over a decade ago. It was cold autumn night in Jonathan's bedroom in either '95 or '96 and we were playing some card game. He just got into Waits with The Black Rider and was playing it for me. It was waaaaay over my head, until "November" came on. It instantly clicked, and I can still use that song and that album and that night for molding my musical tastes I still have today.

Other than "Singapore" and "November," the songs that really stood out were "God's Away on Business," his beautiful version of "Invitation to the Blues" (it was just him on piano and his bass player), "Clap Hands," his epic version of "Heartattack and Vine," "Goin' Out West," "Way Down in the Hole" (one of my favorite Waits songs), and "Don't Go into that Barn."

If you looked at the Eyeball Kid's comments section from the Asheville show, you'll notice that there were several people complaining about the lameness of the crowd. To me, the crowd was incredible. They were hot all night long. Everybody cheered after every line he sang. So what if everybody was sitting? It's a sit-down venue! Maybe I'm getting older and lamer, but I now would rather sit and watch a show than get right up front and dance all night. There was a great mix to the crowd......the young professionals, the goth kids, the hippies, the hipsters, the moms and dads. Talking with people, everybody was in the same mindset: I can't believe I'm getting to see Tom freaking Waits. There were even a couple of people in homemade t-shirts that said "Tom fucking Waits." I was very happy to be a part of that crowd, and Waits seemed very genuine in saying how great we were.

Okay, so the show would've been great in Waits just phoned it in. However, with as good as the show was, it was easily one of the best shows I've ever seen. I'm still buzzing after two days and I'll never forget a moment of that night. That show was another notch in my belt of life.

God, I saw Tom freaking Waits!!