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Arts & Culture

Tom Waits' "Glitter and Doom Live" Is Perfect For Under The Tree

Cover of Tom Waits' album.
Cover of Tom Waits' album.

The Exalted Maharaja of Strange, Tom Waits, may be your last-minute gift savior this year. "Glitter and Doom Live," the companion CD set for Waits’ 2008 tour, featuring 17 songs and a half hour of Tom Waits storytelling, is sure to please the ears of your favorite musical weirdo.

Even the most die hard fans could be excused for missing Waits’ last tour. If my Google research and math are correct, only 33,840 seats were open for Waits’ Glitter and Doom tour, which included appearances in two cities in Alabama, but not a single show in California or New York. You see, if he added tour dates in California, then the shape of the tour map would no longer resemble the constellation Hydra, which was the plan announced at his pre-tour press conference. Last year, my friend Jesse and I ditched out of work early and burned through six hours of gasoline to see Waits play at the Orpheum Theater in Phoenix. After five o’clock, downtown Phoenix turns into a rather creepy, post-apocalyptic ghost town - a perfect setting for a Waits show.

The image of the lights shining down on Waits as the curtain rose now burned into my memory. He raised his knees high up in the air and slammed down his boots, one after the other onto the stage, kicking up dust and glitter as he stomped out the slow drum beat to "Lucinda." Waits' new CD set, "Glitter and Doom Live" brings that whole night rushing back in crystal-clear, black-and-white memory-vision with a hint of yellow for artistic effect.

What impressed me most that night was the complete reimagining of almost every song he played - and this totally comes out on the album. You’ll still recognize songs like “Singapore” and “Such a Scream,” but they’ve been torn down to the chassis and completely rebuilt.

Waits provides a mix of his more recent work on this album, kicking out songs from "Bone Machine," "Blood Money," "Real Gone," "Rain Dogs," "Orphans," "The Black Rider," and more. You’ll hear songs ranging from ballads about living a life of bad decisions as on “Fannin Street” to ramblings about oddballs, outcasts, and misfits on “Live Circus” and plain ole’ kick-ass songs like “Goin’ Out West.”

The sound quality is absolutely stunning. This is no Evilive. Waits recorded most of his performances from the tour and picked the best recordings of each song, so you’ll be hearing applause from Tulsans, Jacksonvillers, Parisians, Milanese, and more.

And last, but certainly not least, the second CD features over half an hour of Waits educating the audience on bits of information bizarre, curious, and shocking (here's the transcript). They range from unusual laws (in Oklahoma, “you can’t photograph a rabbit in the middle of the week”) to science (the thing on Earth “closest to the compression of the rocks from the moon is provolone cheese or Vermont cheddar”) and stories about his music, such as what 9th and Hennepin is really like.

The stories he tells are not jokes per se. They are mostly weird facts, but still hilarious. To wit, there's this tall Waitsian tale: “During the summer I ingested some pond water,” Waits recounts on this CD. “And I finally had to go to the doctor and they put an ultrasound on me and they found three toads in my stomach… oh boy. But you know they’re off to themselves, they’re off to one side, and you know… it’s only a drag when we’re watching television and they get really loud.”

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