03 August 2006

Tom Waits. The Tabernacle. Tuesday.

I’ve spent the last thirty hours thinking about the show. Reliving it in my head. Keeping it internal, for the most part, to better commit it to memory. I listened to Tom Waits nonstop at work yesterday. Even graveled my voice once or twice. Now I’m ready to type.

Tuesday’s show was, quite possibly, the best, most exciting show I’ve seen in five years. And I’ve seen a lot of good concerts in that half a decade. Thing is, I’m not this raving Tom Waits fan (and you know I rave a lot about a lot). I’ve always enjoyed his music — The Heart of Saturday Night is in my Top 100 — but I have just five or six albums. However, I felt compelled to go, that it was a must for someone who loves music and concerts as much as I do. I’m glad I felt the must to go. Tom Waits was a-f*cking-mazing.

This was Tom Waits’ first appearance in Atlanta since 1978 — an absence of near thirty years. Waits has named this the Orphan Tour. I did a little reading online, and found that “orphan” doesn’t refer to a new album, but instead the cities — places where he hasn’t performed in years. He’s performing in seven U.S. cities, and Atlanta was the first stop of the tour.

I don’t want to do a concert review here. There are better ones out there by my fellow bloggers, so read their posts:
What We All Want
Shiver Me Quivers
The Eyeball Kid
Making a Long Story Longer

The AJC has a review and photos of Tuesday’s show.

The lights dimmed. The audience roared. Palpable anticipation, as the band filled the stage, waiting for him to walk out. Shall I add the concert cliché the crowd went nuts? Yes, I should, because I’ve rarely been part of such anticipation, such excitement in the seconds before a show began. Truly shiver me timbers (my favorite Waits song, which he didn’t perform).

The pork-pied Waits walked out and exultation filled the Tabernacle (“exultation” may seem over the top, but it isn't, not this time). He started with “Make It Rain,” and rain it did. Each one of us was in the moment, in his palm. It was, from the first note to the last encore, a spectacular show. I wasn’t familiar with all songs, but that was beside the point. This was Tom Waits performing, talking, moving. “Concert” seems too tame a word to describe the event. To be in a room and hear that voice, those lyrics come alive ... well, I can't find the words to do it justice (especially during the Cup Challenge).

And the lighting. The stage was simply set, with just the musicians and their instruments. A curtain backdropped the three-story wall behind them. The lights were set so that Tom Waits’ shadow loomed large on the curtain, yet didn’t show the band. Waits moved in his frenetic style, casting these two-story reflections that looked like an Indonesian shadow puppet show. I found myself several times entranced by the shadow and the music, forgetting to watch the man himself.

He performed for nearly two hours, including two short encores. To hear his voice live … well, it’s indescribable. Tom Waits is like no other, and I got to be a part of that for a night.

I’ve always had a soft spot for Tom Waits’ character in Short Cuts, hoping that Earl is close to the real Tom Waits. His complete love* for Lily Tomlin’s Doreen is beautiful. Tuesday night, I felt like I was with Earl.

I’ll skip the long story about the long wait, the long lines, the not-so-long delay. But we waited in the sun for a couple of hours, another hour locked in the Cotton Club during the sound check, then a couple more hours as fans picked up their tickets. All tickets were distributed at the Tabernacle, per Tom Waits’ request, to cut the scalpers at their knees, and he held the show until every person was inside. (Thanks to those of you who indulged me with cell chats and text messaging during the long wait.)

Surprisingly, the wait in the sun wasn’t bad. I bought my ticket from Lance, a true Tom Waits fan who will see the show twice more (can’t wait to hear about Memphis and the Ryman, Lance!). He got in line 1:30 and was one of the first in queue, with several Raindogs (fellow fans). Lance could not have been more gracious, welcoming me into their afternoon club. He shared his beer, his cooler, and his Waits-filled stereo with us. They were a great bunch of guys, and I had fun talking about different shows we’d seen, who was amazing and who sucked. Nothing like a long discussion of concerts to keep me from noticing the broiling sun. I lost them once the show began; they ringed the stage, and I left that position for the more rabid fans.

As a whole, the audience was one of the greatest gatherings of thousands I’ve been a part of. Very respectful of the man and the music. It’s rare to have that many people stand quietly while a musician performs, but stand quietly they did. (But not still. We danced and swayed with the music.) And shushed those few who had to chat or let loose a war whoop. They were also respectful of the rest of us. I’m of average height, but I feel like Mary Lou Retton in a general-admission setting. Whenever I moved to a new spot, the person in front of me, nearly every time, turned and asked if I could see, if he needed to shift. Or we’d catch eyes and just grin. Lots of joyful faces in that room.

When the show ended, I was wiped. Spent. Near sleep on my feet. And yet I wasn’t ready to go home. So I went to the drive-in at the Varsity, enjoyed a chili steak and FO, and just stared and thought and relived. Drove home my favorite way, from one end of Peachtree to the other, sunroof open, radio off, reliving what I had just experienced.

I’m sorry that I saw this show by myself because it’s one I want to talktalktalktalk about. But I saw it, and I’m glad, so very glad, that Lance was generous and fair with his spare ticket. He’s this month’s hero.

*Allowed during the Cup Challenge; it’s used here as a noun, not a verb.



At 8/03/2006 07:44:00 AM, Blogger Dale said...

The whole experience sounds wearying and wonderful and I could feel you beaming throughout your wonderful description. I'm glad you were there.

At 8/03/2006 08:34:00 AM, Blogger Chez Bez said...

I'm going nuts reading all of these glowing reviews of this tour. My anticipation of his Ryman show is huge.

I'm glad you got to experience the live music of Tom Waits.

At 8/03/2006 09:45:00 AM, Blogger Beth said...

DALE: The show was everything I had hoped for, and more. I'm a convert.

CHEZ BEZ: So jealous that you get to see him at THE RYMAN! I can't wait to read your blog review.

At 8/03/2006 10:10:00 AM, Blogger Benny said...

I'm glad you had such a good time, Beth. Tom Waits does seem like he'd be a character on stage- and he sounds like a gracious performer if he went for 2 hours.

Favorite Tom Waits: Hang on St. Christopher. My first car (an '89 Ford Escort) was named St. Christopher after this song, and I'm convinced it was this superstition that kept me safe when the car was flipped in an accident.

First Tom Waits Encounter: as the character of Benny in the film Rumble Fish. Fitting, eh? ;-)

At 8/03/2006 10:43:00 AM, Blogger Intravenous DeMilo said...

nice description of the show! truly, that show was incredible, and probably my favorite show of all time.

i, too, have a soft spot for Tom in Short Cuts.

- ID

At 8/03/2006 10:57:00 AM, Blogger Au$10 said...

Niiiice....thanks for the linkage.

At 8/03/2006 12:25:00 PM, Anonymous karen said...

Fabulous blog entry, Beth! Almost like being there...

At 8/03/2006 01:09:00 PM, Blogger Anomie-Atlanta said...

How was Ryan Adams? I was kicking myself for missing that show, but the parents were in town and they would not have appreciated the music....Alas!

At 8/03/2006 02:08:00 PM, Blogger barista brat said...

damn! my comment disappeared - again!

anyway, i said i was happy that you had such a fantastic time. and 'downtown train' is my favorite tom waits song because his voice is to raw and romantic in it.

and b - rumble fish! i had no clue!

At 8/03/2006 02:30:00 PM, Blogger Peter said...

Awesome post and blog and all.

I'll bet the guitarist was killer. Waits led me to discover both Robert Quine and Marc Ribot.

My favorite song is "Hold On" because Bruce Springsteen wishes he could have written it.

At 8/03/2006 02:58:00 PM, Blogger Matto the Hun said...

Heya, thanks for the linkage to me blorg. It's great to read other fans' experinces and happiness over the whole thing.

I just got off Ticketbastard hoping on the ever so slim chance that somebody had their tickets recalled or something and we could go to another show.

And just so everyone knows... no dice

yet ;)

At 8/03/2006 03:02:00 PM, Blogger Beth said...

MATTO: I read that TicketMaster released a lot of tix the day before the Atlanta show, so it's worth checking into. But I've heard the industry wankers have most of the Ryman tix.

At 8/03/2006 03:46:00 PM, Blogger justacoolcat said...

Wankers always get the Waits tickets here, he only plays small venues. I'm very jealous.

My favorite Tom Waits acting was in Down By Law. Second would be as the scientist in Mystery Men.

At 8/03/2006 03:46:00 PM, Blogger Beth said...

BENNY: Great song. And I think Sts. T-m and Christopher were there with you to protect you. Now I need to rent Rumble Fish soon ...

I.DEMILO: Welcome to the Cup! You seem to be quite cool and brilliant ... seeing that you agree with me about T-m.

AU$10: Great night, wasn't it? Glad to link you on my post.

KAREN: Wish you'd been there with me.

ANOMIE-ATLANTA: Read this post.

BRAT: I love "Downtown Train" -- his version, not Rod's. Sadly, he didn't sing that one, either. But it didn't dampen the evening one bit.

PETER: Welcome to the comment boxes! I've always enjoyed your Muppet. And your blog.

At 8/03/2006 03:53:00 PM, Blogger Beth said...

JUSTACOOLCAT: Mystery Men is so underappreciated, isn't it? Love that move. And, of course, Down by Law. Keep checking TicketMaster; the day before the show here, tix were quietly released. It's worth the online monitoring.

At 8/03/2006 08:39:00 PM, Anonymous Glassmeow said...

Positively GREEN with envy!!!

...and a perfect D'oh! moment - he's in Chicago on the 9th! If I had had my sh*t together, I would have arranged to stay until Wednesday and caught him there.

But then August 9th is Bruce Cockburn in Portland. So I guess I shouldn't complain too much.

At 8/03/2006 09:18:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Nice post - I'm in ATL but am missed out in tickets at the Tabernacle. But going to be in the church pews at Ryman

p.s. cool to stuble upon another copywriter here hacking away at a living

At 8/03/2006 09:26:00 PM, Blogger Beth said...

GLASSMEOW: I'm going to see Bruce Cockburn at the end of the month. Let me know how he does in Portland; I've heard he's a stiff performer these days. Why are you in Chicago?

ANON: Thanks for the compliment; means a lot, coming from a fellow copywriter. Hate you for the Ryman tix; let me know about that show. Drop an e-mail (address on page).

At 8/03/2006 10:05:00 PM, Blogger Matto the Hun said...

@ beth - THANK YOU!!! My wife and I have always said that Mystery Men was terribly underrated! It's a great movie, I love it!

I saw Memphis tickets available for Friday this afternoon in premium seating. I saw the Orpheum Theatre picture, it looks like it's the size of the Fox Theatre in ATL if not bigger. So even the premium seats look like the can land you in back. It wouldn't be AS good as where we were in the Tabernacle, but then again... it's Tom.

Anyway, we didn't get those, Memphis is too far, I have stupid work (as if thatcould realy stop me) and our little dogs would ahve to come with us on that kind of exteded trip and we don't know if we could find a place to spend the night with them.

I'm crossing my fingers that there will be some released for Nashville but I hear that'a toughie. If not that then Kentucky... and screw the bastards at stupid work ;)

Best of luck to all of us checking up on this!

At 8/03/2006 10:16:00 PM, Anonymous Glassmeow said...

Actually, still in Portland until the buttcrack of dawn on Saturday morning. Then I'll be on my way to Chicago. Working there over the weekend - customer event at my largest distributor - back on a plane Sunday night and back in Portland in the wee hours of Monday morning. No, I am NOT going into the office on Monday :)

Still in the office tying up loose ends now. Tomorrow off to pack and organize and Hey! There's the John Wesley Harding gig (Mr.Come Gutsy Catch opening - hopefully with Mr. Brute Peck riding shotgun)Friday night.


Bruce? Stiff? Hmmm...last time I saw him was at least 10 years ago. He was really good then. Played for hours with no break.

At 8/04/2006 09:17:00 PM, Blogger bigshoulders said...

great post! it was my 1st time seeing Waits and i'm glad it was in the South!

i may have stood next to you... Lance (bent-up cowboy hat) was right in front of me...


At 8/05/2006 04:47:00 AM, Blogger Beth said...

MATTO: Keep me posted on your Nashville ticket hunt.

GLASSMEOW: Ugh. It's 4:30 Saturday morning, and I'm up to get red for a morning flight to D.C. But at least that's a pleasure trip. How was John Wesley Harding and Scott McCaughey?

BIG SHOULDERS: Welcome! That Lance is a great guy, isn't he?

At 8/05/2006 08:12:00 AM, Blogger bigshoulders said...

in his own words: "Hey, spread that rumour!" He even made a couple beer runs for those around. As for myself, I didn't drink a drop, as I didn't want to lose my spot for something so basic as having to pee.



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