Sign up for our mailing list Real artists creating records on their own terms

Sign up for our mailing list


Sunday, August 6th, 2006

Rarities like Waits are worth the time

After 29 years, we'll take in all 2 hours By Mark Jordan Special to The Commercial Appeal August 6, 2006

"It's good to be back in Memphis," Tom Waits said shortly after taking the stage before a sold-out audience at the Orpheum, the singer-songwriter's first concert in Memphis in 29 years. "I gotta say, though, what happened to Lansky's? Did it move to Florida or Cuba?"

An audience member soon set him straight on Elvis' favorite clothier, now at The Peabody. But just mentioning it displayed a light, personal touch from Waits, who all night deftly balanced his dark, macabre tales of dropouts and burnouts with humorous riffs on coffee bars and unemployment line bums. Most of Waits' two-and-a-half hour set Friday night came from his last studio album, 2004's Real Gone, although he performed a sampling of material from throughout his career.

Many of the 2,300 concertgoers were hardcore fans who called out for their favorites. He didn't take requests, though, and mostly avoided his best-known works -- there was no "Step Right Up" or "Ol' 55."

Waits started with "Singapore" from the album Rain Dogs, which quickly exposed the one glaring defect of the night. Waits, never the prettiest of singers (nor should he be, considering the hard-rabble nature of his material), has not aged well as a vocalist. Once capable of handling tender melodies, he was forced to woof his lyrics much of the night.

For "2:19," an unreleased track from Waits' Mule Variations album that has thus far only appeared on his friend John Hampton's 2001 Wicked Grin album, Waits sang partly through a megaphone before devolving into a series of huffs and parrot calls.

Still, the power of Waits' words was able to pierce through his voice's limitations, and his four-piece backing band kept the music rolling with brutal efficiency.

The singer's son, Casey Waits, has mastered the drumming in his father's music, parts that mostly discard traditional back beats in favor of intricate percussion textures such as the rolling thunder on "God's Away On Business."

Waits closed the night with the blues rocker "Going Out West" from Bone Machine but came back with an acoustic guitar for an encore that contained a pair of Real Gone songs, including the powerful soldier's lament "Day After Tomorrow," the only song of the night to receive its own standing ovation.

Facebook | Twitter

Browse by Artist

1606All Artists 97Tom Waits 65Mavis Staples 57Neko Case 51Lost In The Trees 50Sean Rowe 48Dr. Dog 44The Milk Carton Kids
41Jolie Holland 40Bettye LaVette 37Man Man 33Tim Fite 33DeVotchKa 31Islands 31Grinderman 31Tinariwen 28Son Little 27Galactic 27Wilco 25Saintseneca 24Michael Franti and Spe... 22Bob Mould 22William Elliott Whitmo... 21Nick Cave & The Bad Se... 21The Frames 21Doe Paoro 20Joe Henry 19Booker T. Jones 19Sage Francis 18Glen Hansard 17John K. Samson 17Yann Tiersen 17Deafheaven 16Ramblin Jack Elliott 16Jason Lytle 15Christopher Paul Stell... 14Delicate Steve 13Daniel Lanois 13Billy Bragg 13Andy Shauf 13Prism Tats 12Xavier Rudd 12Xenia Rubinos 12Peter Silberman 11The Weakerthans 11Lyrics Born 11Rain Machine 11Mose Allison 11Roky Erickson 11The Antlers 11Calexico 10The Swell Season 10The Melodic 10So Much Light 9Marianne Faithfull 9N.A.S.A. 9Cameron Avery 9Ryan Pollie 9The Drums 8Solillaquists of Sound 8Greg Graffin 8Cadence Weapon 8The Coup 8Cass McCombs 8The Dream Syndicate 7Elliott Smith 7Eddie Izzard 7Dead Man's Bones 7Alec Ounsworth 7Beth Orton 7Kelly Hogan 7Title Fight 7Jade Jackson 7Ben Harper and Charlie... 6A Girl Called Eddy 6Busdriver 6Os Mutantes 6Kate Bush 6Broken Twin 6Girlpool 5One Day As A Lion 5The Field 5Keaton Henson 5Beat Connection 5Japandroids 4Ersi Arvizu 4Marketa Irglova 4Pops Staples 4Curtis Harding 4Yves Jarvis 4Rafiq Bhatia 4Richard Reed Parry 4Foxwarren 3Danny Cohen 3Sierra Leones Refugee... 3Petra Haden 3Walter Wolfman Washing... 3Mothers 3Marc Ribot 2Various Artists: RANGO 2Jeff Tweedy 2Combo Chimbita 1Tricky 1Joe Strummer And The M... 1Youth Group 1Blackalicious 1Antibalas 1Porter Wagoner 1Various Artists: ROGUE... 1The Locust 1Rogue's Gallery 1Kronos Quartet with Br... 1Simian Mobile Disco 1case/lang/veirs 1Merle Haggard 1Lido Pimienta 1Wynonna
See Full List+