An Evening in Tom Waits’s Funhouse
Having released 21 albums (studio and live) and inspired nearly as many tribute albums in a career spanning over 35 years, it’s easy to name Tom Waits among the great songwriters of American music. Glitter and Doom Live is the latest testament to Waits’ continued relevance to younger artists and the importance he serves as a link to the evolution of rock.
Available as either a single or double album, Glitter consists of seventeen tracks on disc one recorded in ten different cities, seamlessly integrated to sound as one intimate evening with Waits and his band. Selected songs emphasize Waits’s more recent career with material from the 1990s (Bone Machine) and 2000s (Orphans, Real Gone) while the second disc is an unusual offering on a live release: 35 minutes of storytelling. While most artists’ stage banter is just that – an anecdote and “Thank you, goodnight” – Waits can craft a fine yarn, much to his audience’s amusement.
Overall, the set presents a bluesy odyssey through dirty deals and love gone wrong, maintaining interest from start to finish and throwing in the occasional curveball to showcase Waits’s writing range and peculiarities. From the sly groove of “Get Behind the Mule” and the James Brown strut of “Such a Scream” to the unsettling entreaties of “Green Grass,” Waits’s songs are all narratives of desperation and the dark side.
The rousing opener “Lucinda / Ain’t Goin’ Down to the Well,” the remorseful “Fannin Street,” the funny and surprising “Live Circus,” and the closing ballad “Lucky Day,” are all standout tracks, but the greatest joy lies in hearing an American master tear through his songbook with verve and passion, another lesson for his successors.