Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Tom Waits - Houston

When I got home Saturday night, my cell was finally back in able-to-check-messages range, and I was treated to a message stating that the guy who'd called to see if I had an extra ticket a couple of weeks ago had gotten dicked over at work and was needing to work through Sunday to finish a product. Great...

I asked my roommate if he wanted to go. Too much to do on Sunday. Made a call to a Spaniard. Maybe. Called the inimitable John Pike. Sure. Why the hell not? Once the Spaniard had deemed himself too Spanish, it was John Pike to the rescue. So--after a ridiculous wake up from friends and an unwanted detour to Spider House--we rented a car and headed off to Houston. Not wanting to deal with some retarded traffic jam on I-35, I took to the city streets of East Austin, which led me to FM-969, which I left for a road which was to take me Elgin and presumably US-290 only I somehow managed to miss US-290 and found myself in Taylor, from where I knew how to get to US-290. I didn't have to get out and ask for directions, though...

After the detour, we were really off to Houston and arrived with plenty of time to spare, having only stopped off for what turned out to not be "the best kolaches in Texas", despite what the sign said on the highway. We found Jones Hall, parked a block away, and moseyed on down to the first of two cookie-cutter Irish pubs on the 500-block of Main Street. Neither were particularly impressive and won't even get a shout-out by name. After wasting our hard-earned money on Houston-priced beers and substandard food and making a phone call to Jackie on her birthday, we made way to the venue, bought oil-stain shirts, and headed to our seats (which were much farther away from the stage than our El Paso tickets).

As the show started, it was quickly clear that it was not going to be loud enough. Maybe the lack of clarity and volume was related to the fact that we were sitting in fucking Galveston, or maybe it was because we were under the balcony, but the sound definitely wasn't loud enough and certain vocal flares were not as pronounced. That being said, he started out with "Lucinda" and "Way Down in the Hole" again, and once again they really got the show kickstarted. The next three songs, "Falling Down", "November", and "Dead and Lovely" were all great and started to set the tone that would permeate the show. This was going to be more of a balladeer set--well, at least as close to a balladeer set as Tom Waits can get.

After another raucous rendition of "Lie to Me", Tom jumped on guitar and played "The Day After Tomorrow", which was particularly affective. He then kicked the shit out of "Hoist that Rag" again, with the first breakdown sounding more together than it did in El Paso, but that may have just been the result of not being able to actually hear it from where we were sitting. Three great songs passed ("Get Behind the Mule", which couples very well with "Hoist that Rag", "Cemetary Polka", and "Trampled Rose"), and Tom went to his radically reimagined "Jesus Gonna Be Here".

After the dirty blues bar jam of "Jesus Gonna Be Here", Tom made his way to the piano and belted out "Lucky Day", "Tom Traubert's Blues", "House Where Nobody Lives", and "Innocent When You Dream", which made for a helluva piano set when coupled with his piano banter and the mandated sing-along with "Innocent When You Dream".

Taking his place back atop his sawdust-laden personal stage, Tom broke into "Make It Rain", which he followed up with a version of "Murder in the Red Barn" that took me until the chorus to place (no, he didn't kick the song off with the lyrics from the album). Following "Murder in the Red Barn", we were all treated to "Come on up to the House", then "Dirt in the Ground" (fucking amazing once again), and finally a completely rearranged "Eyeball Kid", which closed off the set with style.

Coming back on stage to rabid applause (and much faster than he did in El Paso), he quickly made his way through the sublime romp of "Goin' Out West" and closed it off with the unexpected "All the World is Green".

Surprisingly absent was "Fannin Street", which made the cut in both El Paso and Dallas but not in the town it's about. I guess Tom Waits does whatever Tom Waits wants to do.

All in all, I'd have to say the El Paso show stands out as being slightly better, which may very well be the result of my proximity to the stage at each show (or the jackass singing off-key but emulating Tom's vocals in my ear behind me, or maybe the incomprehensible frequency of dickheads in the rows around us getting up to go wherever it was they needed to go only to come back 30 seconds later), but I think the El Paso set was more to my liking than the Houston set. Was it better than Dallas, though? You'll find that out soon...

After the show, we made our way out of Houston and sped on home, managing to leave just about every toilet from Austin to Houston on US-290 and back to Austin on TX-71 virtually unscathed--which was a let-down of sorts for all you readers out there, I suppose.

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