The anticipation grew quickly with the playing about of shadowy figures on the yellow curtains. Intensely bright lights behind the stage cast long, upward shadows of the musicians, and each member of Tom's touring band came through singlely to the roar of 2,500+ fans. And then, there he was. There was no mistake-- with arms stretched out, as if readying to take flight, the gnarled fingers, which later would be playing beautiful piano medleys, were casting their own unique shadow upon the curtain. Waits paused, as the crowd whipped itself up into a frenzy, struck another pose, and then sliced through the curtain. What an entrance!
Tom promptly launched into "Singapore" and thus began a nearly two-hour set of a wide range of his material of his career. Having been in Atlanta the night before, I had a good idea of what to expect, but then again, this is Waits, and he is anything but predictable.
A little over a third into the set, starting with "Tango 'til They're Sore" Tom took a seat at the piano, and with Larry Taylor (who looks quite a bit like a younger Fidel Castro) plucking that dog-house bass, he tickled the keys of the old favorites. "Invitation to the Blues" from 1976's Small Change was one that I never thought I would hear live. Tom prefaced this with "This one's for my wife." I think everyone in the theatre that night was reverantly hanging on his every word for that song.
Often known for his witty stage banter, Waits remarked about how increasingly hard it is to get a bad cup of coffee, and how he's going back to instant-- "the key word being instant." Larry is big on instant coffee, apparently. Other highlights that are almost certainly out of order, was how Waits talked about the last time he was in Asheville, back in the 40's. He said it was for a film he was shooting with Gregory Peck, and how Peck wanted all of Tom's lines, and Tom gave them to him. He remarked about the good-looking crowd, and expressed desire to take us all on the road with him, and that the ushers were waiting to take our measurements so that he could have individual hard cases made for each of us, but he said that not only was it expensive, it was dangerous.
Tom gave the audience a double-shot of encores, leaving us with "Don't Go Into that Barn." The audience call back of "YES, SIR!" (and the lone "NO, SIR!") gives me chills when I think of it, even now. Tom has provided the soundtrack to roughly one-third of my life and while the tour has rolled on into Tennessee, the experience of seeing him live is absolutely unforgettable.