Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Ohio Redux

Tom Waits is larger than life, to be sure. His 2006 Orphans tour rolled into Ohio over the weekend, to play not one, but two shows. The Akron Civic Theatre is one of five atmospheric theatres (of its size) left in the United States. The ceiling is dotted with stars and clouds are in constant motion, giving the illusion of a night-time sky. It was like something out of a Harry Potter movie— a magical venue for the evening's first show.

Tom began with "Make it Rain" and with clenched fists and stamping feet, he preached his way through the song. Holding nothing back, Tom performed a full-on set that wasn't exactly a major departure from his other sets performed on previous nights, but not without its own signature. The highlight for me in Akron was comprised of Waits' piano portion of the show, which included such classics as "Tango Til They're Sore", "Christmas Card from a Hooker in Minneapolis" and "Tom Traubert's Blues."

During "Eyeball Kid" Waits pulled out some kind of lens which magnified his eye, which brought howls of laughter and smiles all around. I'd never seen anything like that before. He knows how to entertain, that's for sure. We were all rapt with attention.

A famous Akronite passed within a few feet of me on his way (presumably) backstage
one Jim Jarmusch. The snowy-haired filmmaker, whose 1986 film "Down By Law" features Tom, was hard to mistake in his dapper all-black suit.

There was a mad exodus out of the Civic, and within a matter of minutes, we were on the freeway, headed north to Cleveland. A few hiccups finding parking aside, it soon became clear that the show at the House of Blues was not going to start at the scheduled time. No worries. In line with the 'dogs, we talked about the show we'd just seen and speculated wildly about what Tom might do for the second show. Imaginations ran amok.

Flash forward to approximately 1:20 AM. The curtains are slowly pulled back on a motorized track, and there he is, band and all, pounding out the rhythm to "Goin' Out West." The crowd, now having waited in line for a couple hours or more, is re-invigorated as Waits clearly has a second round of mojo to spread around. Waits gave us our money's worth, and then some. Not a carbon copy of the previous show, he pulled out such gems as "
I Wish I was in New Orleans" and "Johnsburg, Illinois." The latter, quite possibly the most poignant love song ever to clock in at around 1 1/2 minutes.

Clearly, he had us all in the palm of his hand for the entire night. He delivered the goods with sweat and vehemence. With eyes forced shut against the bright lights of the House of Blues, Waits gave us the show of a lifetime. He closed the show with "Buzz Fledderjohn" and invited us all to sing along with the "I ain't allowed... I ain't allowed..." portion of the lyrics. As the song closed, Waits pulled his hand out of his jacket pocket and spinning, tossed handfuls of metallic confetti about the stage & crowd. After doing this a couple times, he thanked us again, and then promptly disappeared.

A perfect ending to a magical night.

Akron setlist
Cleveland setlist


Beth said...

You hit Ohio? I am sooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo jealous! Especially with the Jim Jarmusch sighting!!!

bigshoulders said...

Yeah, I caught the head and the tail, so to speak. Jim Jarmusch is ultra-cool. I want a head of white hair like that. (if it doesn't turn loose first!)


Beth said...

You are a smart, lucky man with his priorities set straight. Again, I'm jealous.

bigshoulders said...

Aw shucks, Beth. I do count myself lucky in the fact that I know some awesome Raindogs that helped make Cleveland happen for us.

I also have a very understanding girlfriend, who doesn't share my neurosis (if you can call it that) but allowed me to induldge my own.