Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Tom Waits Concert

So Rob and I had the privilege of attending the Tom Waits concert in Jacksonville last night. It was the most unique concert experience I think either of us has ever had. In fact, it would be more accurately described as a theatrical performance than a concert. Let me attempt to paint a picture for you. First, imagine that you had a slightly eccentric grandfather, who for the last half-century has collected both a conglomeration of random musical instruments as well as the horn portions of twenty or so P.A. speakers. Dig all of these items out of your grandfather's dusty closets and scatter them over a stage, and you are beginning to see Tom Waits' concert set-up. The P.A. speakers (merely for decoration) were hung like a backdrop. Tom stood front and center on a circular platform made to look like old floor boards. Tom himself is this bizzar caricature of a man, dressed in a black suit, with a black Derby-style hat. His emaciated frame is made even more awkward by the unnatural mannerisms and gestures of his limbs, particularly his long bony fingers. To top it all off, Tom wears these Frankenstein-ish boots, which he uses to stomp on the floor boards, releasing fog from a hidden fog machine, looking like dust rising up and circling around his feet. Also on his platform are several random instruments, including a bell similar to the one used to signal the start of a round of boxing that Tom controlls by stomping on. Tom's circular stage is surrounded by five other musicians and their own pods of instruments. To the left was the drummer, surrounded by nearly every type of percussive instrument you can think of. To the right of him, and slightly behind Tom Waits, was the upright bass player. He is the only musician who stuck with the same instrument the whole show through. To the right of the bassist was the guitar player, and then the keyboard player. And to the front right of the stage was the "reed player" who had a variety of saxaphones and clarinets. As if all of the musicians were not phenominal enough already, the reed player often played TWO saxaphones at once. It was outrageous.
As I mentioned, Tom Waits is like a caricature. It's hard to think of him as "real." His voice is a mix of Kermit the Frog and Scuttle the Seagull (from Little Mermaid)... but drunk. The heavy, dark sounds of the music, mixed with the crazy stage and perfectly choreographed lighting, causes the whole performance to make you feel as though you are watching Moulan Rouge. I could go on, but it really wouldn't do enough justice. Rob may have more to say. If you have not heard Tom Waits' music before, please look him up (although I would not recommend buying an album until you know what you're getting yourself into). A great song to give you a good idea of his style is "Little Drop of Poison". This sounds like a very Reading Rainbow way of ending this post ("Don't take my word for it!").

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