ATN San Francisco correspondent Steve McConnell reports:
Tom Waits brought his personal cock-eyed world filled with German dwarves,
jailed prostitutes, and rain soaked Stacys to the Paramount Theater in Oakland,
CA on Sunday night (Feb. 4), and those of us lucky enough to be present were
the better for it. For nearly 2 1/2 hours, Waits and his crack band brought to
life the down and out losers which populate his musical landscape. This was
Waits' first appearance in over six years in the Bay Area, and it was long
Waits' appearance was a benefit performance on behalf of Don Hyde,
a film-maker friend of his who has become entangled in drug charges which Hyde
alleges were trumped-up. In keeping with the spirit and atmosphere of the
gorgeous decor of the newly renovated art deco Paramount Theater, Waits (and
most of his musicians) were decked out in suits, as were a lot of the retro
hipsters in the audience.
Performing more than 30 songs, Waits drew most
heavily on 1992's Bone Machine, but managed to touch on aspects of all
eras of his career. Opening with the kids anthem "I Don't Wanna Grow Up"
(covered by the Ramones on Adios Amigos last year), Waits jumped from
acoustic guitar, to maracas, organ, banjo and bull-horn to supplement his
tunes. His backing band included Joe Gore (former PJ Harvey band member), who
contributed alternately gorgeous and eerie guitar work, and long-time sideman
Ralph Carney, who honked accompaniment on all kinds of wind
This being a one-off concert, the fine edges of the show were
occasionally rough. There were a couple of long tune-ups, and Waits asked to
try a second take on the song "Johnstown, Illinois" (from
Swordfishtrombone) when he missed some of the high notes on the first
attempt. This being said, the effort and spirit shown by Waits and his band
more than made up for the occasional bum note. Waits poured his heart into each
of his songs, and the audience responded with passionate applause.
Highlights of the concert included Bone Machines's "Black Wings,"
"Jesus Gonna Be Here" (sung through a bull horn like a street corner gospel
preacher), and "The Ocean Doesn't Want Me." This last tune had seemed like a
throwaway on the album, but live, was fully developed like a piece of eerie
theater, culminating with Waits singing the refrain of "Somewhere Across The
Sea" (again through the bullhorn), and sounding like a 78 rpm recording from
the first World War.
Waits also gave great renditions of "16 Shells From a
30 Ought 6, " "Tango Till You're Sore," "Gun Street Girl," and "Time." A lovely
piano section in the middle of the show (accompanied by Greg Cohen on bass) was
highlighted by "Christmas Card From A Hooker in Minneapolis," and "Invitation
to the Blues." Waits came back four times for encores, including two bluesy
tunes with Charlie Musselwhite accompanying him on harp. The range of music he
played stretched from the beginning of his career ("Big Joe and the Phantom
309") to his most recent work (both songs from the Dead Man Walking
soundtrack album including "Walk Away," a classic Waits' rum drinkin' sea
chanty of death row wishful thinking for just one more chance). At the end, he
came back one last time for the hauntingly beautiful "Tom Traubert's Blues,"
and it was time to go home.
Waits appears to have settled into home life
after moving to Northern California a few years ago. This was his first live
appearance since a spot on the Arsenio Hall show a while back. Family life
seems to be suiting him just fine, as evidenced by the kids sitting
cross-legged in the wings of the stage. For those of us who are fans, it seems
like a crime that he doesn't tour, but maybe this performance will be the shot
in the arm he needs to start again. Between songs in the middle of the concert,
someone shouted, "Hey Tom, where ya' been?" "Where YOU been?" said Waits. "You
still working at the