Thursday, June 26, 2008

Tom Waits: Houston v. Dallas

Tom Waits - June 22nd, Jones Hall, Houston TX
Tom Waits - June 23rd, The Palladium, Dallas TX

Yeah, I missed all of the Orphans dates and the Katrina shows so I was ready for this tour. I will confess to being a bigger fan of the Asylum albums specifically Nighthawks at the Diner, The Heart of Saturday Night and Heartattack And Vine. I have bought all the new ones also, and certainly enjoy them, but when push comes to shove I find myself reaching farther back in the catalog for more of the piano/lounge sounds.

The tour is announced and I knew I would see one show and with Houston and Dallas back to back it just made sense to see them both. What a great decision. The two shows could not have been more different.

Houston was a assigned seat show and while I was on the Ticketmaster site the moment tickets became available, I wound up 3/4th of the way back in the hall. This hall was an Orchestra hall. Velvety seats, fancy art, elevators, toilets that flushed... really high class. The stage was sparsely populated with Tom's raised platform right in the middle, drums left, sax right and bass and guitar in the back behind him. There was also a baby grand to the right of Tom's platform. Some extra drums, auxiliary percussion and megaphone were at the ready next to his platform, but none but the maracas were used.

The show started right on time and the audience was incredibly well behaved. Little to no talking and almost no yelling out our heckling.

There were two things that did not work for me for this show. The sound and the pace. I found the middle of the set slow... the 3 piano songs were incredible. How can you beat Innocent When You Dream, Tom Traubert’s blues, and The House Where Nobody Lives?

On the sound I found the vocals to be very muddy and the drums sounded very timid and weak. When he spoke between songs I and the people around me were all straining to understand and there were waves of "what did he say?" or "did you catch that?" I am going to attribute this to my seating location as I spoke with others at the show and they reported that the sound was great.

Now, wake up and drive 4 hours to Dallas. The Palladium had the look and feel of an old 1940's-50's dance hall. Big open floor, all wood, few to no seats, bars lined each wall. It just felt like the type of place you might run into Tom Waits by chance. We lucked out in the initial rush when the doors opened. It seems most people either ran to the swag table to pick up their shirts or CD's while the other half rushed the stage to stake out a good standing spot. You could consider me smart, but the truth is I am lazy and the thought of standing for 90 minutes waiting for the show to start made me tired. So, I walked along the back of the room, near the soundboard and spotted two bar stools right next to the mixing board. They were partially blocked by a larger party, but I asked, and they were not spoken for. I think this was the key to this show for me as the sound was perfect. Not only every joke and story, but every word to every song. The drums were forceful and out front. The drummer sounded like he was really running the show. I could hear everything and they just sounded incredible.

The show followed the same basic format. Innocent when you dream was drawn out and Tom lead the audience in singing the chorus at the end eventually standing up, stopping singing and conducting us through the close of the song... something he tried less effectively in Houston. The megaphone was used sparingly but to the delight of the audience. There was much more talking and joke telling. A bit more heckling and cat calling from the audience, but somehow it really fit the vibe just fine.

In addition to the great sound the show also had a perfect pace. The drums felt like a pulsing heartbeat the carried the show from start to finish. It just felt like it had more energy.

One additional note. The group that I wound up next to included some contractors who did work for the venue. They had sat through the 3.5 hour sound check and shared some interesting information. According to them part of the performance contract required all of the bars but one to shut down once the music started. (This did not present a problem, but I found it interesting.) It was also explained that the air conditioning was to be cut once the show started. It was tripped back on two times when the temps got out of hand, but it seems the plan was for the room to be hot. My wife and I noted that when the air was off the smoke on stage held better and the lights made a bigger impact. When it was turned back on briefly those two times most of the haze was blown right off stage.

All in all, two great shows. Very different experiences, but both great in their own way.

I grabbed these set lists from the

Jones Hall, Houston Tx.
June 22

Down in the Hole
Falling Down
Dead and Lovely
Lie to Me
Day After Tomorrow
Hoist that Rag
Get Behind the Mule
Cemetary Polka
Trampled Rose
Jesus Gonna Be Here
Lucky Day
Tom Traubert's Blues
House Where Nobody Lives
Innocent when you dream
Make it Rain
Murder in the Red Barn
Come on up to the House
Dirt in the Ground
Eyeball Kid

Goin' Out West
All the World is Green

Palladium, Dallas, Tx.
June 23

Way down in the hole
Anywhere I lay my head
Chocolate Jesus
Frank's wild years
Hoist that rag
Get behind the mule
Such a scream
Eyeball kid
Lucky day
Invitation to the blues
Lost in the harbor
Innocent when you dream
16 shells from a 30 ought 6
Lie to me
Fannin St
Black market baby
Misery is the river of the world

Make it rain
Jesus gonna be here
9th and Hennepin

1 comment:

Armina said...

Good for people to know.