Tom Waits lumbers out of his California home so rarely that his concerts have started to feel as much like legends as musical events. Good thing, then, that his shows tend to exceed high expectations. Waits played a seemingly random selection of cities in 2008 as part of the “Glitter And Doom” tour, an excursion through the American South and bits of Europe documented on an almost equally rare live album.
Drawing mostly from albums later in his career, Glitter And Doom Live finds Waits and his band recreating the controlled cacophony of his ’90s and ’00s work while bringing a different sort of animated spirit to the songs. Tracks like “Such A Scream” and “Make It Rain” find new edges in a live setting, partly thanks to Waits’ game backing band, partly to the urgency that live performance lends to the singer’s inimitable growl. He’s equally affecting when rasping the ballads—the tracks wife and collaborator Kathleen Brennan has dubbed “grand weepers” to complement his “grim reapers”—particularly Orphans’ “Fannin St.” and “The Part You Throw Away,” the latter highlighted by Omar Torrez’s sensitive guitar.
No Waits show would be complete without a few digressions, and Glitter generously, maybe too generously, includes a second disc with 30 minutes of jokes, stories, banter, and lies. As a stand-up act, it gets a bit exhausting with no songs to break it up, but those who make it through get a nice version of “Picture In A Frame” as a reward. And, as usual, it’s worth any amount of trouble to hear Waits live.