Live In Concert – Tom Waits, The Ratcellar, 2008


August 1st, 2008 was the day I went to a gig I thought I never would. The elusive Tom Waits was out on tour, and he was spending 3 nights in Dublin. With a marquee erected in Phoenix Park, the fabled Ratcellar, he would bring his unique carnival madness to Dublin’s fair city for one weekend only.

Firstly I do have to get a negative out of the way. €135,and that being one of the cheaper price points, is extortionate for a gig. Much like Leonard Cohen and Ennio Morricone more recently, I decided after this gig I simply won’t pay that much for a live show. I don’t feel like any money was wasted on this one, but capitalising on an artist’s sporadic live appearances in this way is just beyond the pale.

Anyway, the gig. I had one apprehension before this one, that being that I lean far more heavily towards the soppy troubadour Waits material rather than the hectic musical circus he tends to prefer live. Never before in my life had I less of a clue what to expect from a gig. Kicking off with “Lucinda” into “Rain Dogs” and “Way Down In The Hole” it was a case of so far so weird, if not still incredible. I was happy out, but next up we were treated to “I’ll Shoot The Moon”, one of the many Waits tracks that sounds like it’s a straight from the mouth of a 50s Irish-American crooner in a smokey New York bar and it all came together. It felt like home in that cavernous tent.

Two sentimental treats of the evening I just never expected to hear were “Tom Traubert’s Blues” and “(Lookin’ For) The Heart Of Saturday Night” and I swear I nearly died at the former. It just is an incredible epic of massive proportions and damn him anyway to have written it so competently when he was so young. Other highlights of the night were “Hoist That Rag”, “Goin’ Out West” and “Cemetery Polka” which was worth it for Waits stage presence alone, singing like a loon gigging on his way out of the asylum.

A 29 song set came to a close with staples like “16 Shells” (always so very much better live than recorded) and “Lucky Day” closing out proceedings. It certainly had been a lucky day, you can’t feel anything else but lucky after seeing such a rare figure of the music world live in concert. As I’ve said in earlier posts, he is polarising. Some get the madness – as you’re reading here I didn’t initially but now most certainly do. Others think it’s all a little Emperor’s New Clothes. That’s the great thing about music though isn’t it? I’ve seen my heroes live, well all that I have so far, and the handful of memories that has created are worth their weight in gold to me. Rumours abound that this particular lunatic may be going on tour again, and though the random and sporadic nature of his musical leanings on any given day mean I can’t even guess what you are likely to be in for on the night, I have to urge that you experience this incredible spectacle.

Next Week’s Live In Concert : Neil Young, The Point, 2001

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Bachelors Degree in Arts from NUI Maynooth. Double Honours English & Philosophy.

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