Live albums are all too often ham-fisted affairs hashed together as the result of an over-inflated ego or an under-inflated bank balance. Such albums tend to contain little of value and nothing original. This live album however, is more than just an after thought, and can be considered essential listening for all Waits aficionados.
The first disc is an eclectic medley of Waits’ highlights from the past twenty-five years, but there’s nothing stale here. The sum total of Lucinda/Ain’t Goin’ Down is considerably greater than its high quality parts. The swinging rhythms of Get Behind The Mule are complemented beautifully by the extra vigour Waits injects into his live vocalizing, while on Goin’ Out West, turbulent aggression is mixed seamlessly with sardonic self-parody, creating a frightening yet humourous concoction far superior to the original.
Much credit for this record’s success must be given to Waits’ ever-professional band, the perfect foil to his wild stage persona. The second disc is a voyage into the surreal, disturbing, but always amusing world of Waits, as he relates a series of tall tales spanning a variety of unlikely topics.
There are perhaps a few faults with this release. The Real Gone-heavy song selection towards the album’s end could be criticised, and falling just shy of two hours, one could make the accusation that too much has been crammed in. However, these are only minor criticisms, Waits croons and howls like never before. If you are interested in what a night with Tom Waits entails, this will more than satisfy your curiosity.