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Album Review

A vital chronicle captured live

November 23, 2009

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Rock
Tom Waits Glitter and Doom Live
Anti-
ESSENTIAL “I’ll Shoot the Moon’’

My first impression of Tom Waits’s concert in Atlanta last year was that it could never be captured on disc. Visceral and driving, it was such a feast for the ears and eyes, starting with Waits singing “Lucinda’’ as he stomped on a box covered in white powder that swirled around him as if he were an apparition straight out of the junkyard.

It’s nice to be proven wrong by “Glitter and Doom Live,’’ a double-disc album that documents the crackling energy and force of various performances from Waits’s 2008 tour. The album feels particularly vital given how infrequently Waits tours, and when he does, it’s often a limited range of cities. (For the Glitter and Doom trek, Waits reasoned in the press release that he was visiting towns where people owed him money.)

Considering the sweep of Waits’s sound over the years, it’s astonishing how well his band keeps pace with him. They do it all here, from clanging blues-rock (“Get Behind the Mule’’) to downcast piano laments (“Lucky Day’’) to grim spook jazz (“Green Grass’’). The album’s second disc, called “Tom Tales,’’ features 36 minutes of Waits’s wry social observations (including how many omelets you can get out of an ostrich egg).

Of course, there are visual cues you miss if you didn’t experience the show. When the audience roars its approval during “Make It Rain,’’ you don’t see the stream of golden glitter that pours down on Waits. Still, if this is as close as you get to hearing Waits live, it’s an illuminating snapshot of an artist whose concerts are increasingly rare and compelling. (Out tomorrow)

JAMES REED