Amsterdamned (The Swingin’ Pig TSP-CD-5552/5553)
Koninklijk Theater Carre, Amsterdam, Netherlands – November 21, 2004
Disc 1: Hoist That Rag, Make It Rain, Jockey Full Of Bourbon, Don’t Go Into That Barn, Sins Of My Father, Ping Pong Ball Story, Straight To The Top, God’s Away On Business, Misery’s The River Of The World, Alice, November
Disc 2: Eyeball Kid, Walk Away, Metropolitan Glide, What’s He Building (In There)?, Shake It, audience, 16 Shells From A Thirty-ought Six, Trampled Rose, House Where Nobody Lives, Dead Ringer Story, Lucky Day
The Swingin’ Pig is a classic label that all of us old time collectors can appreciate. That label has been around in one form or another for years. They have produced some legendary titles and this release is another excellent one. The sound quality is excellent. The insert claims this was a Radio 1 FM Broadcast so it has been professionally recorded. This is clear in the instrument separation. This music is complicated and can be muddy if not recorded and mixed well. The sound here superb, the only thing is when Tom Waits screams into a bullhorn it is a little distorted, but I think that is the idea. The packaging is standard slimline double jewel case with nice glossy inserts.
This concert is one of the last shows from the very short tour in support of the album Real Gone. I consider this one of his best records, so I am pleased to say that the majority of the songs performed are from that record. Most all of the songs are from his later works with a few exceptions. The classic “16 Shells From a Thirty-Ought Six” is the oldest tune taken from Swordfishtrombones(1983). There is also one selection from RainDogs(1985) and one from Frank’s Wild Years(1987). The later material taken from Mule Variations, Blood Money and of course Real Gone makes up the bulk of the show.
The strongest performances are at the beginning of the concert. “Hoist that Rag” just blows the roof off right out of the gate, followed by “Make It Rain”, “Jockey Full of Bourbon” and “Don’t Go Into That Barn”. This opening is so powerful and the vocals are so passionate it has to level off somewhere. Not yet though, next we have a 12 minute epic “Sins of My Father” that ends with the traditional “Wade in the Water”. These first five tracks are worth price of admission alone! Tom then takes a moment to tell a nice little story about ping pong balls before calming things down a bit. The last half of the show also features some excellent performances, “November”, “Trampled Rose”, and “House Where Nobody Lives” are beautiful ballads performed with appropriate calm. While “Eyeball Kid” and “What’s He Building In There” are appropriately creepy.
The talent here is undeniable; Marc Ribot on guitar, Brain Mantia on drums/percussion and Larry Taylor on bass; perform this material flawlessly. This was the band that recorded the Real Gone album so that material is especially familiar for them. Tom Waits, as usual, seems to pour everything into every performance. Telling stories and jokes in between songs, screaming into the microphone, playing piano, and singing beautifully weathered blues/jazz. I do not see how he maintains this intensity every night. I suppose that is why his tours are short but sweet. I was fortunate enough to see the Real Gone/Orphans tour (which was a similar set list to this show) and I was totally blown away. This title is definitely highly recommended.