Boy howdy, it’s a little live album! By all counts this is a better live album than the last live album, but it’s not really worth caring about.
Here’s the concept: VH1, a radio station for the planet Forever on Mars, hired a bunch of singer-songwriters to play a show where they explain the story behind each song while playing it. Nice enough, but Tom Waits evidently didn’t much care for explaining himself, so the stories that come with the songs are either perfunctory (this is a song about a car) or blatant lies. They’re amusing and Tom’s fun to listen to at all times, but there’s little oomph. The performances themselves are mostly acoustic, quiet ones. Usually just piano and bass and maybe a delicate electric guitar in the background.
In a way it’s a companion to Nighthawks, except that that featured entirely new songs and this one features none, and to my ears nothing here is much better for being slowed down and played the same but quieter and without drums. “Chocolate Jesus” gets a spirited version through a jiggered mic that makes Tom sound like a carnival barker, but I never liked that song or that Tom. The crowd goes crazy for “I Can’t Wait to Get Off Work and See My Baby” for some reason. “Jersey Girl” seems nicer for being blatantly about his wife and all, but that song was never my favourite either.
I haven’t tired of hearing any of these songs yet, so it’s worth a lark to hear some Tom personality, but the songs remain the same. The whole show is long, too, long as a 1.9-hour-long show. Good, but not valuable.