Not really a documentary or a concert film, Tom Waits: Big Time (1988) is in a league of its own, a gonzo, circus-like theatrical experience in which the gravelly-voiced musician/force of nature performs several of his songs (many of them adjusted/improvised beyond recognition) via a series of ever-changing, stream-of-conscious personas and scenarios. Waits’ distinct mix of blues, jazz, vaudeville and industrial serves the experimental presentation here rather well, even though the overall experience is rather exhausting; like many of Waits’ albums, it’s best to take this a little bit at a time rather than all in one sitting. As challenging as Big Time may be, it’s ultimately a joy and a privilege to watch this one-of-a-kind showman at work, a man completely dedicated to his various creations to the point where it’s almost impossible to tell the artist from his art; for the record, music journalist Daniel Durchholz put it best when he described Waits’ voice as being “like it was soaked in a vat of bourbon, left hanging in the smokehouse for a few months, and then taken outside and run over with a car.” Songs include “9th & Hennepin,” “Shore Leave,” “Frank’s Wild Years,” “Hang On St. Christopher” and “More Than Rain,” among many others (as you can see, the set list here doesn’t necessarily match up with the track listing on the soundtrack CD).
New On Netflix: Tom Waits: Big Time
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