When Tom Waits announced his very limited Real Gone tour in Europe, we bought tickets to see him in Berlin. Everyone says we need to see more of Europe and as usual, music is always a great excuse. After we had already purchased tickets and made our plans, Vancouver was announced as one of two North American stops on the tour. These shows were really a sort of warm-up for the European shows. We were able to get tickets to Friday night's show at the Orpheum Theatre, and we decided to make a long weekend of it. Once our plans were already in place, a second show was announced. It was to take place on Saturday night at a club called the Commodore. We would still be in town, and the opportunity to see him in such an intimate club setting was irresistable. The only problem was that tickets weren't available over the internet or the phone. They were only available for people who stood in line at the venue. Tickets were limited to two per person, and they needed to fill out a voucher with their name and their guest's name. Both people would need to show ID's on the night of the show to be able to get in. The Tom Waits e-mail listserv, Raindogs, was abuzz with the news, and with people trying to secure tickets. We started corresponding with Nate in Vancouver. He and his roommate Brandon kindly agreed to stand in line and put Craig and my names down as their guests. After six hours in line (thanks so much, guys!!) they were successful. We couldn't believe it. So now we would be seeing two Tom Waits shows in one weekend, one of which would be his first club performance in about 20 years, to celebrate the 75th anniversary of the Commodore Ballroom. We knew this would be a special weekend and a great opportunity to see Tom Waits.
Craig worked from home today and I left work at 2:00. We were on the road to the airport by 3:00. There was quite a bit of traffic on the highway so we arrived later than planned. After getting checked in we ate at the little Burger King in the terminal, and then waited for our plane to Toronto to leave at 5:00. The flight was packed and we couldn't even sit together. Craig was in a middle seat on the right side of the plane. I was in a middle seat on the left, one row back. He spent the flght in pleasant conversation with Lany, a Blackberry saleswoman based in Boston but living in Toronto. She was on her way home for the weekend to see friends and family. The folks near me weren't chatty, so I read. The Air Canada flight had good snacks, which was a nice change from the recent domestic United and American flights we had taken which just give you pretzels. Here we got our choice of snacks. Craig chose a Dad's oatmeal cookie, and I chose Clodhoppers, little nuggets of graham cracker covered in white chocolate. The flight took about an hour and a half. When we went through customs in Toronto, the officer asked as to the purpose of our visit. We said that we were attending a concert in Vancouver. "What concert?" she inquired. "Tom Waits." "You're not alone. Another couple came through about 5 minutes ago who are going to the same concert. I guess you'll share the plane" Cool! We knew of people from all over the U.S. and Canada who would be attending this show but never did meet up with these other fans on our flight.
Our flight to Vancouver left at 8:00. We got to sit together on this flight, and decided we would probably watch the movie since they gave out free headsets and we had lots of time to kill. Then they announced that the movie was going to be "The Notebook." Yuck. Nevermind. They served us a meal: a "cold plate" which consisted of chicken, potato salad, tortellini salad, bread, grapes, cheese, a brownie, and an Andes chocolate. We spent the flight talking excitedly about the concert. As these would be the first two shows on the tour, we had no idea what to expect. Would the two shows be radically different? What songs might they play? etc. He had released three albums since the last time we saw him only 5 years ago, so there was a lot of new material to draw from. We hoped the show would focus on those new albums as the material would be great in a live setting. The flight went by very quickly, and we arrived in Vancouver at 10 pm.
We took a cab downtown to the Listel Vancouver on Robson Street. With a good tip it cost $30 CAN and took about 25 minutes. We checked into the hotel, which was very artsy. It had various sculptures in the lobby and in the hallways, as well as various paintings. There was a nice fireplace in the lobby. We also noticed the luggage carts were made out of aluminum and were apparently commissionied by an artist. Everything seemed like it was a piece of art. We headed up to the room to drop off our things, and then we headed out to get a feel for the town. Although cloudy, the weather was nice so we decided we should take advantage of the nice walking weather. It was much warmer than we expected so it was quite comfortable even wearing just a light jacket.
Robson is a very touristy street, and even though it was close to 11 pm on a Thursday night, there was a lot going on. We took a left out of the hotel and walked down a few blocks. We passed various Asian restaurants and some hotels, including the Tropicana, which, not just in name, seemed like a very Waitsian place. After about 10 minutes we realized we were heading toward the more residential part of the city and thought we should get a feel for the venue locations instead. So, we turned around and headed back up the street. We passed many restaurants, coffee shops, and high end stores. Within only 15 or 20 minutes, we found ourselves on Granville Street. We saw the Orpheum Theatre and the Commodore Ballroom, which were only a few doors away from one another. While looking at the venues we passed by two people just sitting on a park bench casually smoking a joint. It was interesting to see since, to the locals, it was no different than two people having a cigarette on the street corner. Vancouver was already very different than home where these two would be viewed as committing a serious crime. We felt instantly more comfortable knowing where our destinations for the next two nights would be and we were pleasantly surprised that the city felt much smaller when walking around. Maps can never give you the true feeling until you actually make your way around. Feeling very comfortable with the location of everything we went into the Caprice Lounge and Grill on Granville for a drink. Craig got a Rickard's Pale Ale and I got a vodka and cranberry juice. We sat outside for a few minutes, but were then told that due to their licensing, the patio closed at 11. So we went inside and sat at a table. The ambiance was nice, very dark with a fireplace and some couches. The bar closed at 12:15, and we walked back to Robson. Although a lot of places seemed to be closing, the ones that stayed open seemed to be full of very well-dressed trendy folks and blaring loud dance music. This was not our scene at all but we managed to find a convenient bar called Shenanigans which was open until 2. Craig had two English Bay Pale Ales and I had two Smirnoff Ices. The bar had pool tables and a dj and dance floor but at this time of night was pretty low-key. We just chilled out watching the people, and discussing the plans for our brief visit. We left shortly before 2, and walked back to the hotel, taking a few photos along the way.
We woke up at around 8:30 and had a nice liesurely morning. We made coffee in the room and took our showers. At around 10:30 we headed to O'Doul's, a restaurant which is attached to the hotel. Craig and I loved the decor - the ceiling was adorned with an antique map and there were compasses all around. Connie was our waitress, and she was very friendly. She recommended the eggs Benedict (the house specialty). However, other items on the menu had already caught our eyes. I got blueberry banana pancakes with scrambled eggs, bacon, and sausage, Craig got the bacon, cheese, and scallion omelette which was served with sausage, toast, and breakfast potatoes. Connie brought over a sample of Hollandaise sauce for Craig to try with his potatoes. He was hooked, and promised her that he would get the Benedict tomorrow. Everything was delicious. We had fresh orange juice and coffee as well. Connie was very friendly and we told her about the Tom Waits concerts. She said that she had seen people lined up at 5 in the morning when the Commodore tickets went on sale. She had been wondering what all the excitement was about and was impressed that it brought us all the way from Boston.
After breakfast, we stopped back at the room and got ready for the day. We had been in touch with Nate via e-mail, and he invited us to visit him at work at Mondo Gelato. So we headed down there and met him face-to-face. As we entered the gelato shop, we were greeted with Tom Waits music, which Nate was playing all day in honor of the concert. We introduced oursleves and chatted. We had some gelato (I had white chocolate and coffee in a waffle cone, and Craig got white chocolate and Ferro Rocher also in a waffle cone). It was delicious! We could never work in a place like this. How could anyone resist this stuff? When Nate discovered we really didn't have any concrete plans for the day he recommended that we take a walk around Stanley Park, and he showed us the route on a map. At around 1:05, we walked down the street to the beach at English Bay. It was sprinkling at first, but it soon stopped. The seawall walking path was really nice. There was a one-way bike/rollerblade path, and a separate walking path which paralleled it in many places. We stuck to the walking path. We seemed to be going against the grain, walking in a clockwise direction around the park which was fine with us. We saw various cormorants and seagulls off shore and in the bay there were numerous container ships and barges waiting to offload their cargo. The path was very flat and paved making it easy to walk around. Although there were many dark clouds and it looked like it could rain at any moment, it never did. All in all it was a beautiful day for a walk and the cool air felt nice while we walked. After a while we came across the Siwash Rock. It was a 15 meter tall pillar of rock just off the coast. According to Native American legend a man named Skalsh, while swimming in English bay, encountered Q'uas the Transformer and asked him to help his Squamish village. Q'uas was so impressed that he did not have selfish request that he rewarded Skalsh by turning him into stone as a memorial to how all people should be. Soon afterwards we came upon the Lions Gate Bridge. A very tall suspension bridge that connects Vancouver Island with North and West Vancouver. Eventually we started getting a bit hungry and decided to cut across the last remaining point on the seawall walk. This brought us by the Aquarium and through some very nicely wooded paths. Eventually we walked past the Yacht Club, rowing club and the Lost Lagoon. As we wandered by we saw some beautiful swans along the lagoon.
We stopped in to say hi to Nate on our way back through the city and thanked him for the suggestion. Looking for a small bite to eat we ran across a small place called Bojangles Cafe. It was a little coffee shop/bakery/light meal restaurant which had blues on the CD player. I got a shepherd's pie and a Jones vanilla cola. Craig got the Royal St smoked salmon sandwich and a Granville Island Lager. For dessert, Craig got a marble brownie, and I got a "chocolate crunchy" brownie. We found both desserts to be pretty dry. They were good, but overall they were much drier than either of us expected them to be. The meal was very nice but the desserts were a bit of a disappointment.
We walked back to the hotel to get ready for the evening. The Raindogs were planning to meet at Doolin's, an Irish bar about a block from the Orpheum, starting at around 5 pm. We arrived there right around 5. We met Phil and Cathie, a local couple who were pretty much the first ones to arrive at the gathering. They were sitting at the bar, and we chatted with them for a while. We had ended up with two extra tickets, which we wanted to sell at face value before the show. Phil said that some people had been hanging out at the Orpheum box office looking for tickets. So on Phil's advice, we headed over to the box office (which was at the back of the building). There were several folks there who already had tickets. We found one guy who needed a ticket, but we told him we were hoping to sell the pair. We had spoken to everyone there except for one guy, who was talking to someone else. Before we could talk to him, two scalpers with big umbrellas (it was misty) swooped in and sold him a pair of tickets for $500! We felt bad that the guy got ripped off and we wished that we had been able to talk to him. Another guy came along and a scalper offered him a ticket. He said no, but it turns out that he did need a ticket, he just didn't want to pay scalper prices. Another guy told him that we had tickets for face value. He only wanted one, so we sold one to him and one to the other guy who had wanted a single. They were very happy to get them at face value, and asked if we were sure we didn't want to sell them for more, that we could really make some money. We said that we were sure, that we just wanted our money back (in fact, we sold them for a few dollars under our original cost) and wanted to hook up some fans who wanted to see the show. Happy with our sale, we headed back to Doolin's to relax and have a drink. As we went inside, we met up with Sarah (from Boston, whom we had met several weeks before at a screening of the Tom Waits movie "Big Time" at the Brattle Theater). We met her friends Justin from Arizona and Victoria from New York. We went into the back area, where the rest of the Raindogs had gathered. There were two booths, some tables, and a bar back there. I was wearing my Raindogs T-shirt, as were many other people, which made the list-members easy to recognize. Craig ordered a Guiness and I ordered a Smirnoff Ice. We met lots of other cool Raindogs, including Shane, Leslie from Springfield, MA, Vicky from Vancouver, Dave and Leona from Edmonton, Mitch from Virginia, Stephanie from Texas, Seth from Texas, Dorene, Ann, Grant, El Rayo X, Cindy, and more. A while later Nate and his friend Glenn arrived. It was really hot and crowded in there, but we had a very good time. There must have been 50 Raindogs crowded into the room trading stories and music. At this point, the Red Sox were in the midst of the pennant race with the Yankees. A game had been scheduled for 8 pm EST, which would have been 5 pm Vancouver time. While we were at Doolin's the game was apparently on, and much to our surprise and delight, the Red Sox were winning up until we left.
We headed over to the venue a little after 7:00. We were in the 17th row of the orchestra, on the left hand side. It was a beautiful old theater with a high arched ceiling. It looked like there was a beautiful stage area but it was blocked off with large screening. A guy from Winnipeg was sitting in front of us, and we talked to him for a while. He got a real kick out of how far people had travelled for the show originally thinking his commute to the show was rather long. Bill from Baltimore was next to me, and Stephanie and her crew from Texas were two rows in front of us. At one point we turned around and there was Nate, a few rows behind us.
The show started at 8:35. The band consisted of Larry Taylor (bass), Brain Mantia (drums and percussion), Marc Ribot (guitar), and Tom's son Casey Waits on percussion and turntable. The new album does not feature Tom's usual staple instrument, the piano, at all. At the concert, Tom played guitar much more than he had on his previous tour. The piano was only brought out for two of the encore songs. The stage set was all stripped down. The screening behind them was lit up with various colored lights. Tom did not throw confetti this time around, nor was there dust for him to kick up during the more boisterous numbers, but he did have a bullhorn which he used on various songs. His microphone stand held two mics, one which he used for singing, and the other which he used for creating tape loops. The new album contains a lot of vocal percussion, which Tom recorded in his bathroom at home. He tried to recreate this onstage by singing a percussion line into the sampling mic and then playing it back. It didn't seem to be working quite right, but with Tom you never know. It could, like he said, have been "all part of the act." On songs such as "Metropolitan Glide" he ended up alternating between singing the lyrics and singing the vocal percussion. There wasn't a whole lot of banter with the audience, but the jokes that he did crack were pretty funny. He recounted going to the Elbow Room on Davie St. for breakfast. It's one of those places where the waitstaff abuses you. He said that he must have gotten a gal on her first day because she was too sweet to him. "I didn't tip her," he deadpanned. He also talked about the currently fashionable faded jeans, which he likes to call "Whoops, I rolled in bleach" or "Whoops, I sat in bleach." When someone requested "Ninth and Hennepin", he said that particular neighborhood in Minneapolis has changed. Now you can get a haircut or a yogurt there. When he goes to Minneapolis and mentions "Ninth and Hennepin" people laugh. He says "You're too young. I remember when it was sh*tty!" He also expressed his distaste for cell phones that double as cameras. "My cell phone is also a camera. My blender is also a vibrator. My watch is also a rifle." He also told us that the male spider, when he finishes making his web, goes to a far corner and strums it with his leg. He says that the sound it makes attracts the female spider. "We're no different" he says.
Jockey Full of Bourbon
Make In Rain
Heartattack and Vine *
All Stripped Down
Top of the Hill
Sins of my Father *
Hoist That Rag
Dead and Lovely *
The Part You Throw Away *
How's it Gonna End *
Hang Down Your Head *
Day After Tomorrow *
Murder in the Red Barn *
House Where Nobody Lives **
Lucky Day **
16 Shells from a Thirty-Ought Six
* Tom played guitar
** Tom played piano
After the show, a bunch of Raindogs headed back to Doolin's. But it was late on a Friday night and there was quite a line to get in. It was very lightly raining and we remembered how crowded it had been prior to the show, and nobody really wanted to wait around to get inside. We realized afterwards that we could have had our hand stamped when we were there earlier but that didn't matter now. So we headed across the street to a coffee shop called Blenz. Craig got a coffee and I got a dark hot chocolate with whipped cream. We sat and had a lot of laughs and talked all about our experience at the show with Leona, Dave, Terry, Cindy, Vicki, Mitch, Sarah, Justin, Victoria, and Tim. We left at around 12:35 and walked back to the hotel. We were so excited we needed a while to wind down so we just relaxed for a while and I wrote in the journal. We finally went to bed at around 2:30.
We woke up at around 8am and spent a while discussing the show. We were just blown away, and couldn't stop talking about it. We headed down to O'Doul's for brunch at around 11 o'clock. We weren't seated in Connie's section. Our waitress was Gwen today. She brought us orange juice, coffee, and fresh cheddar scones. I ordered pan fried crab and prawn cakes with smoked chipotle and aioli. It was served with a side of market greens and creamy herb dressing. Craig ordered the West Coast Benedict, which was basically eggs Benedict served with two pan fried crab and prawn cakes. It was served with potatoes and we split a side of sausage. The meal was huge and it was delicious. We saw Connie and she quickly came across the room to ask us about the concert. She told us that one of their coworkers, Jason, would be going to the Commodore show tonight. She was happy to see that Craig kept to my word and ordered the eggs Benedict today. We asked her if she knew anything about the Red Sox game. She looked it up in the paper and said that it had been rained out. Well, what were they showing on the TV in the bar last night? Some old Yankees Red Sox game? We were perplexed. On the way out of the restaurant we talked to Jason and he told us a little bit about the venue. He was very excited about going tonight and was very glad to see how much we had enjoyed the show the night before.
We went back to the room and called Nate. We left a message and he called us back soon. We made plans to go with him and his friend Tom to the Misanthropy Gallery to see graffiti art by an artist called "the dark". Nate met us in our hotel lobby (which was very cozy with a fire going in the fireplace), and we walked to the gallery where we met Tom. But when we got there they were changing the installation to a one-night Johnny Cash exhibit, and were not open. So instead we walked to Gastown so that Tom could show us one of the dark's paintings on a walkway underpass. It was painted on plywood with multipe layers in stencils, in black, gray, and white. It was amazing how much depth was achieved with just stencils and three colors. As we wandered around the streets of Gastown, Nate pulled out his harmonica and quietly played some great blues while we walked. This was classic. He was very good and suddenly we felt very much at home walking around the town. Shortly afterwards, we walked by the steam clock, which rumor has it hasn't actually run on steam for 30 years. But the tourists were crazy about it, and were taking photos and buying trinkets at the "Steam Clock Souvenir Shop". Although this was an old part of town and really interesting it had a feeling of being overrun with cruise ship tourists just looking for the next trinket. People thinking this little section was all there was to Vancouver. We had to join in on all the fun and also took a photo of the clock. It was a beautiful sunny day and we walked to Canada place (the nearby cruise ship dock). Tom had to go, but Nate, Craig, and I continued walking along the coast overlooking Stanley Park. We reached Davie Street, which is affectionately known as "Gayvie Street." It was adorned with rainbow flags on the light posts, and the bus stops were painted hot pink. We went into a bar called Sugar Daddy's. Craig had a Big Rock Traditional Ale. The bartender was a sweetheart and I took his recommendation and got the Smirnoff Twisted Green Apple. We chatted with Nate for a while about all sorts of things while we killed time waiting to head back to his apartment.
At around 5, we started walking over to his apartment. On the way Nate pulled out his harmonica again and as we walked through the residential neighborhoods listening to him play the blues we were getting really excited about the show later tonight. We met his roommate Brandon, a nursing student. We hung out for about an hour listening to Tom Waits. They offered to make us dinner but instead we offered to take them out to dinner as a thank you for getting us the tickets for the show at the Commodore. They accepted our offer and so at 6:00 we headed over to Robson Street to go to Robson Sushi. This was actually our first time eating sushi. Vancouver is well known for its quality sushi, and we were happy to be going with folks who knew what they were doing. We ordered 4 all-you-can-eat sushi meals. Nate and Brandon ordered a bunch of different things: California rolls (with crab meat), B.C. rolls (with salmon), noodles, teriyaki chicken, spinach greens with peanut sauce, salmon and tuna sushi, veggie tempura and many other items we can't even recall. It was a nice way of doing it because as we tried things we could order more of the things we liked most, although Craig and I ended up liking everything we tried. Eventually we ran out of time so we left the restaurant and stopped to ditch the camera at the hotel. We walked to the theater and got there around 7:30.
We went inside and saw people with various lists. Nate and Brandon showed their vouchers and we all showed our ID's. They crossed our names off the list. We were handed tickets and let upstairs into the main room. The room was great. There were tables raised up along the perimeter and on the balcony. The dance floor was in the center and on springy tires. Craig had a Trad Ale and I had a Smirnoff Ice. We met Phil while in line at the bar. We headed to the dancefloor and ended up standing only about 8 people back from the stage. The excitement was palpable. We talked to Mitch and Leslie. The show was scheduled to start at 8:00. 8:00 came and went, 8:15, 8:30, 8:45, 9:00, 9:15...people got to the point where they couldn't stand the anticipation any more. People would be clapping and stomping getting the whole floor to bounce. It was fantastic! When Tom hit the stage people went nuts. It was like a religious revival - people were screaming "Oh my God!!" We could see Tom really well. He was really into his performance. During "Don't Go Into That Barn", he used his second mic to record some vocal percussion and then played it back during the song. When he got to the question/answer part of the song the audience immediately kicked into call and response mode without any prompting from Tom. The audience yelled "Yes sir!" or "No sir!" as appropriate (although it seemed a few too many folks just yelled "Yes sir" every time). At one point they did a more acoustic set of songs where Tom moved to the left hand side of the stage. This afforded us an even better view. Although this show had much more energy, being in a club did have a few drawbacks as well. When Tom started playing "The Day After Tomorrow" the crowd seemed a bit too chatty and Tom stopped the show saying "C'mon guys, this is a quiet song" and when they were quiet again Tom heckled them by saying "Thank you children". The only thing that took away from the overall experience was the drunk next to me continually shouting "Shut the f*%# up!!!" any time anybody said anything in the room. All too often the folks commenting on the show didn't bother us at all but his drunken response was always unavoidable. This occured many times during the quiet piano songs of the encore before he finally passed out and laid on my foot. Too bad he didn't pass out about an hour earlier.
Make It Rain
Don't Go Into That Barn *
All Stripped Down
Heartattack and Vine *
Hoist That Rag
Sins of the Father *
Dead and Lovely *
Jockey Full of Bourbon
Get Behind the Mule *
Metropolitan Glide *
Day After Tomorrow *
Invitation to the Blues **
Misery Is the River of the World **
House Where Nobody Lives **
Lucky Day **
* Tom played guitar
** Tom played piano
After the show, we hung around at the club for a little while chatting with Mitch, Dorene, Sarah, Justin, Victoria, Shane, and Annette. We got to say a quick hello to Stuart, Tom's tour manager, who had helped to get tickets for several out-of-town Raindogs. We left at around midnight. As we were leaving the club they gave us a poster for the show, as part of the Commodore's 75th anniversary celebration. A few drunk people outside were hitting each other with them and ruining them. We, of course, cherished ours. Soon we walked back to Nate and Brandon's apartment. Once there we had drinks and chatted for a little while but Brandon needed to crash and said his goodbyes. Nate made us nachos with cheese which he served with Brandon's homemade salsa. Yum! We really had a good time, and we were so glad that we had been able to spend time with Nate and Brandon. What a fantastic way to end such a great trip. We left at around 2:00 and walked onto Davie St. Since it was a pretty long walk and we had to wake up early for the flight home, we caught a cab back to the hotel and finally went to bed at 2:30.
|We woke up at 4:30am. Although we were quite groggy after such a short sleep it was all worthwhile. We went down to the lobby and caught a cab to the airport at 5, arriving there just before 5:30. The airport was extremely quiet, and we were through security and at the gate by 5:40 for our 7:00 flight home. On the plane we were going to watch "The Manchurian Candidate," but our seats were such that we couldn't see the the TV screen very well. It had that LCD dark image blur that occurs when not looking directly at it. This was the perfect excuse for us to just relax on the flight, have some breakfast, and just zone out. Arriving into Toronto was uneventful and we easily made our transition to the other terminal for our flight back to Boston. By the time we arrived home it was early in the day, according to our clocks, but we were plenty tired and soon went to bed to be ready for another day at work.