Tom Waits’ Glitter and Doom Live doesn't fall into the various traps that many other concert recordings do, though it does have its problems. This double-disc set marks his third live effort in his nearly 40-year career, each one summing up his career to the point of its release. The first, Nighthawks at the Diner, issued in 1975 on Asylum, is regarded by many as one of the greatest live albums of all time. Big Time, released during his tenure at Island in 1986, is hotly debated in fan circles. It is likely that Glitter and Doom Live will be too, but for different reasons. The musical performances here were culled from Waits’ historic sold-out tour of the U.S. and Europe. He compiled and sequenced the tracks himself, intending to make them sound like a single show. The material leans, understandably, on his recordings with the Anti label. There are stellar performances here, of “Get Behind the Mule” from The Mule Variations, “Trampled Rose” from Real Gone, and a haunting version of Leadbelly’s “Fannin Street” from Orphans: Brawlers, Bawlers & Bastards, to mention just three of the 17 cuts included on disc one. But he also goes back to his Island albums with a new approach to the material. For instance, there are completely re-visioned readings of “Lucky Day” and “I’ll Shoot the Moon” from 1993’s Black Rider, and a killer -- though equally revamped -- version of “Singapore” from 1985’s Rain Dogs.
Musically, the performances are flawless, as is the sound on this set. The killer stage band includes Vincent Henry on woodwinds and harmonica, guitarist Omar Torres, Patrick Warren on piano and keyboards, Casey Waits on drums/percussion, and Seth Ford Young on bass. There is also a guest appearance by Sullivan Waits on sax and clarinet; Tom plays piano and guitar. Waits decided to ax most of the stage banter from disc one. This is problematic because it is as much part and parcel of his show as the music is. Without it, the music as a whole feels more like just a random but solid collection of live tracks, rather than Waits' intended purpose of a single-show experience. The other problem is disc two, a bonus in this deluxe package comprised of a single 35-plus-minute track called "Tom's Tales," which splices stories and dialogue, reminiscences and spontaneous comedy. These routines work brilliantly and seamlessly in the context of his show. If one goes back to Nighthawks at the Diner or Big Time, evidence is ample. Without a song coming after these wildly various ruminations, they feel strangely disembodied and one can only hear it once or twice before the material itself feels old. Conversely, then, the musical disc feels incomplete, too. This one gets its grade strictly on the quality of the music. While the wide-spine digipack is beautiful, the project as a whole falls short, though some hardcore Waits fans will, as is customary, ardently disagree.