The great Tom Waits has just published a fine new LP (“Bad As Me”) and coincidently Rain Dogs Revisited were playing at around the same time in Paris. A bit like The Velvet Revisited, the idea was to play a tribute to one of Tom Waits’ best LP’s with artists giving their interpretations of these great and moving songs. “Rain Dogs” has always been one key LP for your host as I remember buying jointly the Jesus and Mary Chain’s “Psychocandy” nad Tom Waits’ “Rain Dogs” the same day after NME elected both of them LP’s of the year 1985.
So, how these artists measured themselves against such beautiful songs? Well, there were highs and lows…. :
– very poor : The Tiger Lillies. I had never heard about this band but avoid them at all costs. Completely out of scope while singing and playing Tom Waits’ songs as if there were circus and vaudeville’s ones whereas these are on the opposite songs that come from the heart and soul. The singer was particularly annoying, pulling faces and singing in a high-pitched voice.
– neutral : Jane Birkin. Nothing to say about her. She sang a couple of songs in a professional way but with no feelings whatsoever. And why singing “Alice” which has nothing to do with “Rain Dogs” or the rain theme?
– quite good : Camille O’Sullivan and Stef Kamil Carlens (singer of Zita Swoon). Both singers did their best and showed enthusiasm and a real love of Tom Waits but did not do the extra-mile.
– interesting : Erika Stucky. I had never heard about her but she gave a very personal and scary version of Tom Wait’s songs, mixing languages and atmosphere. Excellent interaction with the audience as well. The thing is I guess three songs were great but I would have been bored about an entire set.
– excellent : Arthur H. The only French artist of the set (which allowed the French audience to understand Tom Waits’ lyrics for once, as he joked) had been named at the start of his career a Tom Waits xerox, which was not far from the truth. However, record by record, he established a true personality and is probably today on the most interesting French artists. One could feel and see that Arthur was not faking on stage and had the real inside feeling, groove and love for these songs. Superb version of “Clap Hands” in particular.
– excellent : the band! Bunch of great musicians under the lead of David Coulter. Special mention to two extraordinary musicians : Terry Edwards (of Tindersticks fame) who in top of being a famous skilled saxophone player is also an excellent guitar player and of course the great Steve Nieve on keyboards (member of Elvis Costello & The Attractions).
– top of the world : St Vincent. Annie Clark as she is known by her family really stole the show. This young and nice-looking lady is a tremendous artist who mixes emotion with a kind of natural weirdness. I had seen her in the past as opening act for Sufjan Stevens and I must say she has gained an impressive maturity throughout the years. I strongly recommend to anyone to listen to the three LP’s she did until now as they are all amazing. The way she interpreted “Downtown Train”, “Tango Till They’re Sore ” and “Big Black Mariah” left me speechless.
All in all a nice evening and a very good idea which should be continued to celebrate great albums from the past.
And go and see St. Vincent live if you can. Here is her version of Big Black Mariah when Rain Dogs Revisited were on stage in the UK in July 2011 :