Friday night in El Paso was a first for TOM WAITS in his long and storied career, when he was given an official Key to the City. About a quarter of the way into his set at the historical Plaza Theatre, Frank Perez—a uniformed officer—walked onstage, which prompted Waits to explain, “I paid all those tickets” and “she was dead when I got there.” Perez was soon followed by Councilwoman Susie Boyd who handed Tom a plaque which held a key to the city. Tom, visably moved said, “This is a first for me, a real first.”

Of the show, Doug Pullen noted in the El Paso Times: “Friday’s…show at the Plaza Theatre…probably was unlike anything ever seen in the historic, atmospheric movie palace, before and after its 2006 restoration….playing out like some twisted journey through a house of broken mirrors…Friday’s concert was part performance art, part roadhouse blues revival, all good.”

All of the reviews have been nothing short of stellar including Phil Gallo of Daily Variety: “No artist brings together a larger collection of scar-covered and demon-riddled humans in his work than Tom Waits, whose keen observations of the human condition are funneled through characters holding on dearly to thin swatches of hope…Waits opened his oddly routed world tour Tuesday in Phoenix with a riveting and cohesive two-hour set that felt like a reunion of oddballs, crackpots and believers telling their stories through a series of wheezes, harrumphs and shouts.”

Elsewhere, Sandy Cohen of the Associated Press affirmed: “Tom Waits returns to the road with searing two-hour set…packing more than two dozen tunes into a set that was sure to satisfy any fans that made trip,” and Andrew Dansby of the Houston Press praised: “ Waits for stomping…with some combination of passion and urgency that never feels like a put on. His is a theatrical show, make no mistake about it. He flails about like a man in the throes of a seizure, and when he stomps on the stage a little cloud of smoke flies up. But the theatrics never clutter the songs.”

Of the Dallas show, Thor Christensen in the Dallas Morning News stated: “In the 20-odd years since Tom Waits last played Dallas, his music has grown more demented and, at the same time, more poignant,” while Preston Jones of the Ft. Worth Star Telegram raved: “That unmistakable national treasure of a voice gave the troubadour the air of a carnival barker.”

And on opening night, Waits gave a “sprawling, brawling concert,” according to Ann Powers in the Los Angeles Times. “Waits is underrated as a vocalist. His baritone is easy to caricature, but a lengthy concert like this one offers a chance to hear what else he can do. He often capped a song with an eerie falsetto; on a couple of songs…he adopted the hiccupping style of early Elvis Presley…And he was frankly emotional on the ballads that demand that approach…Over the years, Waits has developed a stage presence that complements his penchant for vocal disguise. Following the lineage that connects Japanese Kabuki theater to Bertolt Brecht’s Theater of Alienation, Waits mimics the actions of the soul man or the preacher until they become surreal.

Meanwhile, Paul Rubin of the Phoenix New Times declared: “Waits did the near impossible and lived up to the great expectations…The guy is a performance artist of the highest rank, a kabuki with a bowler hat, a Delta bluesman not afraid to be romantic, a cynic with a heart of gold.”

Waits continues his tour through St. Louis (6/26), Columbus (6/28), Knoxville (6/29), Jacksonville (7/1), Mobile (7/2), Birmingham (7/3) and Atlanta (7/5), before heading off to major cities in Europe for a string of dates.

- Tresa Redburn, Publicist / Dept. 56