Even if you don't own a single Tom Waits album, you know his immediately recognizable voice, the result of vocal cords made from 40-grit sandpaper soaked in bourbon and cured with cigarette smoke. You know his distinctive flat-fingered piano banging and the clamorous junkyard racket his band makes. You know the character he's turned himself into, some mixture of carnival barker, drunken sailor and downtrodden old man—a character he was playing back when he was still drinking, before he actually was an old man. Now, more than three decades into his career, he still pens great story songs about heartbreak, death and love, songs that humanize even the seediest outcasts. And whether he is incorporating a turntablist or giving his percussionist a new auto part to bash on, he's managed to evolve musically in a way that doesn't make you cringe in sympathetic embarrassment.
Ticket prices on his Glitter and Doom tour are separating the fanatics from the mere fans, but the fanatics know a Waits performance is as priceless and rare as a diamond on your windshield. Shouting through a bullhorn, shaking like an epileptic, stomping in dirt he scatters across the stage and telling hilarious lies, he puts on a show that's more avant-garde theater than mere concert.
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Fortunately, Waits forced Ticketmaster to take extra steps against ticket scalping. Thanks to the paperless tickets, it's much more difficult for scalper assholes—sorry, "brokers"—to resell tickets at exorbitant rates. In fact, as of last week, there were still tickets available—unbelievable, considering that the last time Waits played Dallas was 1979.