Arriving five years after his last release of new material, and two after the three-disc Orphans: Brawlers, Bawlers & Bastards box of outtakes and oddities, this live set culled from assorted 2008 gigs could be seen as a time marker. But even if writer’s block has been cramping him, Waits is a sensible and artistically restless guy, and these live versions more often than not deviate sufficiently from the studio takes to feel sparkly fresh.
Drawing his repertoire largely from albums cut in the ’90s and later (one notable exception is a jarringly recast “Singapore” from ’85’s Rain Dogs), the Waits of Glitter and Doom Live values theatricality as much as storytelling. As on his previous live album, 1988’s Big Time, Waits often borders on playfulness.
Sticking with semi-obscure, semi-recent album tracks like “The Part You Throw Away,” “Such a Scream,” and a handful introduced on 2004’s Real Gone, he works with a small, sympathetic band, and if he doesn’t ham it up, neither does he avoid accessibility. As for that storytelling, a second disc, titled Tom Tales, offers 35 minutes of uninterrupted Waits as self-accompanying comic. Sample: “Do you know how many omelets you can get out of an ostrich egg? Fourteen . . . that’s a lot of omelets. I’ve gotten along with most of the ostriches I’ve met.” We bet you have, Tom, we bet you have.