Tom Waits Brings His Acidic Wonderland To The Big Screen With ‘Big Time’

“Like Toon World on acid with a microphone light…”

Oddly enough, a word so fitting for such an eccentric, “like Toon World on acid with a microphone light…” pegs the filmed concert perfectly. With a dissonant circus jugband playing in perfect harmony to the surrealistic stage show and songs of the bizarre Tom Waits, Big Time turned out to be the one of a kind show that you have to see to believe.

Filmed during a series of concerts in Los Angeles and San Francisco to promote his landmark album Franks Wild Years, Waits decided to bring his love of theater to a whole new audience. Segments like “Way Down In The Hole” harmoniously mix multiple scenes from the shows with surrealistic images of a devilish preacher, performed by Waits, spreading the word of the Lord atop a cityscaped roof. Meanwhile, little visual intermissions of comedy and the peculiar span from Waits under a fire umbrella to playing the piano like a musically untrained vagabond who spends his days talking about a nudie show where the women have no skin and a used erotica book shop.

The show is chock full of songs from Swordfishtrombones, Rain Dogs, and as stated earlier Frank’s Wild Years and really showcases the artist at the height of his creativity. The songs themselves also transition beautifully from the albums to stage bringing new and ecstatic life to them like “Sixteen Shells From a Thirty-Ought Six” (off of Swordfishtrombones) and “Rain Dogs” (off of Rain Dogs) with ballads such as “Time”, the Cossack induced “It’s More Than Rain”, and backseat country songs like “Cold, Cold Ground” all sharing a similar spotlight with each tune sounding more fresh and everlasting than the last.

Every show must come to an end though and what better way to do it than standing behind a bubbled curtain in a bathtub singing the melancholic “Innocent When You Dream“…

The downside to all of this though, unless you have a VHS copy (which runs for almost $50  now) it’s hard to see the film in its entirety. The whole shebang was up for a brief period of time on YouTube but has since been taken down with songs dwindling each time you hit the search button. One can only hope for a DVD release in the near future. It’s a shame to let such a visually iconic show die into nothing but a memory. Such a sad, old feeling…