Jim Carroll

Music, Life and everything else

A night out with Crazy Ol’ Tom

(1) I used to think that the easiest big venue in the country to get in and out of was the Odyssey in Belfast, but the Rat Cellar was even better. Drive up the main road into the park (no …

Thu, Jul 31, 2008, 09:23


(1) I used to think that the easiest big venue in the country to get in and out of was the Odyssey in Belfast, but the Rat Cellar was even better. Drive up the main road into the park (no hold-ups whatsoever at 7pm), park the jalopy (loads of parking space near the venue at the top of Chesterfield Avenue), walk a hundred yards or so to the gate and there you are. Same getting out again. Mad, Tom, mad.

(2) The whole ticket-ID-fuming thing? Didn’t really happen. Heard absolutely no-one giving out about it either, which makes a change. Made complete sense, took seconds, everyone was smiling. Some people were probably disappointed because it was so hassle-free, but that’s the Irish for you. Most disappointed of all were the radio reporters, who appeared crest-fallen that they weren’t reporting on a Mullingar-type riot.

(3) Big tent. Big, big tent. It’s the same one Fianna Fail used to use for the Galway races. Allegedly.

(4) Price shock? That would be the merchandise stall where t-shirts were €20, CDs were a tenner. I think the last time I saw t-shirts that cheap at a big show was at Feile 1993. According to Crazy Ol’ Tom’s merch dude, the prices were set by Tom himself. The ticket prices were high enough, went the word, that they weren’t going to go mad with the shirts.

(5) Amazing sound. Spot on. You could hear absolutely everything. It’s weird that the best sound I’ve heard this year has been at shows in a tent (Waits), in a field (Lenny Cohen) and in a bigger field (Bruce). I’m not a soundman but it makes you wonder just why the sound is usually so poxy at indoor venues like the Olympia and Ambassador. If soundmen can get it right in a temporary venue, why can’t they get it right in an indoor venue? Or is the case that high ticket prices equate to top-notch sound?

(6) Tom ambled onstage looking like a down-on-his-luck backwoods funeral director at 8.30pm-ish. One thing that was obvious from last night’s show was that anyone who compares another artist to Tom knows absolutely nothing about him. He’s truly an one-off, the only vaudeville cabaret hobo who can pull off absurd flights of fancy just like that. Anyone else stamping on stage-boards to create a dust-storm (or have a roadie on hand to scatter more dust when needed) would be dismissed as a gobshite, but it works just fine for Waits.

(7) Highlights? The piano section was fantastic (which was ““Tom Traubert’s Blues (Waltzing Matilda)”, “On A Nickel”, “Christmas Card From A Hooker In Minneapolis” and “Innocent When You Dream”), “God’s Away On Business” was a blast and both “Tabletop Joe” and “Eyeball Kid” were superb. For some reason, “Down In The Hole” was greeted like an old friend. Maybe everyone at the show watches The Wire.

(8) Lowlights? I thought the first part of the set lacked a bit of momentum, not helped by the fact that most of the songs were really cut from the same cloth (something which Crazy Ol’ Tom himself remarked on later in the show). The move to the piano changed all that and the final section, the “glitter” section, was just superb.

(9) There were plenty of onstage quips from Crazy Ol’ Tom. He might not be as funny as Chris Rock, but he’s a damn sight funnier than Dave McSavage. That riff on family reunions before “Cemetery Polka” was a hoot.

(10) The reason why the venue is called The Rat Cellar? The audience looked like drowned rats slinking away afterwards into the Dublin night as the rain came down in buckets.

UPDATE Davin O’Dywer’s review from last night show’s for the paper is now live here.