Tom Waits For No Man @ Riverside Studios, London


Steve DArrietta
The endearingly titled Tom Waits For No Man sees Steve DArrietta celebrate the work of Tom Waits with anevening of anecdote and song.

A dystopian scene rests in front of us. There are road traffic signs, wheelie bins, twigs and nails, underwearstrewn everywhere. Rising out of the refuse a double bass and a birdcagepiano are illuminated. A mix of cool blues and dirty amber lights wash thestage as DArrietta staggers out from the darkness. His fedora covers his faceentirely in shadow and, in his white ruffled shirt and crumpled suit, he makes for a distinctve sight.

The opening number Whats He Building? is appropriate. Atmosphere is the answer, as were sucked into Waits world of mysterious, melancholy and shady characters.

DArrietta breaks the dark, tense mood with the first in a series of stories from Tom Waits life experiences and his own personal encounters.Theres humour and a touch of the sentimental as we are told of Doug – whosename is sadly in the past tense – and the value of marriage: “a greatinstitution – if you want to live in an institution”.

But though the stories are entertaining, this show isabout showcasing and rejoicing in more than thirty years of Waits music.Consequently, the sound is enormous and variety of song choice isexceptional. The moods shift from romantic to remorseful to”bedlam and squalor”. DArriettas voice tumbles out, crisp, dry and striking, and his skill on the piano is considerable, whether he is sitting,standing or dancing.

If that wasnt enough he wields Waits intense message of the sorrows of tomorrow convincingly too. That he is, for the most part, only supported bya double bass is a testament to his accomplishment as an artist. However the later guestappearance of Heidi Jones brings a new dynamic to the show. She duets with DArrietta as a dishevelled and barefoot bride on Picking Up After You butI found her performance rather artificial next to his naturally rasping and relaxed stage persona.

The patter continues to entertain but gets a little drier with each occurrence. There isnt a theme to engage with but his efforts pay off with a final tale of a cabaret cover artist whossingle because he loves his work too much. Hopefully he wont be alone for muchlonger.

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