Waits: Almost There
***TOM WAITS. “Big Time.” Island. Live albums are never like being there. But this companion to a new film of the same name, recorded at several of Waits’ remarkable 1987 shows (including a stand here at the Wiltern Theatre), comes close. What you get is a masterful artist in his natural element: Waits’ thinking-person’s low-life persona has always worked best with a live audience to play off of. You also get a fine selection of Waits’ most accomplished and challenging material, drawn largely from the Captain-Beefheart-meets-Kurt Weill-meets-Lord Buckley canon that evolved over the course of Waits’ last several studio albums. What you don’t get, though, is the full sense of the very visual Brechtian theater of the concerts. For that, well, you did have to be there. But this collection, unlike most live ones, still serves as far more than just a concert souvenir.