America’s greatest living songwriter gives Chicago a generous gift by choosing it as one of the few cities on his brief tour around the U.S., his first official tour in years, though this isn’t in support of any record. Waits’ explanation for the tour—“I need to pick up fireworks in Tennessee and somebody owes me money in Kentucky.” His last record, 2004’s “Real Gone,” went further down the road and into the haunted forest, as Waits’ experimentation with voice (a deeper growl and gruff) and slipshod instrumentation was overwhelming with gruesome flavor and surprise, a true follow-up from the previous “Alice” and “Blood Money.” Some fans prefer the earlier, boozy and melancholic piano-and-voice Tom Waits of the 1970s, some the later, sad experimental material of the eighties and nineties—both “eras” have their share of high points and accomplishments. Personally, I feel 1976’s “Small Change” is Waits’ greatest achievement, though it was quite early in his career—while 1978’s “Blue Valentine” owns “Kentucky Avenue,” his best song and one of the best ballads ever written, “Small Change”’s opener “Tom Traubert’s Blues” is unforgettable in its lonely, poetic and brilliant “waltzing Mathilda” chorus. This show sold out in minutes, so if you’re without a ticket, spend as much money as you can to get one. You never know with someone as unpredictable as Tom Waits—this could be your last chance. (Tom Lynch)
August 9 at Auditorium Theatre.