LIVE: VickiKristiBarcelona performing the songs of Tom Waits @ the Falcon, 09/05/2021
Covering other artists’ material is nothing new. It is a common practice and seems to be the rage these days both on the stage and in the recording studio. Singer/songwriter Tom Waits has been covered by many. His songs and lyrics when done by himself personally though generally feature a growling gravelly voice resembling that of Howlin’ Wolf, lyrics that are desperately tragic glimpsing on the seamier side of life. This delivery along with sparse accompaniment makes for an atmosphere of a smoke-filled dive. Others have interpreted him quite differently, but few have attempted to do an entire project devoted to his material.
VickiKristiBarcelona has taken an unorthodox approach. They are a three-member multi-instrumentalist group that sings his songs with harmonies complete with eclectic costumes and a plethora of instruments. Their performances are full of joy, colorful costumes, choreographed movement, and ohh those perfect three-part harmonies! Tom Waits music is something I would never expect to hear at family concerts, but they have performed them there indeed.
Amanda Homi is the percussionist of the group. Her percussion setup is unusual, to say the least. It includes hand drums, a Caja played with a foot pedal, castanets, cymbals, snare drum, and a rubboard fashioned to like a necktie as well as a conventional rubboard. On a few numbers, she played a small pipe organ, and she also danced through much of the performance. Adding even more rhythm and life to the music.
Rachel Garnier played accordion and banjo. In some cases, she was playing surf music riffs in coordination with the guitarist.
Terry Radigan on electric guitar in many ways kept the group grounded. She provided solid riffs and leads for her bandmates to harmonize and explore the material rhythmically.
“Way Down in The Hole” Tom Waits gospel song had Rachel and Terry playing banjo and guitar in unison like a guitar band. While “Cold Cold Ground” was played early 60s style without the wall of the sound. And yet, “Tango Till You’re Sore” was primarily done in street gypsy style complete with an accordion with the addition of an opening vocal that reminiscent of Eastern European choral groups.
“Jersey Girl” gave us an aural painting of a Jersey Shore amusement. The accordion is used to create the picture of Ferris wheels and merry-go-rounds. Likewise, “I Don’t Want to Grow Up” was sung from an innocent child’s point of view. Rather than an adult wishing for a return to childhood innocence. It was played zydeco style complete with rubboard.
Tom Waits music has been used in many movies and television shows. And like many great songwriters, the songs and lyrics can have many interpretations and meanings. In the words of Amanda Homi, they “create their own movies”. VickiKristiBarcelona certainly created their own movies from his music and we were all the better for it.
Way Down in The Hole
Tango Till There Sore
Hang on St. Christopher
I Don’t Want to Grow Up
Photo Gallery by Rudy Lu