An Evening of Tom Waits Songs

Sunday night at the Gov saw a gruff-voiced, Betty Grable shirt-wearing Stewart D’Arrietta pay homage to Tom Waits in a two and a half hour show aptly titled ‘Belly of a Drunken Piano’. In true Waits style, the singer slurred his way through stories with punch lines in between piano-playing ballads like ‘Kentucky Avenue’, a song about a neighbourhood full of people up to no good but really they’re just people.

I find it amazing that a song with lyrics like Eddie Grace’s Buick got four bullet holes in the side / And Charlie Delisle sittin’ at the top of an avocado tree / Mrs. Stormll stab you with a steak knife if you step on her lawn / I got a half pack of Lucky Strikes, man, so come along with me can be so full of beauty and nostalgia, but that’s what Waits does. He’s the crooner of the red light district, the poet laureate of drunkards and freaks, and D’Arrietta got everything right. Half-way through the show it occurred to me that one of the greatest miseries of my life is not having seen Tom Waits live, which I think is a testament to D’Arrietta. He played the part and sang the songs so sincerely and with such profound sentiment that he had me in a state of longing. Does that normally happen at Fringe?

SA Music Hall of Fame inductee Rob Pippan on guitar, Shaun Duncan on the double bass and Matt McNamee on the drums gave D’Arrietta and his keyboard centre stage and became that smoke-hazed lounge room backdrop of a band this type of performance demands, subtly seen though indispensible when you’re grooving along in your seat to ‘Romeo is Bleeding’ or having a shake in a dark corner to ‘Way Down in the Hole’. Other highlights were ‘The Piano Has Been Drinking’, ‘Christmas Card from a Hooker in Minneapolis’, ‘Martha (Closing Time)’, ‘The Heart of Saturday Night’ and ‘Tom Traubert’s Blues (Four Sheets to the Wind in Copenhagen)’, which is that heartbreaking song that has the ‘Waltzing Matilda’ refrain throughout, perfect for an encore.

Call-outs to Bruce Springsteen and Charles Bukowski didn’t go unnoticed, and I think Waits would’ve liked them. Perhaps, too, D’Arrietta’s few originals. I thought one had a slightly Elton John-caught-up-in-Waits feel to it, interesting enough for me to search up more of his originals when I got home. For the record, Stewart D’Arrietta’s good when he’s doing Stewart D’Arrietta, too. And apparently he’s very good as Leonard Cohen, which was another show he did as part of the Fringe, and quite the busy man this past month, he also accompanied Australian actor and musician John Waters in the Fringe’s ‘Lennon – Through A Glass Onion’. I considered both of those shows when I first got out the Fringe guide and a felt-tipped pen but I couldn’t go past Tom Waits, my absolute favourite, but even if I hadn’t have been familiar with Waits, I still would’ve loved the show – the whole atmosphere was infected with a gritty kind of class – and I no doubt would’ve left a fan.

5 / 5 stars

Words by Heather Taylor Johnson

An Evening of Tom Waits Songs season has ended

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Lennon Through a Glass Onion

The opening night of the Fringe Festival was, inevitably, hectic. Bustling and hustling, the people of Adelaide and their guests hurried to the city for their festival fix.
As I approached the venue, the line for the show reached around the block. I was amazed at the turn out, and I was also intrigued. Being 20, I was by far the youngest in the crowd, which made me even more eager for what was to come. The ambience of the spectators was vibrantly excited. Chatter echoed across the hall, and in my seat from the balcony, I could observe from above. As I had never experienced being alive at the same time as Lennon, this was my chance to come as close as I ever could be to seeing him live.
From beginning to end, I was enraptured. Through intimate first-person narration interspersed with iconic songs, John Waters portrayed a perfect John Lennon. With only a piano and a guitar as their set, John Waters and Stewart D’Arrietta performed breathtakingly. Experiencing the duo at work was truly inspiring, the two musicians a brilliant combination. The show combined an amazing harmony of lyrics and gentle piano work to briefly bring Lennon back to life. The songs from times past transported the onlooker to a time of leather and denim, peace and war.
A minimalist set gave them the opportunity to utilise their instruments without any over the top theatrics. Coloured lighting engaged the audience to create subtle emotional overtones from angst to patriarchy. Mist from the special effects acted as a grainy screen, mimicking an old television set. This simplicity allowed an entire focus on the music.
Through the two-hour show, the two performers laid prostrate Lennon’s childhood, raw humanity, and his inner thoughts. Gloriously heart-felt, the show aroused a vast array of emotions throughout everyone watching.
In a crowd of many, the act still felt very intimate and emotional. Waters and D’Arrietta took the songs that you’ve always known and turned them into an experience to behold. With the audience clapping along to classics such as ‘Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds’, and ‘Imagine’, it was hard not to burst into song along with them.
The show emotes passion and nostalgia in a way that nothing else does. If you can catch it while it is still showing, please go and see Lennon, Through a Glass Onion.


Words by Sarah Ingham.

5 stars.

Lennon Through a Glass Onion is playing Sunday, February 17. Tickets available here.