“Waits is cool like saffron — exotic and rare. He keeps himself in relative seclusion north of San Francisco, which only adds to the allure. Any time Waits plays a gig it becomes an event. He rarely tours anymore, though he did hit the road for a few dates in support of 1999’s “Mule Variations.” Those shows were his first since he emerged from a self-imposed exile in 1995 to play a single benefit concert at Oakland’s Paramount Theater. The show was expensive — $75 a ticket — and sold out in less than an hour.
But Waits didn’t miss a beat. When a woman sitting near the front yelled out, “Hey, Tom, where you been?” Waits had a reply at the ready, as if it were rehearsed.
“I been around. Where you been? You still living out by the airport?””