John Waite (Saturday, July 2, 2005, Harriet Island, St. Paul, MN)
These days there aren't many true rock stars. John Waite is a rock star. He looks like one, and he acts like one. This is a good thing. Though he's had success over the years - first with The Babys, then a solo career, then with the super-group, Bad English (with former Babys Jonathan Cain and Ricky Phillips (bass), ex-Journey guitarist Neal Schon, and drummer Deen Castronovo.), and now solo again - I think his work has been seriously overlooked. Waite is a lyricist with a unique voice and personality.
I never got to see The Babys, Bad English, or Waite solo in the '80s. My only live John Waite experiences come from the past 5 years, and of each of the three shows I have seen, Saturday’s performance was definitely my favorite.
It was a perfect day for an outdoor show in St. Paul, and upon arriving at Taste of Minnesota, I was pleasantly surprised to see a pretty good-sized crowd for a 5pm John Waite show.
The show started on a high note with "Change" from Waite’s 1982 debut solo album, Ignition. From there, the band kicked into The Babys', "Back On My Feet Again". Next was "Keys To Your Heart" from the latest solo album, The Hard Way (2004).
At this point Waite strapped on an acoustic guitar, only to have the strap come off and the guitar fall to the stage, knocking it out of tune. This would be a bit of a distraction throughout the rest of the show. After an unsuccessful attempt to get the guitar ready for the next song, he handed it to a tech to tune up. It was brought back to the stage after the next song, and was still not working properly. It seemed as though Waite had had enough after two failed attempts and just wanted to forget about it. However, another guitar tech continued to re-tune the guitar and bring it out on stage only to be rebuffed each time by a seemingly more agitated John Waite. I’m curious to know what song we didn't get to hear due to this problem.
After the first failed guitar attempt, "In Dreams" (from the criminally overlooked 1995 album, Temple Bar), was introduced as "picked by VH1 as one of the 20 Worst Songs Ever Written", though I am not able to find any record of this, and if it's true, I strongly disagree. It's one of my favorites, and I was pleasantly surprised to hear it. Other highlights for me were The Babys, "Midnight Rendezvous" and "Head First", which really brought up the energy level in the crowd.
As you probably have guessed by now, I'm a huge fan, and it's hard for me to say anything uncomplimentary about John Waite. As far as I'm concerned, any John Waite show is better than no John Waite show at all. However, if I'm to be honest, there are a couple things that would have made this show more enjoyable for me:
Considering the time restraints of a 60 minute show, and a large catalog of songs from his solo career (both old and new), The Babys, and Bad English, I thought John did a pretty good job of giving the audience a little bit of everything. That being said, I could have done without "Show Me How To Love You", and the totally unnecessary cover of Led Zeppelin's "Rock And Roll", a song every cover band in the world does (and most probably do it better). Adding insult to injury, this was the last song of the show, and even though there was a lot of applause and cheering, there would be no encore. I wish I could have traded those 2 songs in for another song off 1984's No Brakes ("Missing You" was the only song performed from that album), or maybe another Bad English song ("Straight To Your Heart" gets my vote.)
My only other complaint is the backing band. Although all competent players, they just don't look like they should be on stage. As I mentioned earlier, John Waite is a rock star, and he looks like one. After all these years, he still looks great. With the exception of the guitar player, who was passable, everyone else in the band looked like an "everyday Joe" - someone I would have expected to see ahead of me in line for a corndog. There's nothing wrong with that, and it works for some bands, but I expect more from one of my all-time favorite musical artists.
Those are only small complaints, me being overly critical, and perhaps expecting too much. I had a great time, on a beautiful afternoon, seeing one of my favorite performers.