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Making his first appearance in the Lehigh Valley, John Waite performed Thursday night to a near sold out crowd at Musikfest Café. With 40 years as an established and successful songwriter, vocalist, and musician under his belt, this show was nothing short of fantastic.
John Waite emerged into the rock and roll mainframe in the mid seventies as the front man of The Babys. After a solid five year run, the band disbanded, and Waite began his next phase of his career as a solo artist. In the early eighties many artists benefited from the new music channel MTV, and Waite was no exception, with two hit musical videos that made his name and music a common household word. By the late eighties, a new opportunity arose, to form a super group, Bad English, with Baby band mates Jonathan Cain, and Ricky Phillips, along with Neal Schon from Journey. Four years later, Bad English ran it’s course, and Waite returned as a solo artist.
Dressed in black pants, a white button down shirt, and an oversized black jacket, with his ginger hair just above shoulder length, Waite took the stage with an acoustic guitar. The crowd cheered as the band assembled. With a wealth of catalog, Waite took us back to the beginning, “Midnight Rendezvous”, then “For Your Love”, and “Every time I Think of You”.
Moving on to Bad English’s mega hit, “Every time I See You Smile”, Waite continues to perform this song as a ballad, without the punched up drum lines from the original recording. But the funny thing is that as a ballad, the song is more beautiful than ever. It works well, indeed.
While the all the songs performed connected the dots to Waite’s longevity in the music industry, they also took us across the country to places he’s lived and the musical influences in his life. This became evident with “Whenever You Come Around”, (Vince Gill), and “Bluebird Café” representing his time spent in Nashville, and his country music roots which goes back to his early years.
“Downtown” was performed unplugged, then the band rejoined for “Head First”, “Changes”, and “Wild One”. The set closed with the one song everyone wanted to hear, “Missing You”.
The concert hit every check box in making it enjoyable, but the one aspect that blew everything else out of the park was Waite’s vocals. His range, diction, and clarity were flawless and virtually pristine. From tough and harsh to velvety smooth, it was an effortless transition. And then came the encore.
“Back On My Feet Again” literally, got everyone in the house on their feet, and the show closed with “Whole Lotta Love” (Led Zeppelin cover). If you didn’t realize how amazing Waite’s vocals are, this song was the clincher, as he gave it everything he had, and released the longest primal scream that would even turn Robert Plant’s head.
John Waite continues on tour to the close of this year, with more shows to be added in 2020.