John Waite

March 23, 2012
Coach House
San Juan Capistrano, CA

Review by Shawn Perry
Photos by Joel Louer

John Waite has had a wild ride in the music game since first bursting onto the scene in the late 70s as the lead singer of the Babys. Since then, a solid body of work lies in his wake, a legacy bejeweled with a timeless sheen as those classic songs from the 70s, 80s and beyond of John Waite are as riveting today as they were the day they were hatched. Catching Waite with his band during a sold-out performance at the Coach House, the 75-minute set was like a festive step back in time for all time.

Waite hit the stage just before 10 p.m. with “Change,” the 1982 Holly Knight-penned single that didn’t crack the Top 40, yet established Waite’s solo career and ability to record radio-friendly songs on his own. Debbie Holiday came in on the back-up vocal, while bassist Tim Hogan, guitarist Shaun Hague and drummer Rondo provided the soundtrack. Tonight, Waite, casually dressed in a black sports coat and jeans, dipped deeply into his songbook, pulling out hits from the past, as well as a few no nonsense rockers and ballads from his 2011 studio album, Rough And Tumble.

“Back On My Feet Again,” was the first of many Babys songs Waite would play, and another recognizable riff that got the house excited. The singer continually worked the audience while the band ably filled in the spaces. Several songs from Rough And Tumble were confidently presented, including “Better Off Gone,” “If You Ever Get Lonely” and “Evil.” As well-received as these were, you could tell the crowd comprising a prominent mix of 40-something men and women was anxious to hear its favorites. And on that note, Waite did not disappoint.

So after blowing the doors down with Bob Dylan’s “All Along The Watchtower,” he eased into “Isn’t It Time,” albeit edgier courtesy of Hague’s nimble guitar work. Waite talked about his time in Nashville, where he re-recorded “Missing You” with Alison Krauss in 2006, and played Vince Gill’s “Whenever You Come Around.” He also sang, with only accompaniment from Hague, a quaint little tune called “Bluebird Cafe.”

Then the crowd pleasers started rolling out. “Missing You,” which hit No. 1 in 1984 — that’s 22 years before the reboot — most definitely brought the audience to its feet. Actually, it was a pair of Babys rockers, “Midnight Rendezvous” and “Head First,” that solidified the set for the night. A quick “God bless you,” and Waite was done…for the moment. After the applause died down, he ambled on stage alone, guitar in hand, and strummed out the basic chords to Bad English's first and only No.1 hit, “When I See You Smile.” He attempted to get the audience to help out on the chorus, but they were slow to respond. Ah, but the show went on.

The band returned to the stage for the evening’s final number — and yet another Babys tune — “Every Time I Think Of You.” Waite and Debbie Holiday rose to the challenge vocally — for a minute it felt like the show was taking place in a bigger venue as the band added a sonic blast to a song known for its more subservient side. It's obvious John Waite hasn't mellowed with age. The hair is longer, the look is leaner, the band is tighter and the songs, as always, can be stretched any which way to accommodate the mood. Tonight at the Coach House, there can be little argument the mood was just right.

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