Worth the Waite: John Delivers the Hits with Passion in Flint
From The Babys to Bad English, his solo hits and a few cover songs, John Waite still sounds incredible and put on an engaging, entertaining concert.
It's easy to take a cheap shot at Flint, but The Machine Shop is fast becoming a new favorite concert venue of mine. Since 2002, they have been packing up to 500 fans in each night for live concerts. Mostly heavy metal acts and outlaw country, John Waite was the outlier when he was booked for October 4.
Like many of you, I've been a fan since I first heard "Missing You" in 1984. What I didn't realize was that I was a fan of John Waite's voice before that, loving The Babys' songs like "Every Time I Think of You," "Back On My Feet Again," and "Isn't It Time." I was working at a Believe In Music record store in the summer of '89 when we got the first 2 copies of the Bad English album. I saw John Waite and a couple of guys from Journey on the back cover and knew that it was going to be a smash without hearing a note. "When I See You Smile" went to #1 that fall. I've since kept up with John's solo career and think he's got one of the most distinctive voices in rock.
We've established the fact that I was looking forward to the show; maybe more than I wanted to be- expectations were high. John Waite and band delivered. Dressed in an immaculate, well-tailored suit with great shoes and a fashionable scarf, only Robert Palmer or Bryan Ferry dresses better on stage than John Waite. What really matters is the voice, right? He's still got it. This was no stripped-down, reworking of the songs an octave lower so he could still sing them 30+ years later, this is a rock singer who can still rock.
Highlights for me included "Change," his very first solo single from 1982, The Babys' "Back On My Feet Again," and "When I See You Smile" from the Bad English days. Waite has always been a Dylan fan and his band revved up an incredible version of "All Along the Watchtower." The biggest surprise, for me, was the encore. He didn't save "Missing You," he had played that about 3/4 through the set, it was Led Zeppelin's "Whole Lotta Love." At first I thought the iconic opening riff might be a tease until "You need coolin'..." One of rock's great voices wasn't afraid to follow another.
I was right upfront, third from the small stage and John Waite made eye contact with all of us in the first 5 rows, as well as playing to the larger room. A precise singer, he was also clearly having fun as he flashed a brilliant smile throughout the night. Would I see him again? I'm already disappointed I didn't go to Indianapolis for the Sunday show.