LIVE: John Waite @ the Cohoes Music Hall, 10/19/18
Review by Mark Alexander Hudson
Not many kids in late ’70s England bought the two Babys seven-inch vinyl singles “Isn’t It Time” and “Every Time I Think of You,” but I did. I thought they were both great examples of the then nascent “power ballad,”
both elevated and infused with that extra dollop of grit and soul thanks to the superb vocals of John Waite, the band’s lead singer and bassist. Sadly, few of my countrymen shared my opinion, and both singles sank without a trace.
It was a different story in the States, however, with both songs attaining the somewhat ominous Billboard chart peak of No. 13. Ominous, as the scrappy hard rock band with a power-pop heart, never troubled the charts again. And by 1980, with five albums worth of solid material all but ignored, and keyboardist Jonathan Cain offered a lucrative gig with Journey, the Babys called it a day.
John Waite faced the new decade as a little known solo artist, and then something he could never have predicted happened.
As he wryly commented on stage at Cohoes Music Hall earlier this month, “This is a song that took about 20 minutes to write and changed my life forever.” That song was “Missing You,” a world-wide smash No. 1 and still a staple of classic rock radio.
Waite then teamed up with Cain and Journey guitarist Neal Schon at the end of the ’80s in Bad English, and they too hit the heights with another power ballad, the somewhat schlocky “When I See You Smile,” written by Diane
Warren. Hey, someone must have reasoned, if it was good enough for Aerosmith…
In Cohoes, Waite got that one out of the way fast, as the first song in his set, played as an acoustic duet with guitarist Mark Ricciardi. There then followed, as he put it, a “journey” through his career, featuring songs from both of those bands and his solo offerings.
These days, Waite is still in fine voice and seemed to get stronger as the night went on, evidenced by a lung busting encore of Led Zeppelin’s “Whole Lotta Love.” Before that we got the hits and some lesser known solo nuggets, like the heartfelt “Downtown” and “Bluebird Café,” both obviously meaningful to the singer given his lengthy explanatory introductions.
His stripped-down band, which also included Tim Hogan on bass and Rhondo on drums, kept everything tight and loose – no stadium rock flash here – the song was the thing.
He didn’t play “Isn’t It Time,” but he did do “Every Time I Think of You,” remarking that while the original version had strings, brass and backing singers, on this tour Waite & Co. were now “on a budget”…
It still sounded great.
JOHN WAITE SET LIST
When I See You Smile
Every Time I Think of You
Best of What I’ve Got
All along the watchtower (Dylan)
Back on My Feet Again
Whole Lotta Love (Led Zeppelin)