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Added by James Gaden     May 31, 2010    
 
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John Waite – The Robin 2, Bilston – 1st March 2010

Having waited several decades to finally cross John Waite off my live wish-list I find myself in the enviable position of seeing the man perform a second time in ten months with a trio of low-key gigs. Having never seen a bad show at the excellent Robin 2 it was a no-brainer to choose this venue over a Sunday night trip to Carlisle or a third trip to London in a matter of weeks, but first we have young British hopefuls Joon to warm the crowd up in an interesting but not wholly successful way.
The Manchester foursome have just won a vote-in on Rock Radio for their excellent song ‘Man On The Run’ and have a fine drummer and a good singer/keyboard player in Olly Kraweckyj, but on first hearing the straight-up AOR of ‘Man On The Run’ appears to be by far their best song and not really indicative of their style. I hear elements of A-Ha, It Bites, Queen and Toto, but a horrible guitar sound takes away from their obvious talent and an impressive cover of ‘Hold The Line’ further outlines the ordinary nature of some of Joon’s own compositions.
Featuring a stripped-down four piece line-up minus long-time guitarist Jimmy Leahy, John Waite and band tear into a raw version ‘Change’ on which Waite’s overloud vocals do him no favours, but midway through The Babys’ classic ‘Back On My Feet Again’ they settle down and Waite himself slips into cool and relaxed mode. Bass player Tim Hogan and drummer Billy Wilkes are both consummate professionals and in guitarist Luis Maldonado Waite has not only a rising young star of the fretboard, but also a great backing singer whose voice merges well with Waite and Wilkes. Maldonado has had to adapt some of the songs to the one guitar format, and as such does a sterling job on the excellent ‘Encircled’ and the big Bad English ballad ‘When I See You Smile’, on which Waite himself has a go at rhythm guitar.
From some of the things being shouted out I guess most people would have preferred more material by Bad English, but personally I was happy that the set was mostly based around solo songs like ‘In Dreams’, ‘Mr. Wonderful’ and ‘Missing You’ and Babys classics ‘Everytime I Think Of You’, ‘Isn’t It Time’ (Maldonado’s voice made the chorus especially memorable), ‘Midnight Rendezvous’ and the brilliant ‘Head First’. Other highlights were a heartfelt ‘How Did I Get By Without You’, the gritty ‘Suicide Life’ and an utterly compelling ‘New York City Girl’, all of which suit Waite’s storytelling vocal style to a tee, and of course the Bad English stomper ‘Best Of What I Got’ went down well too.
In a ninety minute set I could really have done without Wilkes’ drum solo and Maldonado’s overtly metal guitar showcase, and especially the pointless versions of ‘All Along The Watchtower’ and the sole encore of Zeppelin’s ‘Rock’n’Roll’, but as John’s intention was to give us the kind of stripped-back rock’n’roll show that he grew up on I guess they both make sense. Considering Waite’s reputation for being difficult, his jovial stage manner and easy-going attitude made for a very special night indeed.
Phil Ashcroft
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