John Waite at the Aladdin: A Concert Memoir

Faithful readers of this site (Reese, Heather, and my grandparents or aunts/uncles/cousins whenever they need some dirt on me -- Mike doesn't count as he visits in order to pass the pop quizzes regularly administered in our relationship) will recall that one of the highlights of my summer was the John Waite show at Boulder Station. It came at the end of my last day of teaching for the academic year, kicking my whole first mongo vacation as a professional educator into proper focus. (Which is to say delightfully unfocused.)

My bouncing reaction to that show also found its way to the most excellent "John Waite - unofficial Dutch fansite." I'm not sure it makes as much sense there, away from this space, where my references to Tutti Dolci are part of a certain leitmotif and better understood.

(I'm totally showing off. I never use leitmotif in every day speech; I'm just practicing for the camera. It makes me feel less guilty about being up at 4:30 a.m. and starting to write this when I need to be busy living up to my name being on this page.)

I was going to say that this "concert memoir" of last night's John Waite show at the Aladdin (Casino in Las Vegas, Nevada aka NV, let's keep Google happy with our keywords here) will attempt to not wander off into totally non-JW territory, but we're not off to a good start. No promises.

Yeah, so anyway! What a great show!

Which means nothing. What is a "great" show? Well! I will tell you! And I will make free with the exclamation marks!

So, the Aladdin's Showroom-Thingy upstairs is where I saw Colin Hay. It's an intimate venue, more intimate than Boulder Station, and more aloof in its seating. I don't know what I mean by that. The cocktail waitresses are (even) nicer, though.

(Not that I was drinking. No, I was busy finishing H*ck Finn so I can at least think about writing a paper on it tomorrow... oops, I mean today. You know, I'm studying Mark Twain and Gertrude Stein in particular this semester, and if I start writing "a by-and-by is a by-and-by is a by-and-by, reckoning as we're like to be in the continous present," then please forgive early and often.)

I sat off in the front of the right-side section. To my left were two people who may or may not have wanted to be there (or anywhere away from a bar) - alas, not sitting next to people who are ready to be "into it" affects the whole experience. Especially when one of them keeps checking her drink to make sure you're not toe-tapping near it. But they eventually succumbed (such is the power of the band), despite the male unit's calls for "Aqualung!", and to their left was John de Lancie, perhaps best known for playing the indominitable Q on Star Trek: The Next Generation, and he was totally into it.

Well, no, but the guy looked a lot like John de Lancie, so there you have it. Ask me about my Rod Stewart sighting in front of Anthropologie at Green Valley Ranch last week. (I've started shopping there again, despite past resolve.)

The energy was good overall, but I really think we all need to start standing at John Waite shows. Isn't that what we used to do in the stadium days? (OMG - the bad old days, indeed. I don't think I could ever go to an arena show again. It's something society could file under "stuff we all did before we knew better," like rushing home to watch The Cosby Show.)

(I'm not being snarky. After all, I'm, like, the only person on the planet who half-agrees with Bill Cosby's recent rants. But watching the once-beloved Cosby Show on Nick-at-Nite actually makes me embarrassed for the entire late 80s.)

Yes, we all need to get back into sitting and standing as needed, depending on tempo and the will of the crowd. Okay, I'm pretty sure I'm the same person who was recently complaining about people who stand at concerts, but John Waite is the exception. We need to stand more. At least for one song. It's just too hard to move properly in a folding chair.

There's more than this amiss in the receiving world of JW's powers, but back to the show for a moment. The band was the same band from June - great guys - especially the charming bass player. (Okay, charming and competent, but sometimes it's nice to get a dose of showmanship with your show.) At one point he ran around to the bar and played and danced with a woman who ran up. What is his name (damnit)? Ah well, some fan will Google their way here and set me straight. John Waite has a great band. Everyone looks like they're having fun. They could be a band. All together, with their own band name, I mean. But then they'd have band fights and what works for Fleetwood Mac doesn't work for everyone else.

They opened with "Change" and blistered mightily through without holding anything back - John in full form from the start. (We should have stood up, I'm telling you.) I think one of the most amazing things about Waite is that his voice is So Damn Clear. How is that? I'm 35 (thirty-six tomorrow, if you want to buy me a Canon Rebel XT or Nikon D70 so I can lose my incentive to stay in grad school and can then quit and finally be bitter about something meaningful and not just about having to iron every morning because teaching in your jammies is frowned upon) and my voice is not getting any smoother. Is there somewhere an oil portrait of John Waite's vocal cords growing knobbier and crusty? What nether deal did you strike, Mr Waite?

I don't know if I like the studio versions or the live act better, but Waite's voice, while obviously very fine when recorded, just doesn't compare to the belting he does in person. He really is made to sing to 15,000 people at once. (But again, no more with the arena shows.) So, even if you only know one song, go to his concerts just to see someone who knows what he's doing. He can make anything work.

Now, this may sound like fangirl sycophancy. Please. I'm not afraid to criticize. If you think otherwise, you've clearly never heard some of the petty, whiny things I've said about Lindsey Buckingham, and if I were building a dream musician I'd put Buckingham's fingers in the bucket with Waite's voice.

I mean, I was a little disturbed when I read this (nicely written) review and the author griped over having to hear "Show Me How to Love You." What?! "Show Me..." is quite possibly the hottest song since... Berlin's "Sex (I'm A)"? (No, bad comparison.) I don't know. I just know it flows out to the audience as pure heat. It's like scraping jalapeno seeds out of the chile pod with your thumb and then putting your thumb in your ear. Or maybe somewhere else. Again, I don't know. It's all excited blues mashy wailing stuff. And, so, one guy isn't into it - no prob. I am. And you know what I'm going to complain about? John Waite didn't sing it last night!

But that's okay. There will be other shows. Like, every other show that comes to Vegas, if I can manage it. It's a lifestyle essential, the dependably awesome rock concert, and worth seeking out. It's as fundamental as fondue.

(See, Mike and I were having this big discussion about fondue and whatever happened to it and wasn't it like a "here to stay" staple in the 70s, but no, it turns out Mike didn't have a fondue set like I did, complete with little powdery packets and marshmallows, although we did both have sno-cone sets and we concurred that these were utter crap. So, really, the Dependably Awesome Rock Concert is fondue because it should be a fundamental lifestyle experience, but too many people have learned to live without it.)

(Now, if you were to ask me what kind of fondue John Waite is, I'm be stumped. He has the powerhouse vocals of a robust cheese fondue, the kind where everyone eats it wearing patterned sweaters and sitting on deep-pile carpeting near a fireplace, but he also has an acoustic and/or light sweetness that bespeaks a dessert fondue, such as something in a chocolate hazelnut raspberry - classic and appealing in its parts, but rarely found so deftly mixed together.)

Speaking of food, I hit the Spice Market Buffet before the show and it wasn't as good as last time. I think it's because they replaced the cheese enchiladas with shrimp enchiladas, leaving me nothing at the Mexican station. Also, no pesto. However, I tried the onion roll and a twisty, circular piece of bread, and both were nice, as were the curried chickpea dish and the spicy eggplant. The mozzarella balls were off, though. Wynn wins for now.

Back to the music. What did he play? Hmm. No "Keys to Your Heart" or "Thinking of You" as with last time - I don't know if the set list is always changing or this show was shorter.  "Change," as mentioned, "Back on My Feet Again," "When I See You Smile," "The Hard Way," "Isn't It Time" (very nicely dedicated to some long-time fans in the audience who were having an  anniversary), "Midnight Rendezvous" (went on forever and did so beautifully - I think we all needed a sip of water after that), "NYC Girl," "Whenever You Come Around" (is this really a country song? I'm not convinced), "Missing You" (anybody who's still recovering from hearing that song 30-300 times a day twenty years ago will be pleased to know that the live rendition is simultaneously faithful and fresh), Led Zeppelin's "Rock and Roll" (which is just plain fierce - we should not only have been standing but have been on top of the chairs for this one), and I can't remember what else. Anything else?

The encore was "Head First," thankfully, because I was totally in the mood for it. I wonder if this song will ever get old. And I was really worried for a bit that we weren't getting an encore, although not as worried as Feta. (A total inside joke that only two people will get, especially a certain person who keeps making up alternate versions of "Head First" that I have to keep reminding myself aren't the real thing - and no, it's not me performing these jolly sacrileges.) By the way, Ask MeFi had an enlightening thread about encores recently.

I hope I've sold you on putting more John Waite into your life. I'm not saying he's going to be the best concert you ever see. I don't know you. You're probably just some person who got here by Googling for something unrelated and maybe you prefer German opera to this kind of thing. Maybe you're listening to Der Rosenkavalier right now and can't even get through this post because it's so bloody long and you have to keep pausing to turn up the iPod and sway your head to the Strauss. Maybe you're here because you Googled for +"Der Rosenkavalier" +Strauss and now you feel very tricked.

Don't! What I'm saying is that (one) Waite puts on a great show for everyone, not just fans, and (two) Waite is bogglingly underestimated and deserves a listen. On the one hand, he's this Sure Thing, this lead singer for two proven bands (The Babys and Bad English) and this multi-charting solo artist. On the other hand, he's often treated like a one-hit wonder. It's like the music industry Powers That Be have filled their brain drives with Britney viruses and slick, over-produced malware, and now they don't have room to add new files or, worse, new programs. Yes, that's a pathetic, laboured analogy, but it's now nearly 6 a.m. (with time out to fuss at poor Mike), and the part of my head that keeps the incoherent babbling to a steady but manageable level is fast asleep.

Gliding razor-like musicianship aside, there is one more matter worth reporting on: John Waite is a really nice guy. At the end of the show, puddled in your post-entertainment grin, you want good things to happen to this person. Meeting him and discovering that's he just a normal, kind fellow who knows where his lunch money comes from but also has the quiet confidence of someone who delivers every dollar's worth, if not more... well, it just makes me want to go throw on the Birks and ring doorbells.

(Ha! Wouldn't it be fun if, instead of Jehovah's Witnesses, people came to your door wanting to "tell you the good news about 'New Thing' from the Figure in a Landscape album"?)

(Well, no, it would still be evil spamming, but the idea is fun. You know, the "missionary" would say "I just want to leave these mp3s here on your coffeetable." Maybe they'd also sell you a fondue pot. It all comes full circle.)

In short: I had a really good time. John Waite concerts are fun. I'm going to stand up next time.

With Mr Waite

25 September 2005 |






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