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John Waite @ The Robin, Bilston (1/3/10)

posted 25 Jul 2011, 14:04 by Paul Woodward
I wasn’t expecting there to be a large crowd tonight, given the low reported levels on John’s visit to the UK last year. So I was happily surprised to see that the turn out tonight was really good and a hell of a lot better than I thought it would be. Obviously John Waite has been around awhile and had ton’s of success not just with his solo material (who doesn’t know “Missing You”!) but also with his first band The Babys & Bad English, which featured Journey’s Neal Schon on guitars; so you’d think he 'should' pull a decent audience and tonight proved he can! And it was a bloody Monday night too; John did actually thank the crowd early on for coming out on a “Dead Night” but promised it wouldn’t be Dead tonight in the Robin - he wasn’t wrong!

I’d heard of tonight’s support band Joon, but never really investigated the band further. I had wrongly thought they were a poppy with slight rock edges type of band so was never overly fussed to check them out. Something I really regret now because I was blown away by these guys, and their Toto inspired brand of AOR.

Front man Olly Kraweckyj is also the band’s keyboardist, but this doesn’t stop him from putting on an energetic performance from behind the boards, although he was deeply regretting his stage wear given how hot it was in The Robin (it was just right for me though! Bring on the summer!). The band came across as if they play live a lot, with the entire band coming out and putting on a full on performance. Guitarist John Jo Clapper was just a bundle of energy bouncing every where whilst throwing out riffs with ease.

Their opening number “Stand & Shout” put me in mind of “Don’t Just Stand There” era Haywire, a good fun opening song which grabbed the audience’s attention. Olly then introduced the next song as the title track to their upcoming album “Carry the Flame” which made me, and judging by the crowd’s reaction, take the band really seriously. An absolutely amazing song which instantly made me think why the hell are these guys not better known? This song will definitely win them many fans amongst the AOR community.

Now the band didn’t announce every song they played so I’m having to guess some of the title’s and that goes for the next number which I’m either guessing is called “All Around The Room” or “Any Hole’s A Goal”, my money’s on the first one! Although Olly didn’t name the song he did say John had made up a dance for this one, so cue rather embarrassing boyband-esque dancing. I’m sure this made a few shake their heads but the band seemed determined to enjoy their set regardless of what anyone thought. A good upbeat song, slightly dodgy lyric’s though, not one for the ladies!

The next two songs for me were the highlight of their set - the heartbreaking yearning of “Tired of Being Alone” which is a killer AOR ballad & “Man On The Run” which was full on rockin’ AOR number - with an infectious big riff and a big sing-along chorus. Lyrically perhaps not the new Keats, but it’s catchy as hell and is more importantly FUN!

They finish their set with cover of Toto’s “Hold The Line” which they dedicate to Mike Porcaro of Toto who has recently been diagnosed with Motor Neurone Disease. Toto will be doing a few select dates in Europe as charity fundraisers; these will be the last Toto dates ever! Not a surprising choice of cover song given the huge Toto influence’s the band show. They went down exceedingly well with the audience and I expect BIG things, seriously, check ‘em out!

The last time I saw John Waite live he didn’t take to the stage till midnight, and after a very long day I was very much in need of my bed! Having said that I enjoyed his performance past the matchsticks, but tonight I expected a laid back performance and selection of songs. For the second time tonight I was absolutely, no arguing about it, dead wrong! John and his band delivered a full on ROCK N ROLL show.

It was an amazingly enjoyable gig! John’s humour and interaction with the crowd made the gig that little bit more special and intimate. I spent the night smirking just as much as I was a rockin’! The band John has assembled around him are insanely talented musicians - Tim Hogan on bass with Billy Wilkes on drums who’s done hard time, or so John jests with us! I can’t enthuse enough about John’s ultra talented guitar wizard Luis Maldonado though, the guy was spectacular. With the band having no keyboard player he even managed to recreate some of the keyboard licks with the guitar on a number of songs!

John opened with “Change”, which at first seemed a little off, first song jitters maybe, some sound issues possibly. However, after this song the sound, as it always is at the Robin, was top notch. The first Babys song of the night “Back On My Feet” set a precedent for how the evening was a going to unfold, with its full on classic rock swagger and powerful and punchy chorus!

I’m a massive fan of John’s album’s with Bad English, so was hoping for a huge chunk of those songs unfortunately but not detrimental to an amazing set list we only got two. The big Dianne Warren penned ballad “When I See You Smile”, got a great crowd reaction and I’m pretty sure it wasn’t just me singing along! And also “Best of What I Got” which also received some of the biggest cheers of the night!

They also did a few cover songs Jimi Hendrix’s “All Along the Watchtower” & oddly for a solitary encore “Rock N Roll” by Led Zeppelin, which was quite an apt end to what was a kick ass show!

There were a lot of Babys songs in the set list including “Every Time I Think Of You”, “Head First”, “Midnight Rendezvous” & “Isn’t It Time“. Judging by reactions to these songs there must have been a hell of a lot of Babys fans in the crowd as they lapped it up and cheered aplenty! Solo wise we got powerful ballad “In Dreams”, “Mr Wonderful” and “Suicide Life” which John introduces as being about the Hollywood scene.

It’s very hard to pick a highlight as it was such a high quality show. I was enchanted by “Encircled” with its big infectious riff, the sort of song that makes you wish you could play a guitar! Or what about the obvious “Missing You” which had the crowd lifting the roof off (come on now sing along with me “…and there’s a heart breaking down this long distance line tonight, I ain’t missing you at all, Since you’ve been gone away , I ain’t missing you!!!”).

However, I think my highlight has to go the amazing performance the band gave on “How Did I Get By Without You” absolutely stunning - John’s vocals were on form and Luis’s guitar playing was nigh on perfect!

As you always get at gigs people shout out requests, and given the accents people had come from quite a wide range of places. Given that this was 1 of only 3 gigs in England, it shouldn’t be overly surprising that people had travelled great distances to see John. Although I found all the posh accents unnerving and felt the desire to shout out my own request just so John realised he was actually in the Black Country, not somewhere posh like Brum (that‘s Birmingham to you educated folk!). Talking of fans coming from wide and far, a woman next to me shouted a request which John picked up on immediately thinking she was American although she did say she was from Canada but now lives here, so that’s quite a distance albeit it not specifically travelled to see John play a gig in the best bit of the Midlands.

It was good to see John get such a warm and vocal appreciation tonight, he genuinely seemed happy with not only the turnout but the reaction he got. He thanked the crowd on a number of occasions and in general showed a very humble side of himself. Hopefully given tonight’s reaction to what was an excellent and near faultless performance John will be back again soon and hopefully doing far more dates!