Album Oriented Rock - John Waite (who played at Poor David's Pub in Dallas Tuesday night) has been a prime voice in the genre since the 1970s with The Babys through the '80s and '90s with Bad English and his own solo career. He has written and performed many songs that are just about ubiquitous on Classic Rock stations and he has a very distinctive voice that ranks up there with Paul Rogers and Rod Stewart as capable of rocking out or putting across sincere ballads.
Waite, bassist Tim Hogan, guitarist Shaun Hague, and drummer Rondo came out strong with two tracks from his latest album, 2011's resurgent Rough & Tumble. The title song is a strong rocker that got the show off on an energetic start and "Better Off Gone" is one of those mid-tempo love-lost ballads that Waite has perfected. It is also one of several compositions on "Rough & Tumble" that he co-wrote with the lead guitarist of Matchbox Twenty, Kyle Cook.
"Isn't It Time" was Waite's first foray into the rich catalog of Babys songs. Originally performed with prominent organ and female backing vocals, Hague and Rondo gamely performed the backing vocals. They then segued into another lovely ballad called "In Dreams" which came from a movie soundtrack for "True Romance." Throughout the night, Waite would alternate playing rhythm guitar to beef up the sound or do just sing like the prototypical front man he is.
Mentioning that the audience was pretty crazy for a Tuesday night in Dallas, Waite said he was going to perform a song by Bob Dylan. Soon the band broke into a blazing cover of "All Along the Watchtower" that stood up nicely to the original and the better-known Jimi Hendrix version. Guitarist Shaun Hague and his Gibson Les Paul were featured prominently on this song and he played it ferociously. This was definitely one of the high light performances of the evening.
The trend of a hard rocking song followed by a more sensitive ballad was repeated with another Waite/Cook composition called "If You Ever Get Lonely" - a song that would have been a Top 40 hit in times when AOR dominated radio. Waite then performed a couple of songs that had ties to Nashville - Vince Gill's "Whenever You Come Around" and a song about a famed songwriter venue in Music City called "Bluebird Cafe." The latter was earnestly performed with just Waite and Hague.
The band came back out firing on all cylinders with driving takes on "Back On My Feet Again" and a rougher version of a song from his latest called "Evil." They then went back to the mid-'90s to revisit ballads "Imaginary Girl" and "Downtown." The latter was co-written with the excellent melodicist Glen Burtnik and was beautifully done - another highlight.
The boys took a breather as drummer Rondo got a spotlight solo - something not done at Poor David's Pub with any frequency, one hazards to guess. However, it did not overstay it's welcome and of course it led into the juxtaposed #1 Pop hit "Missing You." This song has also been released as a duet with Alison Krauss back in 2007 and peaked at #34 on the Country chart. Going from that massive solo career hit, Waite and the band flew into the Babys' classic "Head First" which got the crowd even more fired up.
The encore started soon after and Waite came on stage solo to lead the crowd sing-along to the Bad English über-ballad "When I See You Smile." Finally the band finished with another Babys classic "Every Time I Think of You" that was written by the same team (Jack Conrad and Ray Kennedy) that penned "Isn't It Time" - both songs having gone to #13 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart.
Waite proved that his recent material held up very nicely to his established catalog and that his vocals are just as strong now as they were when he burst out of England in the '70s. His band performed with excellent energy and precision. Not a bad night for a Tuesday in Big D!