By Ken DeLaat
John Waite brought it last night.
He and his talented troupe of extraordinary musicians shook the Dogwood Center’s Main Stage to its very rafters with a combination of hard rockin’ relics, compelling acoustical adaptations and a way to make the most memorable of his hits feel like they were brand new to the audience.
The week before we had conducted an interview by phone with Waite for a previous story. He and the band were on the road with a day off and in a good mood and the experience led me to want to catch the group when they hit town Saturday. Familiar with the well known titles Waite is associated with I had not realized how long he has been plying his musical artistry whether through performing in a wide variety of venues across the country, collaborating with a lengthy list of highly regarded musicians or working with the song writing skills that have led to a prolific portfolio.
The interview went well and when asked why people should come to the show I liked his assurance of excellence in the reply.
“I mean, why shouldn’t they come? The band is on fire right now and everyone is having fun. It will be a good night”
He was spot on.
The foursome who took the stage following an intriguing opening set by Dan Correa was indeed on point from the start.
Mark Ricciardi put on a guitar clinic firing off some bone rattling riffs in a display of master musicianship. Percussionist Michael “Rhondo” Gilham went beyond the steady backbeat his work provided when he launched into a solo revealing not just the depth of his talent but an impressive endurance and bassist Tim Hogan fired off some innovative runs while providing a solid rhythmic foundation.
Then there was, of course, John Waite. He charmed, cajoled, and shared anecdotal snippets but most of all he did, indeed, bring it. I don’t know what it’s like to be performing a similar show night after night but the difficulty in doing so would seem to be harnessing enough enthusiasm to make it fresh each time. To draw enough energy and passion toward the process and put out a show worthy of your talents.
There was a level of polished professionalism on stage and yet Waite and the band seem to still embrace the wonder associated with live performance and the development of a relationship with a grateful audience.
Waite took us on a fun and fetching journey through some familiar past times with the well known music while adding new songs to my working knowledge of his repertoire.
All his selections were obviously familiar to the folks in the audience who commanded the front rows. They seemed to know every word and were unencumbered by any hesitation about accompanying Waite on vocals or breaking out some impromptu dance moves in the aisles or at their seats.
The entire crowd seemed to get into the spirit of the evening and Waite’s offerings proved to please the flock of followers familiar with his work and concerts as well as the neophytes such as Ms. Lil and myself.
Highlights were many and included an intriguing version of Dylan’s "All Along the Watchtower” and a great wrap up with Led Zep’s “Whole Lotta Love” but it was “Missing You” segueing nicely into “Back on My Feet Again” that truly captured the crowd.
John Waite promised a good show, a fun time and a band that was ‘on fire’.
And he certainly, unmistakably, delivered on all counts.
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