Since I moved to 'central' Jersey about a year ago, I decided to try a little experiment. Now only living about an hour and ten minutes away from Atlantic City and being extremely disappointed that I missed his most recent appearance at B.B. Kings in NYC, I decided to try for passes for John Waite's appearance at The House of Blues in the Showboat Casino, Atlantic City.
Not only was I able to score passes to the event itself, but his manager Christine Baronak and road manager Tim Hogan (who is also his bassist) were also kind enough to grant me an in-person interview as well. Now I was REALLY excited! So my wife Judy and I started our trek down to 'AC' at about 4p.m. Saturday afternoon figuring there would be MORE than enough time to get there and relax a bit before the 8p.m. show.
As I said in the beginning, though& this was an experiment and what I mean by that is, I wanted to see if it was more feasible now to attend and cover more Atlantic City events since I was so much closer. Well, turns out& it didn't make a difference because even on late Saturday afternoons, the Garden State Parkway was still flooded with all the 'sheep' who have nothing better to do than hang out at the Jersey shore.
After a three PLUS hour crawl, it was very clear this experiment was a failure and with the bad taste still fresh in our mouths, we made it into the venue with literally just minutes to spare before John hit the stage. Needless to say, Judy and I were both stressed out, pissed and all the excitement we initially had for the evening was pretty much drained and left behind on the pavement somewhere around Parkway exit 94! Then even MORE of a disappointment was when we found out we couldn't take any live shots due to casino regulations (but I managed to squeeze off a few before security approached me& lol!). So, we were bracing ourselves for the worst& but that would all soon change.
While he does play a lot of shows with a full band, we were pleasantly surprised when John began to strum the first notes of 'When I See You Smile' accompanied only by guitarist Jimmy Leahey and bassist Tim Hogan for an acoustic set. As the room began to glow with open cell phones (instead of the cigarette lighters which once cut the darkness during ballads back in the 80's& if you remember that!), the first thing that hit us was John's amazing voice. Even after all these years, this guy can still sing his ass off and when you're backed only by acoustic guitars and light bass; there really is little room for error. But not only can John still pull that off, but his voice maintained consistently brilliant throughout his entire set.
As the night progressed, the crowd was treated to hit after hit after hit& as well as some more obscure songs as well. In support of his latest release, a 'sort-of' greatest hits album entitled 'DOWNTOWN' featuring some new versions of his old classics, John captivated the audience with songs like 'In Dreams,' 'Whenever You Come Around,' 'Downtown,' and, of course, his timeless classic from 1984 'Missing You.' I found the combination of an acoustic set with some slightly new arrangements really breathed new life into songs that some people would consider perfect already.
To go along with the hits, the 'die-hards' were also treated to some more rarely performed tracks like 'The Bluebird Café' and 'New York City Girl' as well as a few of THE BABYS hits 'Isn't It Time,' 'Change,' and a tease of 'Every Time I Look At You' which, as John himself admitted would have sounded a bit odd acoustically had they gone beyond the first verse.
Finally rounding off his 60 minute set was John's 1995 hit 'How Did I Get by Without You' before reaching way back into the archives for 1978's 'Head First'& a more than fitting end to a set that did not disappoint. The only thing I would like to have seen was another song or two more from his BAD ENGLISH era& a time (I believe) John did some of his best work. But overall, this was just an amazing set by a timeless artist.
It was even enough that by the time the set reached its closing notes, we had forgotten all about the 3 hour trek down here and were actually able to relax and enjoy the rest of the evening. So was my experiment a failure after all? Not as long as it's for a performance like this. Plugged or un-plugged, John Waite is one performer you don't want to miss. And don't forget to check out my after-show interview with John HERE.
See more photos in our gallery HERE
When I See You Smile
New York City Girl
The Bluebird Café
Whenever You Come Around
Isn't It Time
Every Time I Look At You
How Did I Get By Without You