By Chyrisse Tabone, Rock At Night Tampa
Live Review: John Waite – Chasco Fiesta 2023, New Port Richey, Florida – April 1, 2023
Rock At Night has long been a fan of John Waite and reviews his concerts whenever we can. You can find a review of his recent documentary John Waite: The Hard Way HERE or read it in our current Winter 2023 print issue. We circled the date on the calendar after hearing about his appearance at the Chasco Fiesta in New Port Richey, Florida.
The concert, presented by Ruth Eckerd Hall on the Road, was held at Sims Park, adjacent to the renovated 1920s-era Hacienda Hotel. Plenty of food trucks served funnel cakes, tacos, and cold drinks, which came in handy since the temperature was balmy at 80 degrees.
While I waited for the concert to begin, I chatted with a mature and stylishly dressed woman who confided it was the “first concert she had been to in a long time.” She confessed that “concerts are just too expensive” nowadays, but the festival provided an opportunity to see classic rock music.
At 7 p.m., an emcee stepped on stage to make a few announcements before addressing the crowd to “stand to attention for the American anthem.” This was different since it was not the beginning of a sports game, graduation, or civic event.
Finally, John Waite came out on stage, wearing a blue pin-striped suit and round sunglasses, as the sun glared before its final flare. Flanked by long-time guitarist Mark Ricciardi, bass player Tim Hogan, and drummer Alan Childs, he performed Spider’s “Change,” The Babys’ “Midnight Rendezvous,” and Bad English’s “When I See You Smile.”
Waite moved and gestured, looking very fit for 70. His voice was beautifully raspy and powerful—as I remember from the 70s and 80s when his videos were mainstays on MTV. And he certainly satisfied the Baby Boomer and Gen X crowd with all the era’s hits. After the radio hit “Missing” was performed, many cheered, whistled, and stood in approval.
As we listened to “Tears” and gazed around at the crowd, a silver-haired lady dressed in purple gleefully danced. A waft of the aroma of pot briefly lingered, and many heads bobbed to the music. Throughout the concert, I noticed an abundance of women singing along to music while their male counterparts sat expressionless.
Waite asked the audience, “Does anybody like country music?” A few “yeah’s” were heard as he laughed saying, “Well, we are in Florida!”
Waite continued telling a story about working with Allison Krauss in Nashville. The two recorded a duet of “Missing You” in 2007. Both were at the Grand Ole Opry getting ready to perform a Vince Gill tune when they noticed him walking on stage and plugging his guitar into an amplifier. Apparently, the Krauss/Waite version was “in a different key” than the original, and they “did a pretty good job but messed up Vince’s evening.”
At that point, Waite began singing the country-tinged song “Whenever You Come Around.” I could see a woman one row ahead of me, closing her eyes with her head tilted back and mouthing the words. I was in awe of the length of time Waite could hold notes and perform such a moving rendition of the song.
He introduced the next song saying, “When this came out I was 23. We had a string section and African-American backup girls. Tonight, we are on a budget. We’ll play it like it is Woodstock.” Listening to “Every Time I Think of You” by the Babys brought back high school memories of riding in mom’s Buick Riviera. Had he performed “Isn’t It Time?” I would have been totally catapulted back to the late-70s.
Plugging his recent documentary, he mentioned it was available on Facebook, Amazon, Etc. He said, “It is edgy. Like a porno movie. John Waite: The Hard Way.” He then got the audience into a dancing mode, saying, “Get out of those fuckin’ seats,” and tore into the Babys’ “Back on My Feet Again.” Everyone rose to their feet, waved arms, danced, and sang along. Then, very apropos, I observed a man raising a crutch leg in the air.
The retro party ended with a rip-roaring rendition of Led Zeppelin’s “Whole Lotta’ Love,” much to the audience’s approval. Waite’s voice and version of the classic blows away Robert Plant’s original (in my humble opinion). Interestingly, both artists have recorded with Allison Krauss.
The John Waite concert was a 60-minute joy ride of great music by one of today’s best voices and songwriters. Catch him on one of his solo gigs–and you will agree.
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