in performance: john waite

john waite.

john waite.

Initially, it looked like a repeat performance last night at the Christ the King Oktoberfest when the rains railed down early into veteran pop vocalist John Waite’s headlining set. While similar conditions (no storms, just episodes of steady solid rain that transformed the faithful turnout into a pack of bopping umbrellas) shut down Friday’s set by the BoDeans after 35 minutes, Waite braved the environment and was rewarded. Around the time he offered a toughened up version of his first Top 20 single, 1982’s Change, the precipitation relented and the singer headed into the home stretch of a set that ably showcased close to four decades worth of material.

While Waite’s popularity centers primarily on a string of late ‘70s and ‘80s recordings, all of last night’s material – from vintage turns like Change to comparatively recent works like the 2011 power ballad If You Ever Get Lonely – shred any hint of nostalgia. Credit that to a keyboard-less backup trio that boasted Matchbox 20 guitarist Kyle Cook. The band streamlined the synth-savvy pop of Waite’s glory years and instead emphasized the leaner rock phrasing of his newer music.

The career-defining 1984 hit Missing You, offered late in the set, still possessed a crisp pop flair. Still, Waite didn’t seem to be coasting. Then again, at age 63, his vocal stamina hasn’t dipped since the ‘80s, so he still scaled the song’s soaring tenor verses with ease.

In fact, Waite seemed determined to showcase just how well preserved his vocal chops were by closing with a cover of the Led Zeppelin staple Whole Lotta Love. While the interpretation didn’t win him points for originality in terms of repertoire, a pop artist viewed by many as an ‘80s memory could do worse than capably tackle the shrieks and shouts of such a classic. As such, it was tough to view Waite last night as anything less than a rock star of ageless ability.

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