John Waite, Malea McGuinness The Glass Cactus Nightclub December 2, 2011
Better than: Paying for a table at some douche-filled nightclub. Oh wait, that's what I was asked to do.
First off, I have to say that John Waite, former frontman for The Babys and Bad English, still puts on a great show. Stripped of keyboards and backing singers, Waite's super tight quartet played all the expected hits in front of a decent Friday night crowd at the Glass Cactus.
The biggest problem was with the staff at the venue. At 5:00, I called and was told that the opening act (Malea McGuinness) would go on at 7:00 and that John Waite would hit the stage at 8:30. "But doors open at 5:30," the lady on the phone told me. I asked myself why the hell would anyone show up at 5:30. I should have known then that this particular evening was going to be odd.
I arrived at 8:00, avoided the cost of valet parking and made my way in the venue. A nice young lady escorted me to the seating area and told me that I could sit anywhere I wanted. Problem was, all the tables closest to the stage were marked with a "reserved" sign. The only table seats were behind a column which made "watching" the concert out of the question.
I found the nice lady who had ushered us inside and asked if, since no one was sitting at ANY of those reserved tables, I could make myself at home. At this time, there were maybe 50 people in attendance. "Sure thing," the young lady told me as she sat me and a buddy at the table.
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Not five minutes later, a guy named Spence approached the table. "You the writer from the Observer?" Before I could answer, he asked, "You need anything?" Again, before I could answer, he told me, "This is a $200 table." Spence went on to explain that there would be more customers coming later on and that if I wanted to sit there, I would have to pony up $200. When I asked Spence if there was any place that I could sit and actually see the stage, he pointed to the balcony and assured me that there would be "good seats" up there.
Well, good ol' Spence was mistaken as the only tables in the balcony that weren't occupied did not offer a view of the stage. Resigned to my fate, I noticed it was just then 8:30, and took some comfort in the fact that the headliner would be going on any moment.
But opening act Malea McGuinness didn't start until 9:00! Some folks told me that they had been at the club since 5:30. Incredibly, these people had been nursing a few rounds of drinks for almost four hours.
Thankfully, Malea McGuinness and her band did a nice set of country pop and rock that managed to settle my nerves a bit. The Los Angeles-based,Texas-born singer/actress has a decent set of pipes and her surprise cover of Alice Cooper's "I Never Cry" almost made me forgive Spence for asking me to shell out $200 for a fucking table.
Anyhow, John Waite came on at a little past 10:00 and started his set off nicely with the solo hit "Change." From there, it was "Back on My Feet Again" from The Babys and "If You Ever Get Lonely," a fantastic song from Waite's recent effort Rough & Tumble. Later on came Bad English's best song, "Whenever You Come Around."
Waite's only stumble was an awkward cover of "All Along the Watchtower." His vocals sounded great, but the song's introspective tone is way beyond Waite's reach. He's still just too pretty to be singing, "None of them along the line know what any of it is worth."
Of course Waite did his biggest solo hit, "Missing You" and the audience swayed accordingly. By this time, a crowd of a hundred or so was in attendance, including, of all people, Vinnie Paul of Pantera fame.
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Waite's great vocals and his band's nicely roughed up playing helped save the night from people like Spence. I made the 30-minute trek home, humming songs, most of which I first heard nearly 30 years ago. Good songs last and the memories they evoke helped me overcome what could have easily been a god-awful experience.
Critic's Notebook Personal Bias: At 59, Waite looked in good shape and seemed in a great mood throughout the show. I sure hope he comes back to our area and that his booking agent decides to call the folks at the Granada or the Kessler.
Random Note: Two of the three even more expensive tables located directly on the dance floor remained empty throughout the night. I guess Spence was holding those in case Jerry Jones stopped by.
By the Way: Did I tell you that some guy named Spence actually asked me to pay $200 to sit at a table?