Live Review: The Waifs – Enmore Theatre (02.26.2011)

The Waifs arrive on stage excited, and clearly happy to be back in Sydney, as they remind us throughout the show. Their new album Temptation will be released on 4th March, and tonight the set-list is heavy with new songs.
The funky guitar and harmonica solos are still there, as has become their trademark over the years, and each song they sing has a long history behind it. It’s a shame these songs are not well known yet, and often leave the crowd distracted, talking amongst themselves.

It’s not until ‘Lighthouse’ from 2003 album Up All Night that the crowd show any sign of life, and start to sing along, louder than singer Vikki Thorn in some parts. There are cheers during the harmonica solo, and her sister Donna Simpson jokes: “Everyone loves a pregnant woman on the harmonica!”

The Waifs have always been storytellers. Their songs are an insight into their relationships, their fears, travels and their history. Donna stops during London Still to reminisce of her time living in Bondi Beach, and excitedly points out her friends in the crowd. She says: “Even my old boss from the Mexican Restaurant is here!”

New song ‘Falling’ is introduced as the first happy love song Donna has written, and wins the crowd over with the light melody and pretty lyrics.
Other new songs ‘Beautiful Night’ and ‘Goodbye Darlin’ get a good reception, but it’s clear the crowd are hanging out for the older, better known songs.
‘Highway One’ is met with cheers and claps during another long harmonica solo and the two girls behind me start to hug and sway. ‘Gillian’ has everyone singing “Gillian if you weren’t my mother I would make you my wife,” a line that still makes me stop to think when I hear it.

Vikki introduces the song ‘Bridal Train’, and while most are familiar of the story behind it, there is another important lesson to be learnt. It seems the lyrics published in the EP were wrong and Vikki needs to set it straight. The words are not “leapt aboard the bridal train,” as published, but “wept aboard the bridal train.”

Donna starts to tell a story about her son, but is interrupted by shouts for “Crazy Train!” The song that has been their signature for many years was missed tonight. Amidst a set-list heavy with new songs, it would have been a welcome classic to sing and clap along to. The Waifs have fallen off the ‘Crazy Train’, and it is a notable absence.

Donna and Josh Cunningham finish together with a quietly beautiful version of ‘Rescue’, leaving behind a subdued crowd.

Temptationwill not be released until Friday, meaning many of the songs played tonight had not been heard before. With the experience and strength The Waifs have, I’m sure the songs from this album will eventually draw as much enthusiasm as favourites ‘Gillian’ and ‘London Still’.

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Justine McNamara

I'm an Australian living in New York. I work in marketing but I write about music, New York, and my own personal experiences.

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