As a veteran rocker in his fifth decade of performing, John Waite knows how to consistently put on good shows.
The British singer-songwriter, known for his work with The Babys and Bad English as well as his solo hits from the ’80s such as “Missing You,” most looks forward to longer runs of two or three weeks, when he and the band can really sink their teeth in and work up a good show over a string of dates.
“The shows just get sort of stunning when you’ve actually been out there a few days in a row and start to tour — you reach this ethereal kind of place,” he said from his home in Santa Monica, Calif.
But every once in a while, Waite and his band still have their bad days.
When: 8 tonight
Where: Troy Savings Bank Music Hall, 30 Second St., Troy
How Much: $28, $22, $15
More Info: 273.0038, www.troymusichall.org
“We played a gig once in Ohio somewhere with a couple of big names, and we were at it last minute,” Waite said, laughing. “We showed up and just walked out, and my mic wasn’t turned on, the keyboards didn’t work at all. The drums kept working themselves towards the edge of the riser — they weren’t bolted down or anything. And the guitar kept going in and out, too. The only person who didn’t have any trouble at all was Tim Hogan, our bass player, and he was new, so he was the most nervous.
“After we did the first song, the audience was screaming, ‘Turn it up!’ ” Waite continued. “And we looked over at the sound board, and this Hells Angels guy was just standing there. Yeah, it was pretty cool. So we just walked off; we couldn’t do anything with him.”
Incidents like these are few and far between. “Thank God that only happens once every 10 years,” Waite said.
He and his band are following up their most recent tour of Europe with a two-week run in the U.S. that began this week. They’ll be at the Troy Savings Bank Music Hall tonight.
Waite has been relying more and more on his live show over the years, ever since the release of his 2007 album “Downtown: Journey of a Heart” that scored him a second-time-around hit with a rerecorded “Missing You” featuring Alison Krauss.
In the latter half of the 2000s, he lost interest in recording. A string of albums he recorded in the early 2000s, including 2004’s “The Hard Way” and 2001’s “Figure in a Landscape,” had quickly fizzled due to record label woes — despite Waite considering them to be some of his favorite recordings.
“I just hit a run of bad luck, and you can only have that happen to you a few times before you just think, [expletive] it, really,” he said. “What goes into a record, if you’re not just throwing stuff out there to sell records, is a big commitment. You’re opening your heart to everybody, and the stress of it, combined with the joy of having it out there, it’s a big lot to take into your life.”
He’ll have new material when he comes to the Music Hall, however. Last winter, he released his 10th solo studio album, the aptly titled “Rough & Tumble,” which follows the 2010 live document “In Real Time.” Despite his trepidation at releasing new material, Waite has found some of his biggest career success with this new record.
“I’m getting some of the best reviews I’ve had in my life, the most positive reception I’ve ever had in Europe,” he said. “This is bigger than Babys, better than ‘Missing You.’ It’s very satisfying to get that. No matter what people say — ‘Oh, I’m not reading reviews’ — they do, and when someone you think is a good writer goes into depth, like, ‘Yeah, this is the stuff,’ you can order that second pint of Guinness and put your feet up.”
The album might not have even come into existence if it hadn’t been for Matchbox Twenty lead guitarist Kyle Cook, who co-wrote four of the album’s 11 tracks. Waite and Cook met through a mutual musician friend, Jeff Whorley, who had been lobbying for the two to work together for some time.
“He kept saying, ‘I know Kyle, you should work with him,’ and I kept saying, ‘Yeah, yeah, yeah,’ changing the subject,” Waite said. “Everyone wants to work with you or write a song with you, and I [didn’t] really know the guy. Finally, we met, cold, in a writing room in Nashville, and after we wrote a song together in the first five minutes, we went from there. It was a very organic, natural, mutual admiration society. We just got on and got the work done with a lot of fun.”
Initially, the songs the two recorded together in Nashville were to make up an EP. Waite left for a European tour while the songs were being mixed, and when he returned his label began clamoring for a full album.
“I was all pissed off about it — I had written it to be an EP; it was, to me, a perfect circle,” Waite said. “I was very, very overwhelmed; I thought it would never see the light of day, so I just let go of it, really.”
Fitting the vibe
Eventually, he and his touring band went into a rehearsal studio in Los Angeles and began writing new material. The new songs, including the roaring title track, seemed to fit the raw vibe of the material Waite wrote with Cook.
“I sifted through notebooks and came up with seven songs, and we cut everything in three days, I sang it for a day and we did little touch-ups. It was the exact opposite of what we had done in Nashville, but it seemed to fit.”
Taking a cue from all the road work documented on “In Real Time,” “Rough & Tumble” is quite possibly the rawest recording of Waite’s career — even more ballad-y material such as single “If You Ever Get Lonely” is positively brimming with hard-edged guitar riffs. The album’s sound is Waite’s reaction to classic rock — for the record, he’s not a fan.
“It’s very polished — anything called ‘classic’ is compartmentalized and dead — how about that?” he said. “The best I sound is when I’m live, and I tried to keep that as a yardstick for the record.”