The Orion

A night of sentimental feeling with The Waifs

George Johnston

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“Come away with me,” The Waifs sang on Tuesday night at Laxson Auditorium in a tour to promote their new album “Beautiful You.” The five-member Australian band rocked the auditorium with an hour and a half of bluegrass-folk tunes.

Vocalist Vikki Thorn began the show with “Come Away,” followed by her sister Donna Simpson singing “I’m In London Still,” while lead guitarist Josh Cunningham took his turn with “Up All Night.” For most of the night, the pattern of Thorn, Simpson then Cunningham was followed.

The playlist for the night switched between slow-paced soulful songs to upbeat folk; a clever move by The Waifs because it allowed the show a nice, even flow. When Simpson sang a tune about the ravages of methamphetamine on people, Thorn followed up with a quick folk beat about growing up in a small Australian fishing community.

It took a while for The Waifs to warm up to the Laxson audience, but when the chemistry between band and audience was found, The Waifs opened up with some personal stories about certain songs.

Before playing “Bridal Train,” Thorn told audience members the song was about her and Simpson’s grandparents’ romance during World War 2. One could hear the history come alive with the soul Thorn put into her voice.

The show took a religious turn for a moment when Cunningham sang “Temptation,” an engrossing New Orleans blues-like melody about Jesus Christ’s 40-day struggle with temptation and the devil.

Along with playing both the electric and acoustic guitar, Cunningham played the banjo. It gave the sense The Waifs were actually a bluegrass band from the hills of Alabama. Cunningham wrote and sang some of the best songs of the night like “Gillian,” a love letter to his mother.

“If you weren’t my mother, I’d make you my wife,” he said. It’s sweet that he has such a close relationship with his mother, but that line’s just begging to be misinterpreted.

Thorn and Simpson were something to be noted as well. Thorn, aside from having the talent to switch singing from with an Australian to American accent, can blow a mean harmonica. She told a bittersweet story about learning to play the harmonica to cheer up her father in the hospital. It took the audience by surprise, but endeared The Waifs to them.

The real soul of the band is Simpson and the wonderful voice she has. It was a pleasure to hear her sing.

“When I Die” concluded the show, leaving the impression of a warm summer night with shrimp on the barbie.

George Johnston can be reached at [email protected] or @gjohnston786 on Twitter.

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A night of sentimental feeling with The Waifs