The Waifs, Mama Kin @ The Canberra Theatre, Canberra (24/2/11)

Thursday night. The Waifs are in town. Mama Kin is in tow. Need I say more?

After a brief hiatus, which included moving to the States, family and life in general, The Waifs are back in Australia. This time round they stop in Canberra to promote their latest album, Temptation, at their first theatre gig for the tour.

The Canberra Theatre lobby filled quickly with punters; enthusiastic, albeit eclectic. Scanning the room, there were all ages ranging from six months to 70, and as quickly as they showed up, they skolled their drinks and filed into the theatre. The room was crammed with excitement and anticipation.

The lights dim.

It’s a rarity to have a great musician as the support act, let alone a great all-round performer as the support act. Mama Kin is that said “rarity”. From the moment she, her brother Michael and George (a.k.a. George-ous the Gorgeous), walked onto the stage, they had the crowd eating out of the palm of their hands. Mama Kin entertained the crowd not only with her music – raspy, blues and roots with a hint of reggae at times – but with her funny and witty anecdotes. Stories about her kids, how the voice in her head has a broad Australian accent and the comparisons with the previous night’s crowd at the Moruya RSL. Even their sibling banter was endearing, particularly when Mama Kin was ripping on her bro for snoring, to which Michael intelligently retorted, “You’re a knob.”

It was also great to hear the tales of inspiration behind her music. One particular song My Friend, was inspired by a close friend who helped Mama Kin get through a tough period in her life. Other fabulous songs the trio performed included To My Table, Whistle and a Light and a personal favourite, Tore My Heart Out. It was also amazing to be apart of some sincere and well-received, audience participation – I still finding myself humming, ”…beat at your window, holler at your door.”

After a brief interlude, it was onto the main act.

Striding onto the stage, The Waifs got straight into it, sucking the crowd in with their charms. They were class. All class. The band tore up the room with their very blues and roots-influenced melodies, three-part harmonies, jam-infused style, all the while showcasing their signature Aussie undertones and themes. Vikki, Donna and Josh, along with David on drums and Ben on double-bass duties, are as phenomenal as ever.

The Waifs treated the audience to a range of oldies, newies and bluesy tracks, including Bridal Train from the EP of the same name. Some of the highlights from albums past included a jazzed version of Sun Dirt Water, with some sweet double bass action from Ben and vocal artistry by Vikki. The band played old faithfuls like Lighthouse, Eternity, and London Still, each song whipping the crowd into a frenzy.

The band spoke freely of their homesickness for Australia, with particular reference to missing the uniqueness of our bird calls. An Aussie bird call-off contest ensued (Donna’s kookaburra call was always going to win that one!). There were some fabulous moments of connection with the audience. One being a lovely moment where an old tour van, veteran of Australian road trips past, was kindly given to an audience member, Sarah, to take away from its retirement in a paddock. All of a sudden, Sarah (not “van-receiving” Sarah, but “My name’s Sarah too” Sarah) was up on stage jamming with the band. The Waifs were good sports and gave Sarah a tambourine to play during the song. After a kiss on the cheek, a strum of the guitar, Sarah was swiftly (and rightly) kicked off the stage.

The only disappointment the entire evening was that the new Waifs album was being officially released the day after this amazing performance. However, a very very minor criticism for what was an excellent gig! The audience was still treated to several numbers from their newest offering, including the title track, Temptation, Some Days, Falling, Beautiful Night and the set ending Moses and the Lamb. From the looks of it, the punters liked what they heard and were going to buy the album regardless (including me!). Consider appetite whetted!

The Waifs then returned to the stage to play a couple more songs, Goodbye Darlin’ from the new album and Highway One from their earlier work Up All Night.

The night had come to end (no one really wanted the night to be over just yet). But the nation’s capital will be hoping that it’s not too long before The Waifs come back to visit again.