Reviewed on Wednesday May 28

The night started with perhaps the most polite queue in the history of the Metro. A throng of people snaked down from the foyer and onto the street, each bubbling with excitement at the prospect of seeing The Waifs appear live again after a hiatus of three years, and each oddly considerate of their neighbours and other pedestrians trying to walk around them. Suffice to say, not the usual crowd of bored and surly patrons waiting to catch a midweek gig.

Proceedings began with the unexpected announcement that Waifs-mate Donna Simpson had broken her ankle while walking to the gig – distracted by Facebook, as it turned out – and might not make it back to the venue in time. Unfortunate news, but the night was swiftly under way with support act Heath Cullen taking the stage, his songs plucked from albums old and imminent. Cullen is a tremendous frontman, with the kind of arresting presence you usually associate with more established entertainers. His voice and style is difficult to pin down, a kind of Paul-Kelly-meets-Leonard-Cohen blend. Though the audience (respectful as everyone was on the footpath) was unusually loud during his set, he nevertheless delivered some great numbers, of which ‘Silver Wings’ was possibly the standout.

When The Waifs did emerge, to the surprised delight of the crowd Donna was indeed present, albeit doped to the eyeballs on morphine and ferried onstage in a wheelchair she’d liberated from St. Vincent’s. Though it’s probably not great advice to sustain a debilitating injury prior to performing, it certainly made for an entertaining set as Donna surged bravely on, confessing to the cheering crowd that she hadn’t played so shit in years and poking slurred fun at her sibling Vikki Thorn’s ministrations.

Morphine notwithstanding, the band has some truly outstanding songs in its catalogue, and harmonies that strike home like a bell. ‘Bridal Train’ was a clear crowd favourite and saw most of the venue sing sweetly along, as did ‘London Still’. A new song was revealed, sung by Josh Cunningham and called, at a guess,‘Born To Love’, which went down rather well. In all, this was one of the most quality performances I’ve seen in quite a while; ideally it won’t take another three years until we see The Waifs breaking bones on Sydney sidewalks once again.

Oh, and Vicki Thorn on harmonica has to be seen to be believed. Smitten.

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