Back in the day I was (and still am) obsessed with Patti Smith. I remember Waterboys singer Mike Scott talking on a radio show about how much she inspired him.
At the time Mike was writing for a fanzine called Jungleland. He knew Patti was in London for some gigs, a phone call later and he’s got free tickets and an audience with Ms Smith.
Then I heard A Girl called Johnny from the Waterboys’ first album, a direct reference to Patti. I was impressed with both his tenacity and taste in music.
Mike Scott formed The Waterboys in 1983 and initially drew on rock n roll and spirituality for their inspiration. But as the decade progressed they kept the spirituality and introduced a more folk inspired sound. This eventually spawned Fisherman’s Blues (1988), a much loved classic album that oozed Celtic class and steadfastly refuses to age.
The band split in 1993 and Mike pursued a successful solo career until 2000 when he and long time genius fiddle player Steve Wickham reconvened the band.
Their popularity, especially in a live context, was never in doubt, and tonight’s gig emphasised that. With a full band of ace musicians he tore into the back catalogue with gusto. There was some epic renditions of old favourites, including the aforementioned A Girl called Johnny, Don’t Bang the Drum, an emotional Old England and a spectacular rendition of This is the Sea.
It wasn’t all about kissing the past’s ass though. The newer material stood up just fine. My Wanderings in the Weary Land, Dennis Hopper, and In My Time on Earth all proving that Scott can still grasp the muse and wring its neck.
It was an absolute joy to hear Wickham’s violin playing during the show and special mention must be made of keyboardist extraordinaire Brother Paul Brown. He looks like Sauron and plays like Jerry Lee Lewis on acid
They did two sets with a beer break in the middle and of course as they approached the finishing line the songs became more frenetic, a sensational Medicine Bow, a fiery uplifting I’ll Be Your Enemy and of course the classic single Whole of the Moon, which got everybody off their feet. It finished with Fisherman’s Blues.
Scott is older and greyer but he’s still got the big music.
Words by John Haylock, pictures by Arthur Hughes