Entertainment Music

Monday 19 March 2018

folk rock

Mike Scott of The Waterboys.
Mike Scott of The Waterboys.
Ed Power

Ed Power

iveagh gardens, Dublin

The Waterboys' loamy, windswept sound dubbed the 'big music' by leader Mike Scott has swerved in and out of fashion down through the decades.

For a while, even Scott seemed to go a little cool on the project, putting The Waterboys on hiatus in an ultimately futile stab at reinvention as a shaggy solo troubadour. However, the band is currently on an upward trajectory -- a recent suite of musical adaptations of the work of WB Yeats is eliciting approving noises from fans and critics.

If Twitter is to be believed, Bruce Springsteen is in the audience, taking time off after his two-night stand at the RDS. At 62, he's older than the average attendee but not by much, as The Waterboys are one of those groups whose appeal has conspicuously failed to trickle down to a younger generation.

What do the kids know? With his Worzel Gummidge hair and ancient furrows, Scott is a singular frontman, his seriousness a manifestation of a desire to do justice to his songbook. Flanking him, his ensemble includes fiddle player Steve Wickham, a Dubliner with a spiky beard, mischievous demeanour and beautifully mournful style.

Later they will be joined by chanteuse Katie Kim, her little-girl-lost croon injecting a gauzy, wistful sensibility into the music.

At the moment, Scott's passions clearly lie with An Appointment With Mr Yeats, his paean to the great poet. Nonetheless, he's astute enough not to labour the point and confines himself to a curtailed run-through of the record, most notably a husky rendering of 'September 1913' and a keyboard splashed interpretation of 'The Lake Isle of Innisfree'.

You have to admire his chutzpah in daring to put his gloss on one of the 20th century's pre-eminent wordsmiths. Then again, Scott can weave a poetry of his own, as is obvious as he dusts down his pagan exultation 'Glastonbury Song' and student-disco standard 'The Whole of the Moon', an enormous floppy hug of a tune that stops just short of gushingly earnest.

The encore is given over to perhaps his finest moment, the wave-tossed, misty-eyed 'Fisherman's Blues', written when Scott , in self-imposed exile in the west of Ireland, gazed out at the sea and wondered what sort of life he might have led outside music.

It's a proper cloudscraper of a song, epic in the truest sense. Watching on, Springsteen surely feels something akin to a twinge of envy.

Irish Independent

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