The Waterboys are essentially singer/guitarist Mike Scott and a very slick backing band of mostly American musicians these days. Their heyday was the second half of the 1980s and early 90s. I’ve always had a soft spot for them, because I love their two great tracks, “The Whole Of The Moon” and “Old England” – both of which are off their third album, “This Is The Sea” – and then the two Irish-influenced albums, “Fisherman’s Blues” and “Room to Roam”. Both those albums have special place in my heart.
So I leapt at the chance of going to see the band at the Roundhouse when my friend Dave suggested it.
Most of the songs they played were either recent or from the really early albums as far as I could tell. So I was wasn’t hugely familiar with the selection. But it didn’t matter; the musicianship was outstanding, the sound and the melodies sharp and infectious, the rhythms rooted in the rocking blues. A bit like Dylan going electric in the sixties. Mike Scott always had a Dylanesque twang in his singing, and it’s still there.
Towards the end we got a strident version of “Whole Of The Moon”, which the crowd greeted like an old friend. You play your favourites, you get the best reaction…
But what turned the concert from good to great was the encore. Mike returned to the stage in a black spangly jacket and we suspected something good was in the offing. Dave had mentioned at dinner beforehand that Prince had played “Whole Of The Moon” at Ronnie Scotts last year, and Mike Scott had returned the compliment on Chris Evans’ Radio 2 show by playing Prince’s mighty anthem, “Purple Rain”. Wouldn’t that be great if he played it tonight?….
And he gave it the full treatment. The big guitar solo was turned into a virtuoso violin workout from Steve Wickham – shades of Jimmy Page putting the violin bow to his guitar on “Dazed and Confused”. Awesome. And then Mike reclaimed one of the loveliest songs on “Room To Roam”, “How Long Will I Love You”, from Ellie Goulding. I somehow had missed out on the fact that it had recently been a big hit for Ellie. I listened to her version on Spotify when I got home – over 32 million listens! Hope that’s earning the Waterboys some decent royalties.
And finally – and I’m so glad it made it – “Fisherman’s Blues”. A truly joyous romp. The memories came swirling back. The crowd danced like they hadn’t before. Wonderful. One of my favourite songs from anywhere.
Such an uplifting end to a really enjoyable concert. Mike Scott is still carrying the torch…