Like or dislike him you certainly cannot ignore Mike Scott. From ground-breaking albums and spellbinding tours to less distinguished recordings and misguided line ups, The Waterboys, under various guises, have managed to survive for over 30 years.
Scott’s song writing has, without doubt, hit a purple patch in recent years culminating in the excellent An Appointment with Mr. Yeats in 2011 and the equally engaging Modern Blues recorded in Nashville earlier this year. For the subsequent tour Scott has managed to employ some of the strongest session musicians in the industry, all who were involved in the recording of the album. More to the point musicians compliment Scott himself and "the fellow that fiddles" (Steve Wickham) has resulted in what must be the strongest Waterboy’s touring band yet.
The current line up has legendary Muscle Shoals session player David Hood, at the tender age of 72, on bass guitar. Memphis Tennessee keyboard player extraordinaire Brother Paul, Austin resident and member of Black Joe Lewis and The Honeybears Zach Ernst on lead guitar and Professor of Music at the Royal Academy of Music, Ralph Salmins on drums.
The Vicar Street show could very well be described as a homecoming welcome for Steve Wickham. Taking the stage sans Wickham the band launch into Destinies Entwined, the powerful opening track from Modern Blues. Midway through the song and to rapturous applause, Wickham dances on to the stage and launches into an electric fiddle solo together with his customary twirls. At this early stage you get the feeling it’s going to be a very special evening.
Still a Freak and A Girl Called Johnny follow in quick succession together with a glorious rendition of We Will Not Be Lovers. Scott then dedicates Nearest Thing to Hip to the disappearing independent record stores and coffee shops and displays a photograph of a coffee shop off Harcourt Street that he used to frequent in the 80’s. "Best breakfast in Dublin, particularly when you staggered in at 2am"he professes.
"That’s enough rock and roll, we’re going to slow things down a bit" Scott announces tongue in cheek before a blistering delivery of Medicine Bow from This is The Sea. The band members then exit stage leaving Scott and Wickham to perform an extended version of Don’t Bang the Drum.
What is particularly evident throughout the show is how well the newer material works live. Of course favourites such as The Whole of The Moon and Glastonbury Song are particularly well received. However, the highlight of the set is the final song Long Strange Golden Road, the ten minute closing track on Modern Blues. The musical exchanges between Wickham and Brother Paul are as breathtaking visually as they are musically all evening but excel here as the song merges into the Solomon Burke song Everybody Needs Somebody. The encores that follow are Fisherman’s Blues and a sublime delivery of Purple Rain.
Apparently Mike Scott decides at each show whether or not the audience deserve a second encore. Vicar Street on Thursday 5th November was most definitely a second encore evening.
Review and photography by Declan Culliton