Live Review: The Waterboys

Source: The Herald, Scotland
Print date: 1st February 2011

The Waterboys
Glasgow Royal Concert Hall
Jan 31 2011
(Five Stars)

It takes a brave man to lure us out on a Sunday by rocking the works of a dead Irish poet. But The Waterboys’ Mike Scott succeeded, and then some.

An Audience with Mr Yeats saw Scott revive the literary icon’s verse and re-configure it via folk-rock anthems and chamber ballads. The project has been two decades in the making, and while Scott is clearly humbled and impassioned by the poet’s work, he is never in awe of it; he completely inhabits it. As a result, he is wholly convincing.

Backed by a faultless nine-strong band, Scott’s hair-raising take on Yeats’ politically-charged September 1913 was a lesson in glorious, resonant protest-rock; while his radical, bluesy reappraisal of The Lake Isle of Innisfree was one of many epic, freewheeling highlights.

The musical arrangements served to further animate Scott’s recitals: a solid rock set-up was augmented by woodwind, piano, brass and the incandescent Steve Wickham on fiddle. It was dramatic but never over-played: instruments would come and go; backing vocals would ebb and flow – it gave Yeats’ words, and Scott’s renditions, a sense of natural progression.

Scott’s work as a Yeats archivist and upholder of the oral tradition is increasingly vital as book sales dwindle and libraries close: his full-house and standing ovation felt thoroughly well-deserved.

The first encore included an early Scott-Yeats dalliance – 1988’s beatific Stolen Child – while a second blazing curtain call provided a full-on rock spectacular: enduring favourite Don’t Bang the Drum celebrated The Waterboys’ Celtic-punk bombast.

The evening’s finale was rapturous, with the crowd on their feet and hollering verbatim, as Scott dedicated his best-known song to Yeats, and as we saw The Whole of the Moon.

(Nicola Meighan)

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