What was billed as “A Night of Musical Fireworks and Improvisations, The Waterboys in their First Continental North American Tour in Six Years” began in Boston’s intimate Wilbur Theatre for the U.S. leg. Much like two old friends who had not spoken in years, the band and sold out audience were initially reserved with much catching up to do. The dirge like opener of “The Hosting of the Shee” was followed by the cabaret sounding, “News for the Delphic Oracle”. Both were songs from band leader Mike Scott’s latest release, An Appointment With Mr. Yeats.
The comfort level quickly increased with “Strange Boat” and “Fisherman’s Blues” from the band’s 1988, classic album of the same name. The band’s sound at the time which featured the blending of traditional Irish music with progressive rock was recreated in part by original Waterboy’s fiddler, Steve Wickham. Scott moved to the keyboard for the early WB number, “A Girl Called Johnnie”.
One of the night’s highlights came early with Scott and Wickham tearing through the raucous “We Will Not Be Lovers”. The lyric, “Now the world’s full of trouble/everybody’s scared” indicating not much has changed since 1988.
The twenty song set list covered all of Scott’s career and included most of the commercial “hits”. However, backed by what he dubs as his “American Band”; Boston boy, Jay Barclay on lead guitar, Daniel Mintseris on keys, Malcolm Gold on bass and Chris Benelli on drums, the group’s tremendous talents carried some of the night’s less familiar numbers.
“The Girl in a Swing” started slow and built into a dynamic, wall of sound. The band’s abilities breathed new life into blues standard, “Bright Lights, Big City.” When half way through the set Scott introduced the new tune, “Sill A Freak” what started as an audience “bathroom break” was interrupted by the audience’s taking notice of the band’s killer chops.
Some of the Yeats material such as “An Irish Airman Foresees His Death” and “White Birds” did not quite translate to the live performance. Scott, however was unbowed by the audiences reaction. When a few patrons jeered the band’s false start on “The Whole of the Moon”, Scott snapped back, “Oh, shut up!”.
Scott and Wickham went solo on the classic, Irish folk jaunt of “The Raggle Taggle Gypsy” at this point any doubters in the audience were standing and stomping their feet. The set concluded with the heavy “Don’t Bang the Drum” which again appropriately showcased the crack band’s ability to generate a sound that carried both depth and weight.
After a two hour, meticulous, sound check and before preparing for an opening night less then an hour away, founding Waterboy, band leader Mike Scott was gracious enough to answer a couple of questions:
It’s been twenty-five years since the release of Fisherman’s Blues. Did you have any inkling back then it would stand the test of time as well as it has?
Never thought about it really. If I had thought about it, I would have expected or hoped it would.
In your book, Adventures of a Waterboy you mention certain goals which you set out and achieved; goals such as exploring the concept of spirituality, commercial success. At this point in your career what’s the next goal?
Well when I made my Mr Yeats”album and wrote my book those were two important things for me that I worked on for a long time. Now, I don’t know what I’m looking towards. I’m just taking it one day at a time really. No huge ambitions at the moment. I just became a Dad that’s enough for me right now.
We have a Fisherman’s Blues tour in December in Britain and Ireland with a couple members of the Fisherman’s Blues band so that will be a fascinating experience. We are going to repeat that in April in Europe so I’m looking forward to that.
You mention Patti Smith was an influence and idol for you early in your career. At this point in your career are you now a role model? Have you come full circle as it were?
I was a huge Patti Smith fan 76-78 when she was doing Horses and Easter those albums and I went and knocked on her hotel door. She took care of me for a couple of days, made sure I saw the band. I always remembered that. She was a super intense person to be around especially after a concert which could be a little scary. But most of the time she was caring and kind of maternal to her fans. I’ve always remembered how special and how wonderful that was that a famous artist would take the time with the fans. So I’ve tried to do that myself when I meet people. I’ve always remembered that.