The Waterboys playing on Hope Street was the nearest thing to hip happening around here last night. In town with a new double album to play, Mike Scott didn’t forget the history either as he led his brilliant band through a two hour journey of rock, folk, funk and soul. By Alan O’Hare.
The Waterboys were a revelation last night. We all know and love the history, but there remains something special about a band taking a new record on the road and playing it live alongside a sprinkling of classics, a soupçon of rarities and a selection of big hitters. The rub? The new tunes stood their ground in among the ones you know and it could be argued that lovers of ‘Out Of All This Blue’ – the band’s twelfth and most recent studio album – were short-changed a touch. We were in a minority, though…
Liverpool had come out to hear their favourites and Mike Scott’s rock ‘n’ soul revue didn’t disappoint, delivering a two hour masterclass inside the Philharmonic Hall. It’s a lucky venue, is Hope Street’s auld room, as the sedate seated environment shouldn’t attract groups who like to bang drums and slash at electric guitars, yet the sound the place conjures up remains magical. A great band and a fantastic set-list help, too, of course.
‘Medicine Bow’ and ‘All The Things She Gave Me’ – all crunching chords and rapid rhythm – are the perfect first two shots across the bow and the band don’t look back. ‘If The Answer Is Yeah’ is the night’s first new tune and the near-sell-out crowd lap up its lilting melody, before Waterboys’ war horses ‘A Girl Called Johnny’ and ‘We Will Not Be Lovers’ turn the Phil’ into a psychedelic caravan of love led by Steve Wickham’s enchanting fiddle. I write ‘fiddle’, but in truth Wickham bends so many colours and shapes from his bow that you’d swear there was a brass section on-stage and a Jimi Hendrix-wannabe on lead guitar. His playing remains mesmerising and the perfect foil for Scott’s songs of wonder.
‘The Christ In You’ and ‘When Ye Go Away’ are songs that search the stars for a glimpse of something special, but it was ‘Too Close To Heaven’ – an outtake from 1988’s ‘Fisherman’s Blues’ – that touched the sky last night. Stretched out like something from ‘Astral Weeks’, the lament lit up the room as The Waterboys caressed and cajoled its fragile message and melody to its very limit. It was a beautiful thing to witness and set us off down a home straight that included a Scott-and-Wickham solo (ish) interlude of ‘The Raggle Taggle Gypsy’ and ‘Don’t Bang The Drum’ (reimagined in its initial guise of a pounding piano and fiddle duet), before a rocking ten minute take on ‘Long Strange Golden Road’ led to the rewards of ‘The Whole Of The Moon’ and a rolling and tumbling piano-led sing-a-long of ‘Fisherman’s Blues’ itself.
“Woo hoo hoo”, indeed.
The Waterboys ‘Out Of All This Blue’ is out now on BMG
Pic by Xavier Mercade