It has been almost 30 years since Mike Scott and The Waterboys first played at the Commodore Ballroom, performing a Halloween show back in 1989. Whilst much has changed in that time ( for example the band has managed to cycle though maybe more than 50 musicians ), one thing has stayed the same. They can still sell out the venue.
If the Waterboys prove one thing it is that you do not need to pump out a string of radio friendly hits in order to bring in the crowds. Not that they have not had their share of popular success, The Whole of the Moon, and Fisherman’s Blues are songs that are recognized to this day, and always brings about a wave of nostalgia for those of us of a certain age. 😊
Whilst Scott might be the only constant in the band from that time, his reputation as a musician has meant that he has been able to constantly attract top talent to tour and record with, and tonight’s show was no exception. With a solid backline of Aongus Ralston and Ralph Salmins and bass and drums, the irrepressible “Brother” Paul Brown on keys and the whirling dervish that is the fiddle virtuoso Steve Wickham.
The band released Where The Action Is, their 13th studio album, and much of the evening’s songs were from this , and the last two albums, Out of All This Blue and Modern Blues. However, the show started off with a couple of oldies, with the When Ye Go Away, and the crowd-pleasing Fisherman’s Blues, which gave the audience it’s first chance to really join in the singing and gave Wickham a chance to dance around the stage.
Sometimes you get a happy accident, and thanks to an uncooperative guitar cord, Scott, thinking on his feet took to the piano for the first time in the evening for a song that sadly speaks a little too close to home at the moment, Old England. The preamble about Bojo, Brexit was hardly needed, but was entertaining none the less.
Following a great cover of the Rolling Stones’ Dead Flowers we got the first of three tracks from the latest album. London Mick has shades of The Jam and the Clash. The punky undertone is no surprise as the song is a tribute to The Clash’s Mick Jones. It was a great opportunity to see Scott trade out the acoustic for an electric guitar. In fact, Scott’s seamless transition between instruments is a joy to behold and kept the music fresh throughout the show.
Breaking the show into two sets gave the audience a chance to recharge their beers and grab some merch, before heading back to the stage for set which , other than We Will Not Be lovers, was wholly comprised of hits from the last the three albums. It speaks to the ongoing relevance of their music that a band that has been around for so long does not have to wholly rely on their extensive back catalog to engage the fans.
In fact, I think a couple of highlights from the show were Still a Freak, and perhaps my favourite song was Nashville Tennessee. This extended track gave the band a chance to really express themselves. Some of them expressed themselves more than others. Scott told a great story of meeting Brother Paul for the first time and trying to bond over the music of The Boss. However, it turned out that Brown’s formative years had been spent following Kiss…and following this revelation he stripped off his shirt and produced a raucous keyboard solo, which looked like it was going to end in the piano tipping over…
Of course, no Waterboys show would be compete without the song that really launched them in most people’s eyes, so it was fitting that The Whole of the Moon should end this cracking show.