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Mike Scott @ Hall 5, ICC, Birmingham, 17 October 2012

A quick dash into Brum, need to get there for 7.30pm – just in time for an appointment with The Waterboy. Mike Scott – a spoken word of readings from his new book ‘Adventure of a Waterboy’ followed by a short acoustic set with fiddler Steve Wickham.

This has been relocated from the Town Hall – we’re in Hall 5 of the ICC, in the far corner of the building, a slightly hidden conference room behind the Symphony Hall. Filled with 100 or so people – it’s comfortable, the room is warm, the tiered seats spacey and padded. It has a cozy feel. Lights go down and on to the stage, dressed in back with accompanying hat, on comes Scott.

The ‘set’ is simple – two red chairs, guitar, and table with water, set on top of a carpet. He stands in front of a mike stand, centre stage, book in hand. “Good evening! And thanks for coming along and choosing to spend the evening with me.”

He starts of with an explanation of how the book is written. He’ll be reading the opening vignettes to each chapter. I’m not going to give any spoilers but as the title suggests it’s his autobiographical journey into music as a young boy, from Scotland to London, a mismatch against the back drop of the New Romantic scene, travels and inspiration in Ireland through the highs and struggles as a Waterboy. He reads in his Celtic lilt – it’s entertaining, enthralling and fun, read with expression, and impersonations of those he met throughout his journey. Anecdotes – he’s a great lyricist so you would expect great writing. The book sounds like it will be a captivating read in its entirety.

The readings go on for an hour, but we’re not bored, we listen intently and laugh out loud.

And then to musical set- Scott, with witty anecdote about their initial meeting introduces his musical brother and sidekick for the rest of the evening, Steve Wickham, to applause from the audience. Wickham joins in the story in his mild Irish accent, and they both take their seats – Scott with guitar, Wickham with his fiddle.

First up is ‘Savage Earth Heart’ a rolling track. The duo is well matched and tight. It’s just like they’re sat there busking, truly enveloped in the music. Scott raises and drops his foot to keep in time, Wickham rambles and rolls on his fiddle.

Scott looks and calls for “side stage man Dave” who has disappeared (never to be seen again). He needs ‘a pop shield for the voice’ – apparently he’s getting electric shocks from the mike stand. “If any one’s seen Dave…. ”

The next track ‘Mad As The Mist And Snow’ continues the rolling, folk theme, the following a musical interlude, Scott swapping his guitar for what looks to be a sitar. “Thanks for being so quite when I’m tuning – it’s different to a rehearsal…’ The audience laughs – indeed it is quiet, nobody talks – we’re comfy and cozy and mesmerized.

‘Bring ‘Em All In’ rolls and rolls, before “Gonna play you two love songs – separately – it’s not a medley!” and beautifully delivered is ‘Man Is In Love’ with Wickham’s exquisite fiddle playing and a clappy Irish jig section.

Scott is beguiling – warm and friendly – we get a tale of how, as folk songs travel through time, something goes wrong with the words, that noticed that words just don’t make sense anymore. For example a song that espouses love for a person, and then promptly adds a line – so “if you leave I’ll look for another.” So next up, with lyrics “re-tooled to make more sense” it’s ‘Low Down The Broon.’

As Scott tunes his guitar, he tells the tale from a few days ago. They were performing in Basingstoke and spent night in Newbury. They passed the village co-incidentally called Wickham. And a sign: Wickham please drive carefully. A photo op called – Scott and Wickham (the fiddler) carefully moved the car so it looked like it has crashed into the sign. A snapshot of car, plus sign plus fiddly in middle of road was posted on Scott’s twitter feed. And then to the twist, they’d carefully backed the car into a ditch and were stuck! After many attempts to extract it with the aid of the locals, it was a passing bunch of cyclists that managed to set them free. Even a conversation Wickham had with the AA was entertaining – ‘You’re called Wickham – and you’re struck in… Wickham?” Even one of the aiding cyclists asked, “Are you Irish?” (You can check out this story plus pics on Scott’s twitter feed @mickpuck)

And as if it couldn’t get better next song up – ‘Fisherman’s Blues’ – stripped down, it’s just awesome. A standing ovation and chants of “more” they’re back on to huge cheer.

“The Pan Within” is stunning – close your eyes, the music just melts you away; watch the stage – Wickham on his fiddle is fascinatingly mesmerizing, Scott enthralling in his commitment and passion. This is intimate – I’m dreaming that I’m sure I’m actually sitting cozily in my front room and they’re actually playing there…

“Last night of this short book tour – had a great time just two of us –  just the two if us driving around together…Going back to Dublin tomorrow… ” Scott tunes guitar again, “One more song for ya…”

A goodbye and safe journey – the lyrics say it all “This is wide world we travel… When we too may meet again….” and hope that the angels carry us safely home. A tiny alarm clock going off on stage – Wickham pops and switches it off mid song – clearly time to say goodbye, and to give time for a book signing after this performance.

And a safe journey to you both too. Thanks. It’s been enthralling, a wonderful and unusual night out. Come and play like this in our front room again soon.

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Mike Scott’s memoirs ‘Adventure of a Waterboy’ is on sale now.

Pictures from the ‘Wickham incident’ in Mike Scott’s twitter: @mikepuck