Tag Archive: Waterboys

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.


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

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


The Waterboys @ Warwicks Arts Centre, Butterworth Hall, February 2nd 2011

And so to see a rare outing of The Waterboys at Warwick Arts Cente’s Butterworth Hall.

Now if you thought you were going to get a set of Waterboys classics you’d be wrong.  Tonight we have “An Appointment with Mr. Yeats.” This set, in its entirety, sees Mike Scott’s passion for Irish poet W.B. Yeates (1865-1939) merged with the music of The Waterboys in, we are told, a truly unique and ambitious musical undertaking.

According to their website, Scott described the arrangements as being “psychedelic, intense, kaleidoscopic, a mix of rock, folk and faery music…”  This should be interesting as it is a set of UNRECORDED ENTIRELY UNKNOWN songs – Scott: “I appreciate you all paying to see us play songs you’ve never heard…”

Scott formed The Waterboys in ‘83, with keyboardist Karl Wallinger (notable for going on to form World Party) and saxophonist Anthony Thistlewaite (who subsequently went onto perform with the Saw Doctors, Psychedelic Furs, Fairground Attraction and The Mission amongst others).  Wallinger and Thistlewaite both left, Scott dropped The Waterboys name, went solo, only to re-incarnate it again around 2000.

Over the years, over fifty different musicians have performed live as a Waterboy including Eddi Reader and Guy Chambers. Tonight’s line-up of an incredibly talented ten musicians features an eclectic mix including Irish fiddle maestro Steve Wickham, Irish singer Kate Kim, Dublin singer-songwriter Joe Chester Flook, flautist Sarah Allen and Catalan trombonist Blaise Margail.

Scott first wrote a musical accompaniment for Yeates’ classic poem “The Stolen Child”, during the making of  ‘Fisherman’s Blues’. Five years later he set another Yeats poem to music, “Love and Death”, which appeared on their ‘Dream Harder’ album.

Scott is truly talented. He still has the distinctive voice, tousled hair and tonight is dressed in stripped trousers and leather jacket.  Songs cover twenty years of Yeats’ poems, spanning both famous and lesser known works, from the wry to the romantic, the political to the mythological. The musical interpretation is as equally varied – from classic Waterboys ‘big sound’ to traditional folk and Irish melodies, with band members appearing and disappearing on and off stage as required.

The cracked nursery rhyme about Jack & Jill “Full Moon in March” has overtones of Clannad in the harmonies, while ‘Sweet Dancer’ with fiddle accompaniment is quite commercial.  “White birds”, based on a love poem, is traditional folk with rising classic Waterboys crescendo featuring a clever bird sound from the fiddler, making you feel just like you were by the sea.

Then the blues and onto 70’s prog rock, complete with mystic face masks, spoken word segments and a battle between the trombonist and the fiddler.

I should point out we had a heckler, who clearly didn’t know what this gig was all about. Shouting the odd comment, slow clapping, in what was a very refined seated audience environment. Increasingly annoying and after retorts from audience members to shut up, Scott responded: “I remember when I had my first drink too. Oh deary, deary me….” A couple of songs later the heckler left… “I’m off home ‘cos you’re rubbish” – the audience applauded – he’d missed the entire point of tonight’s gig.

Scott said his interpretations allowed him to use one poem in a song, or two, or elements of different poems.  “Yeates” as he said, “wasn’t around to argue.” “Let The Earth Bear Witness”(available on You Tube) is a striking song made up in such a way, with a video accompaniment of Iranian protests, the ‘Sea of Green’, from 2005. Quite poignant, given the current protests across the middle east.

The last song “The Faeries” ended with each member finishing their piece and standing at the front of the stage.  To a standing ovation from the audience.

And then to the encore and to say thank you, Scott gave us three classics – the haunting “The Stolen Child” (based on the Yeates poem, from ‘Fisherman’s Blues’), the epic “Don’t Bang the Drum” (from ‘This is the Sea’) completing with the iconic hit “Whole of the Moon.” The later could be seen as a cop out but think of the mystical lyrics – it was accompanied with archive footage of Yeates himself. Scott: “Thank you WB Yeates.”

Then a promise to return in the Autumn… “when we’ve recorded all this stuff.”  If you return to the Midlands go to the Symphony Hall – your musical talent will be given far more justice.

You could say tonight’s set was self-indulgent. Few established bands come out and play a set of entirely new and unrecorded songs these days. But then again, many less talented 80s bands are out on greatest hits tours as part of the nostalgia cash in.  And it would have been easy for Scott to roll out The Waterboys and do the same.

I would say this was brave, this was different – almost classical, almost concept ‘album’, part art installation, certainly a performance – Scott has a very focussed, intense view on his masterpiece and him and the band clearly enjoyed tonight’s gig.

This was one a handful of UK dates following some Irish dates. If you are a Waterboys fan and are prepared to see them play entirely unknown songs and know what you are in for, they are indeed worth seeing. But be warned some elements are a little beyond what to what you may be used to from traditional Waterboys and tickets also could be seen to be a tad pricey side at £30.

Once recorded, the tracks from “An Appointment with Mr Yeates” are certainly worth a listen. Go to their website and You Tube to take a peek at what it’s all about. Listen, see if you like what you hear, go and see.



“An Appointment with Mr. Yeats” is planned for recording later this year.

You can also hear tracks, songs and mashups from Mike Scott’s home studio on Soundcloud via http://www.mikescottwaterboys.com/

“Let the Earth Bear Witness” Mike Scott, available on You Tube 


Classic Waterboys listening:

The Waterboys (1983)

A Pagan Place (1984)

This is The Sea (1985)

Fishermans Blues (1988)