The Waterboys

By Wal Reid

Artist:  The Waterboys

Date / Venue:  Tuesday March 31st, ASB Theatre, Auckland

The WaterboysMike Scott is a raconteur who possesses that rare gift of grafting lyrics with song with the finesse of Bob Dylan or Tom Petty while delivering it in a way that only The Waterboys could, with gusto and a pinch of ‘Scott' cynicism. It was a chance to sample them before the Aussies ahead of their Byron Bay Bluesfest appearance this weekend

I don't care, I'm going out on a limb to say that The Waterboys have written one of the biggest hit songs of the 80s with The Whole In The Moon, for me it was a bleak time in '85 as a punk-torn teen but truth is that song has stayed true with me through the years, a faithful companion and comforter.

Destinies Entwined and November Tale off their latest album Modern Blues erupted before Scott took to the mic asking the audience if it was ok to play songs off their new album. This thin wiry frame leading the band of cronies, The Waterboys looked every bit the part. Each face carrying a weathered story but there was no denying the group's musical prowess, the new album signalling an upbeat blues-rock feel than their traditional Celtic folk leanings, for me a definite welcome and one wholly embraced by the crowd.

I Can See Elvis and Nearest Thing To Hip were gratefully received before the band took a breather while Irish electric fiddle great Steve Wickham & Scott on keyboard were left to their own vices laying down some acoustic cool including Don't Bang The Drum. Wickham's presence is as powerful as Scott's, his Celtic fiddle an integral part of the group's persona every bit as important as Scott's vivid penned lyrics.

The other enlisted ‘Waterboys' Muscle Shoals legend David Hood on bass and drummer Ralph Salminsworked wonderfully in sync, a solid rhythm section that was spot on all night while Austin guitar-slingerZach Ernst's moody guitar soared as he bended notes and squeezed inhumane noises out of his guitar. Memphis keyboard wizard Brother Paul (the guys a beast!) was drop-dead amazing, how Mike Scott pulled together these guys is nothing short of a miracle and probably one of the best line ups of musicians you'll witness in this lifetime.

Mike Scott's attention to detail doesn't go amiss and he points out the subtleties of his last visit here in NZ, ‘squeegees at the lights' and even Auckland's iconic Real Groovy Records doesn't go unnoticed as we are affectionately referred to as ‘fucking freaks' before playing Still A Freak adding ‘this song was written about me'.

How do you get a room full of forty plus year olds up off their seats? Tap into their sentimentality and watch them come a running. The Whole Of The Moon and Fisherman Blues were a more than satisfying, a fitting coup de grâce to a wonderful night. It was a shame that it took the last couple of tunes to get the crowd on their feet but hey, sentimentality is a bitch and sometimes you just have to go with the flow... Too high, too far and over way too soon.