Tonight, Mike Scott and the ever evolving line-up that is The Waterboys complete their run of shows in Dublin’s Vicar Street. Currently touring Modern Blues, the band have spent most of 2015 on the road, on a tour that has taken them across the United States and mainland Europe. The remainder of the year will see them tour across England, Wales and Scotland.
Joining leader Mike Scott and fiddle legend Steve Wickam are an impressive array of musicians. Zach Ernst from Austin Texas is on guitar duties, David Hood from Mussel Shoals is on Bass, the flamboyant Brother Paul from Memphis is on keyboards and the line-up is completed with veteran drummer Ralph Simmons.
The mood is high among the crowd tonight. A raffish looking Scott and the band take to the stage to rapturous applause and immediately launch into ‘Destinies Entwined’ from the new album, with Wickam – the last to enter the stage halfway through the song – launching straight into a solo. There’s high energy on this stage, this band recorded the new album together and have been touring together for all of 2015, so it’s obvious that they enjoy playing the spoils together. Modern Blues is, as the name suggests, more blues and soul influenced than we may have come to expect from The Waterboys – Less Celtic-rock and more Americana, as befits the line-up of musicians this evening.
It’s testament to the strength of the new album and the band’s belief in the material that the set consists of a number of songs from Modern Blues – something that’s confirmed as they launch into ‘Still a Freak’. This is no ‘Greatest Hits’ tour; at least one third of the songs we’re hearing are strewn from their latest output – ‘Rosalind (You Married the Wrong Guy)’, the ten-minute ‘Long Strange Golden Road’ and the slower but very catchy ‘Nearest Thing to Hip’.
Naturally enough, though, it’s the classics which get the most rapturous reception from the crowd. Early on the unmistakeable ‘A Girl called Johnny’ makes an appearance, with its distinctive intro played by Wickam on the fiddle. Other classics we’re being treated to are ‘We Will not be Lovers’, ‘The Glastonbury Song’, and the extended jam of ‘I Dream About Jimi Hendrix’. During ‘The Whole of the Moon’ the band take a step back and let Scott and Wickam lead the stage. Obviously, the loudest cheer of the night is reserved for ‘Fishermans Blues’ which comes towards the end.
Throughout the tour, Scott has been peppering the setlist with some covers and halfway through tonight he treats the audience to a rendition of Chuck Berry’s ‘Roll Over Beethoven’. At the very end the band do their fairly respectable version of Princes ‘Purple Rain’ too but if there is one criticism to make of this evening, it’s that the cover versions are, frankly, unnecessary. With a 15 song setlist, and a back catalogue as impressive as they have, it’s a bit of a disappointment to have to listen to a Prince song, when there are any number of great Waterboys tunes that they could have played.
This slight criticism aside, this was a great gig played by a band who clearly enjoying themselves – at the last bow the crowd are baying for more and we’d have gladly stayed all night.