Review: The Waterboys, Festival Theatre

Mike Scott's vocals and lead guitar are note-perfect throughout the performance
Mike Scott's vocals and lead guitar are note-perfect throughout the performance
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Imagine turning up to a gig, only to discover that one of the band’s most-loved records – a tune you’ve owned and played for years – was a love song written in your honour.


It sounds like a Richard Curtis plotline, but it is in fact a true story, played out in front of tonight’s Festival Theatre audience.

Too shy to make his feelings known at the time, a teenage Mike Scott was left heartbroken when classmate Lindsay and her family moved away in 1973. Almost 40 years on, with Lindsay in the room, he finally reveals all before dedicating that very track, And A Bang On The Ear, to her.

His confession draws everyone – from the stalls to the gods – to their feet, and that’s where they stay through the rest of an encore that also features fan favourites The Whole Of The Moon and Fisherman Blues, and a rousing, triumphant Don’t Bang The Drum.

From “The Big Music” of the band’s early years to the rootsy, Celtic-infused folk that followed, The Waterboys have always been elusive, refusing to stick with one genre or sound, something that’s reflected in tonight’s show.

As expected, we’re treated to a host of vintage hits, including a bittersweet and poignant The Thrill Has Gone, a stomping version of Glastonbury Song plus debut single (and paean to Patti Smith) A Girl Called Johnny.

On top of that, they delve into 2011’s An Appointment with Mr Yeats, Scott’s ambitious project setting the verse of WB Yeats to music. Whether it’s the excellent September 1913, the ingeniously-realised White Birds or the madcap theatrics of While Mad As The Mist And Snow, the group manage to re-interpret the Irish poet’s work with great success.

On vocals and lead guitar, the Edinburgh born-and-raised Scott is note-perfect throughout, although at times Steve Wickham’s virtuoso fiddle performance threatens to steal the limelight. But it’s the tale of unrequited longing that ultimately does just that, setting up a remarkable climax to a fantastic evening.