The Waterboys at the Hammersmith ApolloCultureMusicLive music
The Waterboys’ Fisherman’s Blues remains their most celebrated album. Released in 1988, it successfully married the group’s grandiose rock ‘n’ roll sound to a earthy folksiness, drawing inspiration from both Scottish and American roots music. To celebrate its 25th anniversary, as well as the recent release of the mammoth boxset Fisherman’s Box, the band have embarked on a UK tour and last night they stopped off at the Hammersmith Apollo.
As the last of the mainly middle-aged crowd found their seats, a single spotlight alighted the figure of Mike Scott. The Waterboys’ founder and main songwriter (the group in essence is a Scott solo project, accompanied by an ever-changing vanguard of backing musicians) strummed away at the opening of Strange Boat and before too long the rest of The Waterboys were revealed one by one, emerging out of the darkness to their own round of applause. This was the first time that many of them had played together since the early 90s, and there was obviously a tremendous amount of goodwill emanating from the crowd as each was illuminated in turn.
In front of a giant backdrop of the album’s cover art, they played through the majority of Fisherman’s Blues. Along the way Scott related the stories behind the songs’ creation. These included the band’s time spent with legendary Bob Dylan and Johnny Cash producer Bob Johnston, who Scott described as telephoning him up and gushing “you guys are whizz”. He also explained the whole ethos behind the album, born from railing against the “cultural wasteland of synthesisers and drum machines” and “faux Germanic accents” of the 1980s. As they demonstrated with numbers like And a Bang on the Ear and Stranger to Me, their music does have a timeless quality, the same of which can’t be said for many of their contemporaries.
Given that the Apollo is a seated venue, the concert began in a fairly reserved fashion, yet by the end it was a lot more boisterous. Thunderous clapping matched the rhythms of the group’s two encores, which inevitably included their greatest hit The Whole of the Moon, and more than a few were dancing jigs in the aisles. The round off the night’s proceedings was that everyone on stage posed for a recreation of Fisherman’s Blues sleeve. It may be 25 years old, but The Waterboys proved last night that it was a record well worth revisiting.
Photo: Dena Flows
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Watch the video for And a Bang on the Ear here: