Review by Greg Haymes
Photographs by Kirsten Ferguson
With a big, bright, oh-so-close-to-full moon hanging in the Nippertown sky on Tuesday night (March 26), Mike Scott didn’t sing the Waterboys’ signature song “The Whole of the Moon.”
OK, maybe Mr. Scott is getting tired of the song, having probably played it a gazillion times since it was the band’s most recognizable hit back in 1985.
But considering that the band was celebrating the U.S. release of their new album, An Appointment With Mr. Yeats, it was perhaps even more surprising that they didn’t crank up that album’s bluesy rocker “A Full Moon in March.”
Odd? Um-hmmm… Strange? Oh yeah, no doubt about it, but as it ended up, the Waterboys’ loooong overdue Capital Region debut at the jam-packed Linda, was as an acoustic trio, perhaps not the best setting for either of those songs.
On the other hand, Scott and his Tuesday night compatriots – fiddler Steven Wickham and newcomer Daniel Mintseris on keyboards – packed plenty of rock & roll power in their sit-down set at The Linda, conjuring up such diverse influences as Leonard Cohen, Warren Zevon and Van Morrison.
It was simply the most transfixing performance that I’ve seen so far this year, setting the bar high for the rest of 2013.
The concept of setting poetry to music is a risky business. Sometimes it works, more often than not, however, the melding simply doesn’t do justice to the poems, and leaves the music flailing in the literary wind.
Fortunately that’s not the case with An Appointment With Mr. Yeats. The album was released in the U.S. on Tuesday, and Scott and his current Waterboys’ bandmates played almost all of it on Tuesday night. And it soared.
Opening with the churning “Mad as the Mist and Snow,” Scott made Yeats’ words his own. The Kurt Weill-esque melding of “Love and Death”‘ (an earlier Yeats/Scott collaboration from the Waterboys’ Dream Harder album) with “News for the Delphic Oracle” proved to be the most theatrically dramatic performance of the night, a creepy, carnival-cabaret waltz that fused Yeats and Scott into a kind of Celtic Jacques Brel.
Other Yeats poems took on exciting and sometimes unexpected musical interpretations, from the ’50s golden oldie stroll of “White Birds” to the minimalist “An Irish Airman Foresees His Death” (with Scott tapping out the military tattoo on a snare drum played like a bodhran) to the go-for-the-throat blues of “The Lake Isle of Innisfree.”
Toward the end of the evening, Scott and his compatriots broke free from the Yeats yoke, offering a few older Waterboys’ nuggets, such as the sing-along “Fisherman’s Blues” and – after a fiddle/jig instrumental interlude while Scott changed a broken guitar string – an epic, rousing, perfectly hypnotic rendition of “The Pan Within.”
“Come with me on a journey under the skin…”
Celtic mysticism – in all its musical and lyrical glory – never sounded so enthralling, so captivating or so utterly convincing.
Accompanying herself on guitar, Grafton singer-songwriter Molly Durnin opened the show with a half-hour solo set culled from her impressive 2012 debut album Run. And she offered a peek at her new material as well with the haunting “Shadowbox,” a memorial for a lost friend.
Michael Eck’s review at The Time Union
THE WATERBOYS SET LIST
Mad as the Mist and Snow
medley – Love and Death / News for the Delphic Oracle
An Irish Airman Foresees His Death
The Lake Isle of Innisfree
The Pan Within > instrumental jig
The Pan Within
Will the Circle Be Unbroken
MOLLY DURNIN SET LIST
A Wall Apart