WHY did The Waterboys return to York Barbican so quickly after last December’s 25th anniversary celebrations for Fisherman’s Blues?
Waterboys aficionados will not be surprised to learn that the ever restless Mike Scott brought a largely different line-up, different set list and a return to making “big music” at its most epic.
Last year’s Fisherman’s Blues Revisited had reunited the 1990 line-up of Scott, Irish fiddler Steve Wickham, saxophonist Anthony Thistlethwaite and bass player Trevor Hutchinson for a freewheeling rummage through the vintage repertoire of 1985-88. It was Celtic, spiritual, giddying; a night of folk on fire.
Move forward seven months and out went Anto and Hutch; in came lead guitarist Joe Chester, bassist Shane Fitzsimons and veteran white-suited Memphis organist Brother Paul Brown, to complement the magnificent Wickham, drummer Ralph Salmins and Scott, still in last winter’s fedora and big specs look.
A bigger band equalled a bigger sound, and it was far more intense too, charged with thunderous electricity, a shot of the blues and extended, extemporised versions that meant the set list ran to only 13 songs in 90 minutes, but what a set it was.
By only the second number, Fisherman’s Blues, the crowd was on its feet or rushing to the front, staying that way throughout as Scott raged and blew his tornado, switching between acoustic and electric guitar and piano.
Still A Freak was a shuddering new blues, The Pan Within burst out into a psychedelic wig-out and Wickham, Brown and Scott donned Venetian masks for Mad As The Mist And Snow, suddenly veering towards prog-rock.
And how Scott enjoyed his moment reclaiming How Long Will I Love You from Ellie Gouding’s bland cover, before closing with “an old Russian folk song”, And A Bang On The Ear, an apt finale for the loudest, most raucous Waterboys show in years.