An Appointment with The Waterboys @ Birmingham Symphony Hall – 22 May 2012


Review and Photos by Rich Ward

It is becoming increasingly commonplace for bands to tour and play full albums from their heyday. Tonight’s show, however, is clearly focussed on the present as The Waterboys are playing their new album in its entirety. It’s a bold move, yet one that is fully justifiable because An Appointment With W.B. Yeats is a superb body of work and arguably their finest album since 1988’s Fisherman’s Blues.

The first half is an hour long set of Waterboys’ classics and is kicked off with ‘New Life’ which proves to be just as good an opener this evening as it was on the Dream Harder album back in 1993. ‘Rags’ keeps the pace up, meanwhile ‘A Girl Called Johnny’ with Mike Scott at the piano sees Steve Wickham mesmerise us with his fiddle. Quite rightly it receives a tremendous response. Elsewhere we are treated to ‘Glastonbury Song’, ‘The Thrill Is Gone’, and ‘The Girl In The Swing’. The first set closes with an excellent ‘The Pan Within’, Mike Scott’s big music at its best and it sounds magnificent in the Symphony Hall tonight.

After a brief break for a stretch of the legs and a visit to the bar, the second set begins, its focus on An Appointment With W.B. Yeats. Scott’s finally realised his dream of recording a full album of music set to the words and poems of Irish poet, something he first began to explore with Stolen Child back in 1988. ‘The Hosting Of The Shee’ is typically atmospheric and features some great guitar work; ‘News For The Delphic Oracle’ however seems a little disjointed with its spoken parts, and doesn’t quite work live; meanwhile ‘The Song Of Wandering Aengus’ redresses the balance.

‘Mad As The Mist and Snow’ is an eight minute epic which sees fiddler Steve Wickham and keyboard player James Hallawell wearing masks and playing off against each other brilliantly. Mike Scott appears later in the song wearing a three-headed mask, and reading from a book, it could almost be a scene from The Wickerman: Rock theatre at its best, and certainly one of the highlights of the evening. ‘An Irish Airman Forsees His Death’, ‘September 1913’ and ‘Politics’ delight in equal measure and close the second set to a standing ovation.

There have been some obvious omissions, so an encore is not unexpected. ‘Don’t Bang The Drum’ and ‘The Whole Of The moon’, complete with reggae intro, round off the evening nicely. This, however, is still not enough and the band come back again for a second encore of ‘A Man Is In Love’ and the timeless classic that is ‘Fisherman’s Blues’. A perfect song to finish a perfect night. Simply put, magnificent.

And you can see more of Rich’s photos here: