The Waterboys – Live at Variety Playhouse

After my appreciation of their 2013 show, the announcement for this show was almost immediately followed by a lightening of my wallet.  What an awesome show that was, and what great things would once again be.

Waterboys concert review

But first, a word about our selected pre-show venue, The Wrecking Bar Pub.  On my last visit, about a month earlier on a Thursday night, everything was “okay.”  Apparently, they retain their finest cook for Sunday nights. Less the raw onions… it was every bit as good as it looks.  Additional kudos to a very drinkable Victor IPA and In Quad We Trust, a fine Belgian glimpsed in the upper right. 

Wrecking Bar Pub

On to the show.  No sell out?  What the heck?  It was packed two years ago, and this isn’t a band that comes around often.  Well, that resulted in a good view while seated for a change.  Still, it was an enthusiastic crowd that greeted the band, who opened with “Destinies Entwined,” one of Mike Scott’s frequent nonjudgmental musings about faith.  The band just released Modern Blues, and this was the first of every song on that disc less one, “Beautiful Now.”

Mike Scott Waterboys Concert Review

Mike Scott essentially is The Waterboys, the only common denominator since its origins in the early 1980’s.  Recordings have been somewhat infrequent, but he has a sizeable repertoire to choose from, including two excellent solo releases.  So while every artist is expected to play new songs to support their latest creation, it displaces the same number of fan favorites.  This isn’t to say that the concert was poor.  It wasn’t.  But it didn’t rise to the potential of the vibe reached of their previous visit, despite energetic performances from his band.  New songs take some getting used to, and the latest batch, which I’ll review shortly, is a mixed bag.  One thing, though, is that whenever long time band mate Steve Wickham steps up to play the “fuzz fiddle,” the best tendencies of the band usually follow. 
Steve Wickham The Waterboys Concert Review

In 2007, they played at Boston’s First Act Guitar Studio, an electric performance that gets “passed around.”  As evidenced there, one of Scott’s strengths is his ability to tell a story, typically with humor and in a very relatable manner.  This is observed in many of his lyrics, but particularly when he engages the audience to introduce a song.  There was some of that, such as the origin of “The Nearest Thing to Hip” and pronouncing “Aengus.” For a band that is largely unknown, that type of interaction builds a fan base, or builds bigger fans.  The feel of this show, aside from Brother Paul’s hyper antics on keyboards, was a band just passing through. Maybe it was the dismal day.  Maybe it was a few empty seats (the show competed against the Sweetwater music festival).  But the set list… 8 new songs out of 14 takes its toll.

Mike Scott The Waterboys Concert Review

Highlights included, as always, “We Will Not Be Lovers,” “Don’t Bang the Drum,” and the closer, “Long Strange Golden Road” which both on record and in concert rocks pretty well (also evidenced by Scott's frequent left leg kicks).  Below was from an excellent duo version of “Don’t Bang the Drum.”

Mike Scott The Waterboys Concert Review

Every show has to end, but this one ended strangely.  First, a cover of Prince’s “Purple Rain” is a surprise, and not a bad one.  It’s a little nugget that is the place setter for the expected finale, the band’s most recognized song “Fisherman’s Blues.”  Sure enough, the stage hand begins to walk out to hand Scott the acoustic guitar and… end of the show, with Scott surprising both the fans and the band.  Maybe his bladder couldn’t wait… but, meh.  Still, I’d see them again.

The Waterboys Concert Review

3 of 5 STARS_thumb

Set list: (order not certain)

Destinies Entwined
Still a Freak
A Girl Called Johnny
We Will Not Be Lovers
November Tale
Rosalind (You Married the Wrong Guy)
Glastonbury Song
The Girl Who Slept for Scotland
The Nearest Thing to Hip
I Can See Elvis
Song of Wandering Aengus
The Whole of the Moon
Don’t Bang the Drum
Long Strange Golden Road


Purple Rain (Prince cover)
Fisherman’s Blues – apparently planned but aborted.


  1. Victor or Victory IPA?

    And yes, I love the robot. Way cool!

  2. Victor. It's a brewpub. No need to import from Philly. :)