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An appointment with the Waterboys

No excuses, I was a teenager in the ’80s. And I gave my girlfriend/wife their best of album ’81-’90. Yet I never showed much interest in the Waterboys, despite my wide interest in music. Maybe I was too fed up with ‘The Whole of the Moon’ as it was really, really played a lot in the places I went out in the weekends around ’86-’87? Maybe it didn’t fit my cool punk-wave ways (not preventing me to deeply love The Smiths and The Triffids, to name a few)? Maybe my mind just wasn’t ready for it, not free enough a spirit by then?

It wasn’t until 2000 that I bought my first Waterboys record, the by then just released A Rock in the Weary Land. No idea where the sudden attraction came from. Was it because it was described as a comeback? Was it because of the fooling around with vocoders and other distorters, the heavy electricity on the record? The Waterboys - Is she conscious EPIt was a strange attraction. That led to me immediately falling in love with this rock called love; its passion, drive, pleasure. It turned out the start of a rollercoaster of musical brainfloods that started by subsequently also purchasing the EP Is She Conscious from the 2000 album. That EP included an incredible 15 minutes live version of Savage Earth Heart. To my surprise this song originated from their early years. And that got me interested to dive further.

When the early Waterboys albums one by one got re-released with substantial remastering and editing by mr. Mike Scott I bought them as they were put out. And consistently fell in love with each of them, while greedily and gratefully feeding my mind on the fascinating background added in Mike’s sleeve notes. I grew along with each re-release to finally reach the big music of This Is The Sea via The Waterboys and A Pagan Place. And so, some silly 20 years after locking it out of my musical world, I discovered the amazing beauty, melodies, layers and power of The Whole of the Moon. Although it is ‘Red Army Blues’ that gets me in tears every time again.

The Waterboys (Remastered)The Waterboys - A Pagan Place (Remastered)The Waterboys - This Is The Sea (Remastered)

The Waterboys - Fisherman's Blues (Remastered)Impatient and near-unbearable waiting followed, but then finally also Fisherman’s Blues was re-released. And 20 years after the boys themselves ‘slightly’ changed direction (understatement), I was able to savour the outcome of their Irish adventures. The sleeve notes only partially shed light over this impressive turn they took, and the years of wandering and exploring it took to create it. That didn’t prevent me from feeling the free spirit that breaths throughout the Fisherman’s work.

Later on I was impressed by the bluesy Too Close To Heaven too, and its refurbished and boosted edits of FB sessions. Unfortunately Universal Hall and Book of Lightning didn’t overload me with enthusiasm therefore skipping the Karma Burning album, not even realizing it’s a live album. Hmm, Waterboys and live playing, that always works, do I know now. I did feel Mike’s fond love for music on one of his solo albums that I bought in the mean time, Bring ’em All In.

More and more, in interviews mr. Mike alluded to his lack of real inspiration, although reviews of their live performances were full of praise, one by one. But then, 2011, the message of the release of An Appointment with Mr. Yeats reached me (see my Top Music 2011 summary), convincing me to buy it. It turned out to be wildly inspirational, bewildering, enthusiast, broad, folk danceable while rocking as in the big music era. Artistically, the album melts the many faces of the Waterboys into one highly cohesive, unique musical picture.

And next, 2013, a tweet by a rock journalist pointed me to Mike Scott’s autobiography, Adventures of a Waterboy. I took it on our family holiday early August 2013, intrigued but also eager to be ‘prepared’ for the live gig of The Waterboys we were about to attend by the end of August in Antwerp (yes, first time we get to see them on stage). Through it I hoped to better understand who the man is that will be on that stage. A wild man, somewhat shamanist and an all-music madman, as he is in my imagination?

So my wife and I unilaterally made an appointment with Mr. Scott to go discover these Waterboys live; live on stage, the only platform mr. Mike considers the right one for a musician to grow an audience; much more than music business tricks like videos, music clips, alternate releases of the same song, etc. Some things I learned from his fantastic book. I will come back to his adventurous book, but note that the gig was fantastic, guiding us through all the worlds of the Waterboys; folk, rock, big music, tiny music, acoustic, improvised, extended, unexpected, driven by the spirits. The chemistry between Mick and Steve is obvious and shiny. And Steve Wickham brilliantly took over the brass and trumpets from the first albums with his terrific fiddling.

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