REVIEW: The Waterboys at Portsmouth Guildhall

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Walking on stage to rapturous applause Mike Scott stepped up to his mic and dedicated the gig to the people and city of Paris. This was met with whole-hearted approval and when he asked the crowd to observe a minute’s silence it was done impeccably. Feel proud Portmuthians, respect and solidarity with the French was shown.

Listening to a Waterboys album can be rather like looking at Da Vinci’s sketches. You get a sense of the ability and technique, a feel for the skill and expertise. But when you look at one of his paintings you get the full sensory overload. The drama, the technicolour experience; this is also The Waterboys live.

Grooving, jamming, ideas flowing from the talented hands of old-timers like Scott and the effervescent Steve Wickham along with the current crop of hired hands like guitarist Zach Ernst and slightly mad keyboard man Brother Paul.

Destinies Entwined, from the latest album Modern Blues, begins a nearly two-hour show encompassing old and new. Favourites like Medicine Bow, We Will Not Be Lovers, A Girl Called Johnny (replete with two, or was it three false endings) sat in a set laden with gems.

Scott looks in great shape, tall and skinny, only his grey hair giving away his age. He switches between guitar and keyboards maintaining the band’s trademark ‘big music’ sound.

It’s a credit to the power of the band that the new material sounds as good as older material. Among the highlights were new song Nearest Thing To Hip, the terrific Don’t Bang The Drum – just Steve and Mike each trying to outplay the other – and the encore of Fisherman’s Blues.