26 May 2019 (gig)
24 May 2019
Mike Scott is still at it, going strong and writing some rocking tunes. The Waterboys took a hiatus during the 90s, but Scott never went away, pursuing a solo career before he resurrected the band in 2000, albeit with several name changes in the ranks. But prolific Scott has remained, taking several twists and turns in his creative output, and with the release of ‘Where the Action Is’, this is the third Waterboys album in 4 years. It’s a diverse album, energetic and a frank reminder that Scott is a legendary song-writer.
The title track is inspired by Robert Parker's 1960s song ‘Let's Go Baby (Where the Action Is)’ that Scott first heard at a Mod/Northern Soul night in Dublin many years ago. Loving it, he has now updated the lyrics to - in his own words - ‘reflect my own preoccupations’; and with it he opens the show tonight at the Camden Roundhouse, stepping out on stage in a blue suit (or is it purple - the stage lights mix the colours up) and Stetson, and singing the lyric with a lippy Jagger-like pout.
The new album is only just out, so the faithful haven’t yet grasped all the lyrics. However, the sound is crystal clear and it’s not hard to work out the words to the chorus and soon there are plenty of voices joining in.
Tonight’s set includes a fair few off the new release. The second track being an ode to The Clash’s lead guitarist Mick Jones, ‘London Mick’, which is a tribute I’m sure Jones will approve of. ‘Right Side of Heartbreak (Wrong Side of Love)’ rolls with a bassy groove. ‘Ladbroke Grove Symphony’ takes the listener on a reminiscent stroll through North West London from Scott’s association with the place across several decades. But it’s the song that closes the second set (before the encore) that for me has the biggest impact. ‘In My Time on Earth’ muses on a life that has lived, what the heart has learned and holds that up against the times we live in. Yet another reminder that Scott can sure write a good’un. A big song, for sure.
The band are on form and are joined by two backing vocalists who bring that bluesy soulful touch to the night. Steve Wickham is such an accomplished musician he makes playing the electric fiddle look like a walk in the park. I’ve no doubt he must be one of the best out there. Then there’s Brother Paul who gets to take centre stage for a while as Scott playfully goads him to work some magic on the keys and offer a fitting tribute to the part the Roundhouse has played over the years in reinforcing London as being the rock ’n’ roll centre of the universe. ‘Absolutely, not bad, Brother Paul’ Scott remarked after a wild keyboard solo.
Scott has always been one for a good lyric or poem, right from the beginning of their pagan celebrations in those early 80s days and the ‘Big Music’ that they coined. When the more familiar back catalogue comes out, a chorus of voices join in. Hence, it was to be expected that ‘Fisherman’s Blues’ would be raucous with every romantic word and ‘woo hoo hoo!’ raising the roof.
‘Old England’ was a pertinent inclusion in the set that one couldn’t help feeling was a not so subtle slight at the state of politics and our misguided pride as a nation. It reminded me how much we need the protest song just now.
The encore came as no surprise. First ‘A Girl Called Johnny’ and then what will always be for most the bands signature song: the magnificent ‘The Whole of the Moon’. Scott sings it like a wise and aged seer - beautiful and poignant. Big music for sure, and ‘absolutely not bad!’