When Mike Scott and Steve Wickham performed acoustically as the Waterboys during SXSW, it was taut yet incredibly moving. Last night at the Parish, they proved that just a tease to what they can do with a band.
Scott refers to the quartet that’s augmented the core duo of him and Wickham as their American band, but it hardly matters where they hail from. They proved more than capable of making his combination of sizable noise, Celtic folk, and enchanting poetry shake the rafters and tug heartstrings.
Starting with the meditation “Strange Boat” and following with the crowd-pleasing yelp of “Fisherman’s Blues,” they hinted at where this band of Waterboys was likley to take us. Scott hit all the signposts of his career, from the early “big music” of “The Whole of the Moon” to the tender rock of Fisherman’s Blues’ “When Ye Go Away.” From his latest, An Appointment With Mr. Yeats, arose the cunningly crafted “Song of Wandering Aengus.”
The concept of marrying the words of Irish poet W.B. Yeats to Scott’s music sounds pretentious at first blush. Yet the combination works surprisingly well, with a variety of settings that span the bombastic to pixie dust. So it was with the band’s performance, running the gamut from an acoustic rendition of “Raggle Taggle Gypsy” by just Scott and fiddler Wickham to the set-closing “Don’t Bang the Drum” that ended with a raucous drone that recalled Sonic Youth.
Wickham was as fun to watch as Scott. Fiddling and twirling, having a duel with guitarist Jay Barclay, on acoustic or electric, he was a perfect foil, demonstrating why he’s an Irish legend. Austin’s Kathy Valentine joined them for the last bit of encore and added some boisterous guitar to “Be My Enemy,” which brought back the guitar haze along with several false endings.
Before explaining that the show was the last of the current tour, Scott wondered, “How can a sad song be so much fun to play? I don’t know.” They then launched into a lusty rendition of the traditional American folk tune “Will the Circle Be Unbroken” to close the night. Chalk it up as further widening of the Waterboys’ musical reach.
“We’ll make Austin a Waterboys town,” Scott announced triumphantly above the applause. “See you in 2014.”
Set-list, 10.30.13“Strange Boat”
--------------------“Steve’s Oceanic Jig”
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