The Waterboys at The De La Warr

I’ve decided it’ll be more fun to use this blog to write about things I love rather than just my work.

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So what better place to start than The Waterboys gig I went to at The De La Warr Pavilion on Saturday. The band are touring songs from their ‘Fisherman’s Blues’ era work in the late 80s. At that time they went to Ireland and followed the creative urge wherever it took them. The band gave themselves permission to do whatever they wanted and by delighting themselves they made hundreds of delightful songs.

I’ve been listening to The Waterboys since 1986 and to hear these songs played with such enjoyment by the core of the original Fisherman’s Blues band was something I’ll remember forever.

I noticed just how great Mike Scott is at words. I tend to play those big inspirational songs about reaching new heights a lot ( Higher in Time, The Whole Of The Moon, The Pan Within) but I loved some of the more subtle poetry at the gig. The melancholy autumnal parting in ‘When Ye Go Away’ feels completely authentic- it must be a true story because the pictures in my mind are as vivid as life. There’s a parting of secret lovers in golden firelight on the first night the rain falls at the end of the Indian Summer. We’re in a remote bar in a valley, outside sheep hide from the rain behind rocks. We’re deliciously drunk but our hearts are breaking. It’s all there, somehow, in the mystery between words, voice and fiddle.

They played my favourite Waterboy song of all quite early. ‘You in the Sky’ is a four chord masterpiece I’ve strummed round campfires, in pubs and even as part of a drama project with learning disabled adults. It should be sung by choirs everywhere because those flowing vowels are such a joy for the throat and lungs when you sing it. It’s a comforting song of the mysterious sense of distance and longing that’s just under the surface whatever’s going on. They played it beautifully on Saturday. Lilting fiddle and mandolin and that steady-as-she-goes rhythm conjured images of clouds opening on far sunlit places- but those clouds quickly close and get in the way.

‘Don’t Bang The Drum’ was another highlight. The recording of this is a big rock production but they played an intense, slow stripped down version on Saturday. This song demands Mike’s big open-throated stormy voice and his voice being a little cracked by this point in the evening made it especially intense. He gave it everything as sax and fiddle weaved salty bluster around those great words. It’s a song that scolds someone who wastes their talent dicking about making a lot of noise rather than getting on with serious work. No apologies about the seriousness and preachiness in this song: he’s so right about me for a start. He was probably singing about his own weaknesses, I reckon.

After that, the dancing, and the tears began with the title track to Fisherman’s Blues. Those images of escaping on hurtling fevered trains and throwing off bonds are as inspirational as ever.

Then something strange happens: I find myself singing Happy 55th Birthday to the hero of my teens surrounded by other Waterboys fans- I didn’t know any in ’86. And then we sing every wonderful familiar word to’The Whole of The Moon’. But I’m not in my teenage bedroom. I’m 41 and I’m evaporating in shivers at The De La Warr Pavilion and the band’s right there in front of me. The song made me very, very happy. You need a hero to give you permission to feel whatever you feel when you’re an insecure 15 year old. When I was 15 songs like The Whole Of The Moon revealed this big happy feeling of purposeful striving that’s just under the surface of everyday things. The Waterboys are all about striving for new places but enjoying every step of the journey. And that happy feeling fuels all the seeking, working, reading, thinking, looking, listening and making stuff of life. It’s a very important job making pop music.

He’s got another voice to the storm and bluster of ‘Don’t Bang The Drum’ and ‘The Whole of the Moon’. When he holds back on ballads it’s all warmth and firelight rather than stormy seas. We heard it on the second encore ‘How long will I love You’ . A deeply romantic song about trusting the feeling that love is eternal. As simple as a nursery rhyme and as big as the sky. It’s from ‘Room to Roam’. A lot of people think this album is rubbish. They are wrong. It’s got 4 or 5 songs like ‘How Long Will I love You’, and ‘A Man is in Love’ which are like Paul McCartney classics played with lovely Irish textures. A lot of people think Paul McCartney is rubbish. They are wrong.

To finish the evening we bounced around joyously to ‘A Bang On The Ear’, and the band did a charming tableau of the cover of ‘Fisherman’s Blues’, complete with fake spliff and big smiles. If ‘You in The Sky’ had lasted for 30 minutes it would have been perfect.

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6 Comments on “The Waterboys at The De La Warr”

  1. TheBigForest Says:

    Mmmm, we came to that blogging decision a few months back – to write about things we love and not just our work. Its kind of freeing and fun too! Good Luck!

  2. Andy Gray Says:

    Wonderfully put Ed. There were so many highlights but especially the pared down Don’t Bang The Drum.

    It made the hour & half return journey seem like nothing as I sung away in my crash helmet in the wind & rain!

  3. Joe Lewinski Says:

    Great review.. Don’t Bang The Drum.. Joe in Philly – USA

  4. copter Says:

    Very well said! Love this quote in particular: “The Waterboys are all about striving for new places but enjoying every step of the journey. And that happy feeling fuels all the seeking, working, reading, thinking, looking, listening and making stuff of life”

  5. Joe Lewinski Says:

    Just discovered this, Ed. Well written and most enjoyable!


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