THE WATERBOYS at the Guvernment, March 26. Tickets: $30. Attendance: 1,200. Rating: NNN Rating: NNN
finally reviving the dormant
Waterboys name after a couple of promising but widely ignored solo discs and tours was a smart move on Mike Scott's part -- the singer/guitarist correctly guessed that 80s nostalgia is a powerful thing.
As expected, a worryingly packed Guvernment crowd was there to relive the glory days. That the show was moved from the neighbouring Warehouse at the last minute guaranteed you couldn't stand anywhere for more than 60 seconds without being violently jostled.
Despite that discomfort, Scott made certain no one went away hungry for more -- a polite way of saying the Waterboys gig was an endurance test, a point corroborated by the exodus from the club that began after about 75 minutes. Opening with the rousing Let It Happen from the new A Rock In The Weary Land disc, Scott made it clear that the past was lovely and all, but there's a new record to pitch and he'd be giving it the hard sell.
Purists grumbled that the latest songs are far too studio-enhanced, yet the presence of one-time Waterboys fiddler Steve Wickham -- whose tag-team manoeuvres with Scott provided the show's only real visual enhancement -- evoked the more celtic shadings of the band's catalogue, keyboards and samples notwithstanding.
Still, it wasn't until the band pulled out Fisherman's Blues about 45 minutes in that the place lit up. The songs Is She Conscious? and Charlatan's Lament from the new record are as strong as anything in the repertoire, but the decidedly older crowd showed negligible interest in Scott's writerly evolution.
As one bored onlooker slumped in the lobby sighed, "It all sounds like one long song to me.' Not exactly fair, especially since Scott offered a warm solo acoustic bit near the end. But a more concise set spiked with hits earlier on would have made for a killer show.