Gig review: The Waterboys, Edinburgh

Mike Scott and the Waterboys delighted Edinburgh audiences
Mike Scott and the Waterboys delighted Edinburgh audiences
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  • The Waterboys – Magners Summer Nights - Ross Bandstand, Edinburgh
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Very much a sentimental homecoming for Mike Scott, as he delivered up his classic, bittersweet paean to Patti Smith, A Girl Called Johnny, penned in Edinburgh and made swooningly lovely by Steve Wickham’s deft fiddle, before lamenting the city’s lost record stores, cafes and bookshops of his youth with seething ballad

The Nearest Thing To Hip. The heavens duly obliged the spiritually inclined singer-songwriter by keeping the rain off and offering a full lunar vision for an encore, crowd-wide singalong of Whole of the Moon.

Principally showcasing The Waterboys’ latest album, Modern Blues, the swaggering Still A Freak is a personal statement of defiant longevity, while opener Destinies Entwined proved an arresting introduction, a blistering slice of 1970s rock with catchy chorus and insistent guitar riff.

Recalling how he once dreamed of playing the bandstand as a young boy, Scott reached fruitfully back into the past, the elemental, churning Medicine Bow arriving choppy but racing on with impressive abandon. The raggle taggle majesty of Fisherman’s Blues gained an almighty roar of appreciation from those assembled, still sounding good after all these years. And The Song of Wandering Aengus, with its Celtic Twilight mysticism was immediately followed by Mad As The Mist and Snow, an appointment with WB Yeats that culminated in the mercurial, literate singer stoutly intoning the poet’s The Second Coming, while Wickham and organist Paul Brown slapped on the grotesque masks of rough beasts and darted at each other with grinding discord.

If that was pretentious, I Can See Elvis, a roll call of dead legends hanging out in Heaven, was simply mawkish nostalgia. But with its rocky elements stripped back, Don’t Bang The Drum proved a belter, Scott howling the final refrain loud into the night, before the band brought a certain majesty to a reverent cover of Purple Rain.

• Seen on 28.08.15