Gig review: The Waterboys: an appointment with Mr Yeats

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CELTIC Connections 2011 went out with a muscular, poetic flourish on Sunday night at a concert which had been 20 years in the making. That's how long Mike Scott has spent setting a selection of the poems and writings of WB Yeats to music for this tribute to a poet he considers to be "just about as great as Burns".

Yeats's fascination with the political, the mystical and what Scott describes as "the strange adventure of being a human" mirrors The Waterboys' own thematic palette.

With some poetic licence, Yeats' words have been readily adapted into song lyrics, and set to ambitious yet often tender arrangements incorporating flute, trombone and cor anglais alongside the core Waterboys set-up. These were woven into a well-drilled performance where musicians glided on and off stage unobtrusively as required, stepping back in to place just in time to deliver their part.

Scott, ever the flamboyant minstrel and expert bandleader, provided just enough context while leaving room for the imagination to roam around the gradual epic build of The Song Of Wandering Aengus, the dramatic, distorted rock setting of A Full Moon In March, a bluesy Lake Isle of Innisfree, with licks provided by Steve Wickham on fiddle, and the rousing Celtrock of White Birds, with Wickham's fiddle emulating the keening of the seagulls.

In contrast, Let The Earth Bear Witness hammered its message home, Bono-style, with accompanying footage of demonstrators in Iraq.

Scott then marshalled the full power of this terrific ten-piece for the galloping folk stomp of the first encore, followed by the urgent rock-out of Don't Bang The Drum and the wide-eyed Whole of The Moon to finish.

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