The Waterboys. Glasgow Barrowland, December 2013.

A pre-Christmas gig by the Waterboys. In Glasgow. At Barrowland. Clearly unmissable. And so it was.

On tour to celebrate twenty five years since the release of “Fisherman’s Blues”, and to promote the release of the very-complete box set of the sessions, “Fisherman’s Box”, Mike Scott and the band played two hours’ of songs mostly from Fisherman’s Blues with a handful from its predecessor “Thus is the Sea”, with and others thrown in for good measure.

In part it was an exercise in nostalgia, for me at least. I can remember where I was when I first heard Fisherman’s Blues – in a cottage in Ullapool late one night, drinking whisky with a friend. There use something about the Waterboys’ tunes that entwines with very distinct memories. Many of the tunes the band played conjure up specific memories of places or people; it is as if they are deeply rooted in my psyche.


The first record of theirs I listened to – obsessively – was “Pagan Place”, as I drove around the highlands of Scotland: and for me that is what that record is all about. (They didn’t play anything from it at Barrowland.) The folk-infused (and enthused) tunes on Fisherman’s Blues and the rockier This is the Sea produce deep reminiscences of times and people.

I’m pretty sure I wasn’t alone. The ecstatic crowd greeted every song with a cheer and it quickly developed into a communal singalong. I didn’t know I knew the words to so many Waterboys’ songs. The Waterboys music has always had a spiritual dimension, and at a time when most people don’t get to sing communally, the crowd felt like a congregation.

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All these songs mean something. Each one is associated with people or places, and it all comes flooding back as we sing. Simultaneously individual and communal.

Our singing didn’t get in the way of Scott and the band. The sound was good and every word of Scott’s could be heard. Steve Wickham’s fiddle was a defining part of the album and the gig, and Antony Thistlethwaite doubled on saxophone and mandolin, adding a lot of depth.


A fine gig, then. Perhaps with that crowd, the band could do no wrong; but it didn’t matter: we there to celebrate twenty five years, our twenty five years, and we loved it.



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