Fisherman’s Blues: The Waterboys return to Glasgow for 25th anniversary show

Fisherman's Blues: The Waterboys' tour de force this year celebrates its 25th anniversary
Fisherman’s Blues: The Waterboys’ tour de force this year celebrates its 25th anniversary

 

By 9pm the Concert Hall auditorium was nicely warmed, courtesy of a self-proclaimed ‘Hairy One.’ Edinburgh singer-songwriter, Freddie Stevenson, who cut a fine, yet quirky figure of a soulfully dulcet Yorkshire Ripper, made good with an audience who’d stepped in from their dark Decemberness to bear witness to the evening’s main event; a performance by The Waterboys of Fisherman’s Blues, and other songs.

With guitar-strum deftness and a penchant for a line or two the likes of “I got a tiger’s tooth and a rabbit’s paw, God only knows what they are for,” Stevenson was hand-picked by The Waterboys as support during their 13-night UK and Ireland tour. The band’s influences can be heard in his acoustic arrangement, the highlights of which are The City is King and I Cried When I Was Born; the latter giving hint to this furry Edinburger’s lyrical levity with its tagline, “but I’ll die laughing.”

Freddie Stevenson: undeniably more sensitive than an average serial killer
Freddie Stevenson: undeniably more sensitive than an average serial killer

25 years have passed since the release of Fisherman’s Blues, The Waterboys’ 13-track studio LP made famous for heralding their seismic shift from a previous big rock sound to the incorporation of traditional Scottish and Irish folk, rock and country music. Describing the process of what became the band’s most acclaimed and successfully commercial record, lead singer and songwriter, Mike Scott was quoted ten years ago in saying, “We started recording our fourth album in early ’86 and completed it…100 songs and two years later.”

For The Waterboys’ most avid fans Christmas came early this year, as to mark its quarter century anniversary the band collated their magnum opus into Fisherman’s Box, a 6-disc plus super deluxe edition bonus CD, released in October. The liberation of this sheer volume of original and cover tracks, recorded between Dublin’s Windmill Lane Studios, County Galway and Berkeley, California goes a long way to eulogise both the epic drunken sessions spent on its creation and the lost era from when they were made.

Fisherman's Box: A 123-track timeless wanderfest of folk-rock
Fisherman’s Box: A chronological 121-track timeless wanderfest of folk-rock extraordinaire

Most who were gathered in the Concert Hall – for an evening that was a little bit reunion, little bit homecoming, big bit sentimental – were of a maturity that implied they’d expended an ample emotional tie to both band and album circa its original release. Performance opener, Strange Boat, did its memory lane best to set the nostalgic tone as a fabric stage backdrop projected the image of Galway’s Spiddal House, taken from the album cover.

What proceeded onstage just short of the following two hours was a rootsy freewheel of instrumental mastery and hook-laden folk-rock, nuzzled tight around the voice of the ever-enigmatic Scott. By his side were his go-to men, legendary fiddler, Steve Wickham and saxophonist/mandolin player, Anto Thistlethwaite. Reaching further into their back catalogue, the crowd didn’t miss out on A Girl Called Johnny, as despite it being a non-Fisherman track, no Waterboys’ show would be complete without it.

When Will We Be Married? evoked visions of Scott and his young love treading the length of the Liffey in a dance reel, while a mesmeric We Will Not Be Lovers showcased in seven enthralling minutes all that is right about The Waterboys once they get cooking. A rousing The Whole of the Moon, two encores and a re-enactment of the band’s original album cover pose later, this was one Glasgow crowd who in stepping back into the December dun, certainly had had their money’s worth.

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