Thursday, February 17, 2011

Mike Scott Meets WB Yeats

I first saw Mike Scott way around 1980 when he played for a band called Another Pretty Face, supporting Stiff Little Fingers at the legendary but long departed Apollo Theatre, Glasgow. I can’t remember much about APF’s set, but I do know they were eclipsed by SLF at the top of their game (although 'All the Boys Love Carrie', at the link, still sounds good to me).

I was listening to the radio one evening a few years later and heard a track called December by a band called The Waterboys. I liked it so much I bought the single on 12 inch vinyl that weekend and the albums that followed. I went to see The Waterboys at the inauspicious Heathery Bar, Wishaw. Intimate, yes, but it wasn’t a great gig. At one point, Scott broke a string on his already way-out-of-tune guitar but kept hammering away at it regardless. Hard going...

But the albums were good – from the big music of the first three to the classic Fisherman’s Blues and the much maligned Room to Roam, which was critically mauled at the time. I don’t know why, as it contains some fantastic songs, such as How Long Will I Love You? It was just different from Fisherman’s Blues and the critics couldn’t cope. There’s good stuff on all the albums which followed.

And now Yeats. Scott toured briefly this winter, including a date in Glasgow’s Royal Concert Hall, to showcase songs he’s written using the poems of WB Yeats, and they are terrific, among the best material of his career. The live performance was great too, theatrical at times with its use of light and staging. His voice is strong, his diction clear, no doubt helped by the RCH’s fine acoustics. Unlike most gigs, it was possible to hear virtually every word. He talks to Ryan Van Winkle about it at this SPL podcast (about 25 minutes), which is well worth listening to. I hope we have a Yeats album soon but, until then, the memory of a fantastic gig will have to be enough.

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