The Waterboys – ASB Theatre

Waterboys-31“I was grounded…. While you filled the skies
I was dumbfounded by truth… You cut through lies
I saw the rain dirty valley….. You saw Brigadoon
I saw the crescent …. You saw the whole of the moon
I spoke about wings…. You just flew
I wondered I guessed and I tried
You just knew”


Honestly, The Waterboys at the ASB Theatre March 31st 2015 was absolutely sublime! I’ve been clean and sober nearly seven years now and felt positively drunk and ecstatic on Mike Scott and The Waterboys’ Big Sacred Deep and powerful folk/rock fusion – no artificial stimulants required! (batteries sold separately). The band played before a huge green man projection from the cover art of Modern Blues. This seemed to remind us of the essentially Pagan, Sufi and esoteric roots that underpin their music.

I didn’t seem care that the Auckland Council wasted $16 million on supposedly making the theatre more accessible, but instead making it considerably less so. (Now you’re so much more aware of the sound coming from auditorium rather than the stage …as performer and audient). All credit to the soundpeeps though: they did a wonderful job on balancing the sound perfectly (I truly appreciate how difficult that is!)

I wasn’t aggravated (as I usually am) by the drunken woman interpretive dancing, then lying on the stage for a selfie. Thankfully, a guitar-tech (who’d been standing in the wings singing along) doubled as security and assisted in removing her!) I didn’t cringe as much as I usually do with the incessant heckling of song titles demanded by the bleating crowd.

Instead I felt truly blessed to be in the presence of such phenomenal evergreen songwriting and virtuosic musicianship. EVERYONE was up and dancing to The Whole of the Moon and two encores.

Unlike their last gig in Auckland that focused 2010’s An Appointment With Mr. Yeats, longtime Waterboy Steve Wickham (from Dublin) electrified the stage with his fiddle (both in rock/electric and acoustic/folk incarnations). He made Warren Ellis look decidedly tame. The line-up was superlative: Zach Ernst (electric guitar from Austin, Texas) David Hood (Muscle Shoals bassist and father of Drive By Truckers’ Patterson Hood), Ralph Salmins (solid-as drums, London…. Incidentally, he teaches at the Guildhall!) Brother Paul (Memphis Tennessee), Mike Scott (songs, vox, guitar and piano).

This current show is dominated by material from their most recent record Modern Blues, opening with Destinies Entwined. The first thing that hit you was Brother Paul on keys. He seemed to be equal parts, Animal AND Dr Teeth from the Muppets, Bill Bailey on a cocktail of Ritalin and ‘E’, and Beetlejuice. Lorde have mercy ~ The Waterboys are high octane from their first powerchord.

Scott is most certainly the center of it all – his voice, his songs, his spirit. Supposedly there have been more than 70 personnel who’ve served time as Waterboys in their thirty-plus year career trajectory. He was a lot chattier this visit too, with lovely little quips like “It’s a surprisingly old fashioned city (Auckland). You still get squeegee guys at the traffic lights”, and, after pacing the stage in silence, drinking in the barrage of barely audible song requests he said somewhat sarcastically “Boy you’re a lovely bunch… I can’t see you but I’m just sensing that”.

Scott is a Class A lyricist. Lines like November Tale’s “She smoked a cigarette and blew smoke-rings at the ceiling / Said “If your problems long-standing man, why don’t you try kneeling?”

I was overjoyed to hear A Girl Called Johnny a song Scott wrote about Patti Smith. Hearing Steve Wickham and Scott play as a duo with Scott at the keyboard was another azimuth for me. The latter having shades of the sense of greatness I experienced seeing Jeff Buckley play at the St James. There’s something profoundly sacred to the music and kaupapa of The Waterboys. According to my friend Mary, these live versions were even better than the studio recordings! Quite seriously, if I didn’t have my own shows and commitments, I’d be on a the next plane to Aussie, following The Waterboys to the Sydney Opera House, Byron Bay then further afield to wherever this current tour sails to. In true Deadhead styles, I’d hitch myself to their Raggle Taggle musical gypsy wagon and gleefully follow them around the globe. They seem to be peaking in terms of songwriting, stage-presence and musicianship. Check out more of what’s happening in the vast oceanic expanse that is The Waterboys at

True to form, Mike Scott et al, “Climbed on the ladder, with the wind in (their) sails / … came like a comet, blazing (their) trail” in Auckland last night.

– Caitlin Smith

Click on any image to view a gallery of photos by Veronica McLaughlin:

What-I-can-piece-together-of-a-Setlist-while-frequently-getting-up-to-dance-and writing illegibly-in-the-dark Setlist:

  1. Destinies Entwined
  2. I can see Elvis
  3. A Girl Called Johnny
  4. November Tale
  5. Still a freak
  6. Rosalind (You married the Wrong Guy)
  7. The Girl who slept for Scotland
  8. The Three Day Man
  9. Nearest Thing to Hip
  10. ?
  11. Glastonbury Song
  12. The Whole of the Moon
  13. When will we be married?
  14. A duo reel (please forgive my ignorance here!)
  15. Don’t bang the drum
  16. Fisherman’s Blues


Caitlin Smith

Twitter #BraveCaitlin /