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23 Jul, Tuesday
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The Waterboys – 5 Top Tracks

Seeing The Waterboys live is one of those experiences that live on in the memory long after the gig. No two performances are the same, and the band seems to continually evolve, in terms of both personnel and how they interpret songs.

As they play the Ulster Hall in Belfast on the 20th May, it seemed like a good excuse to have a look at their back catalogue and pick out this particular reviewer’s favourite Waterboys tracks.

(Disclaimer – my partner is a big old Waterboys nerd and has made it clear that none of these would make her list of their five best tracks)

Fisherman’s Blues

The title track of the hugely successful 1988 album, this may be one of the most basic and uncomplicated songs written by Mike Scott. Four big dumb chords (with a key change for the last verse) keep this rattling along at a fair old clip and it’s as close to a real sing-a-long as there is in the back catalogue (apart from perhaps Whole of the Moon). Steve Wickham’s fiddle-playing makes the need for lead guitar redundant; this is one of those songs that makes you want to pick up a guitar and strum along.

How Long Will I Love You

From 1990’s Room To Roam album, this is a beautiful love song that has suffered a little from being covered by nearly every average singer knocking about today. Forget the inferior imitations, the live version of this is a spine-tingling and gorgeous slice of pop music. Sometimes performed live by Mike Scott in a pared-back and minimalist fashion, sometimes with the whole band.

Sweet Thing

Ok, it’s a cover of a Van Morrison song but the band take this somewhere new and refreshingly different. A crashing guitar intro and Steve Wickham’s drawn out fiddle make this stand out and Scott even manages to out-Morrison Sir Van with his soaring, breathless and staccato vocals. A song that starts off wonderfully and just keeps getting better, from the big crescendo in the middle to the long, slow fade out. Scott has been known to merge other tunes into the live performances, such as The Beatles’ Blackbird and The Rolling Stones’ You Can’t Always Get What You Want.

Nashville, Tennessee

A relatively new song (found on 2017’s Out Of All This Blue) this is the song that draws the best out of keyboard player Brother Paul and lets him go to town in his own peculiar and flamboyant style. Scott’s guitar chugs along before the band come in behind him with some very authentic R&B sounds. Brother Paul batters the Hammond Organ while the band very deliberately over-emphasize the chorus “my soul is in Memphis but my ass is in Tennessee.”

Nearest Thing To Hip

A laid-back spot of nostalgia from Scott as he reminisces about his childhood and adolescence, name checking the musicians that influenced him. Rich lyrics, understated backing and a real genuine affection for a now long gone record store lend this a slow, melancholic and soulful feel. Played live, this gives Scott the chance to encourage the crowd to sing the word “shithole” as loudly as possible during the chorus.


The Waterboys > Ulster Hall, Belfast > 20 May 2019 > Tickets

Photographer and sometime reviewer with an eclectic taste in all things visual and musical. Still struggles to understand jazz.