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The Waterboys at Symphony Hall, Birmingham - Review

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by Andy Coleman (subscribe)
I'm a freelance writer living in Birmingham. I like Classic Rock, 70s pop music, football and interviewing celebrities. Follow me on Twitter: @andycoleman9
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Modern Blues experience from a band at the top of their game
The last time I saw The Waterboys in Birmingham was two years ago when they marked the 25th anniversary of their Fisherman's Blues album with a show at the city's Alexandra Theatre.

This time around they still have the blues but now it's Modern Blues, the name of their latest long player, released at the start of 2015.

The Waterboys, Modern Blues, Mike Scott, Symphony Hall Birmingham, Gig Review, Setlist
Got the blues: The Waterboys on stage at Symphony Hall - Steve Wickham, Mike Scott, Zach Ernst, David Hood


The band's line-up has also been tweaked - frontman Mike Scott, fiddler Steve Wickham and drummer Ralph Salmins are joined on stage by lead guitarist Zach Ernst, bassist David Hood and keyboard wizard Brother Paul.

Reflecting Modern Blues' return to the band's rock roots, the set is long (140 minutes), loud (Symphony Hall's legendary acoustics came into their own) and guitar-heavy. Scott, his stick thin legs clad in drainpipe trousers, even indulged in some high kicks.

The Waterboys, Modern Blues, Mike Scott, Symphony Hall Birmingham, Gig Review, Setlist
Stick thin: Mike Scott at Symphony Hall


A brace of tunes from Modern Blues set the scene for the evening. Destinies Entwined and the boogie shuffling Still a Freak are energetic rockers and Brother Paul catches the eye, his blond hair flailing wildly as he hammers his keyboard.

Mike Scott switches to keyboards of his own for A Girl Called Johnny but the pace doesn't let up as fiddler Steve Wickham rocks out at the end of the song.

The Waterboys, Modern Blues, Mike Scott, Symphony Hall Birmingham, Gig Review, Setlist
Energetic: Brother Paul and Steve Wickham


A good natured on-stage musical battle breaks out as guitarists Scott and Ernst gang up on Wickham during We Will Not Be Lovers. It's followed by another brace from the new album, with Nearest Thing To Hip and Rosalind (You Married the Wrong Guy) taking us down a more soulful route. Brother Paul again steals the spotlight with his keyboard solos.

Scott's tongue in cheek announcement ''That's enough rock and roll, we're going to slow things down'' is followed by a 100 mph Medicine Bow. But then there really is a change of pace as Glastonbury Song, Song of Wandering Aengus and Wonders of Lewis gives everyone a chance to draw breath.

After The Return of Jimi Hendrix, from the Dream Harder album, an unexpected technical hitch with Wickham's fiddle prompts Scott into an impromptu performance of Has Anybody Here Seen Hank? before a return to the setlist for a superb stripped back version of Don't Bang The Drum featuring just Scott on keys and Wickham on fiddle.

The Waterboys, Modern Blues, Mike Scott, Symphony Hall Birmingham, Gig Review, Setlist
The Waterboys: Performing at Symphony Hall, Birmingham


Up to this point the audience had been relatively reserved - after all, this is Symphony Hall - but hit single The Whole of the Moon got people on their feet where they remained for the anthemic closing number, Long Strange Golden Road, which concluded with the chorus of Hang On Sloopy.

Scott and Brother Paul returned for an encore of How Long Will I Love You, then the whole band joined them for Fisherman's Blues.

With a running time of two hours the concert seemed to be over but there was one further treat - a second encore featuring a ten minute version of Prince's Purple Rain.

Gigs don't get much better than this.

The Waterboys, Modern Blues, Mike Scott, Symphony Hall Birmingham, Gig Review, Setlist
Modern Blues: The Waterboys in front of the album cover backdrop



SET LIST

Destinies Entwined
Still a Freak
A Girl Called Johnny
We Will Not Be Lovers
Nearest Thing to Hip
Rosalind (You Married the Wrong Guy)
Medicine Bow
Glastonbury Song
Song of Wandering Aengus
Wonders of Lewis
The Return of Jimi Hendrix
Has Anybody Here Seen Hank?
Don't Bang the Drum (Mike Scott & Steve Wickham duo)
The Whole of the Moon
Long Strange Golden Road/ Hang On Sloopy

Encore:

How Long Will I Love You?
Fisherman's Blues

2nd Encore:
Purple Rain

The Waterboys' remaining 2015 UK tour dates:

Dec 3: Colston Hall, Bristol;
Dec 4: Cliffs Pavilion, Southend;
Dec 5: Colosseum, Watford;
Dec 6: Hammersmith Apollo, London.
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Why? The Waterboys deliver their 'Big Music' once again.
When: Touring until December 6, 2015
Phone: 0121 780 4949 (Symphony Hall)
Where: Symphony Hall, Birmingham, then touring
Cost: From 28.50 plus fees
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