Having seen the opening night of this show (''The Waterboys present An Appointment with Mr Yeats'') earlier in the year in the Abbey Theatre, I thought I'd try and kill two birds with one stone by seeing the show again and also getting to see something in the newly refurbished Wexford Opera House.
Both elements turned out to be worth the 4 hour round trip.
The show was not sold out and it was a fairly quiet audience, but yet again I was blown away by this new Waterboys project. For anyone not familiar with it, Mike Scott has put about 20 Yeats poems to music and has been intermittently touring it as a concert since earlier in the year. Apparently there is a dvd on the way, and hopefully a cd too.
Put simply, these are some of the best songs he's ever written. Obviously he's 'working' with a somewhat noted lyrics writer (!) but full credit to Scott and band for the strength of the tunes and the arrangements. I think it must be something to do with the meter or the rhyming (I'm no expert on these things) or the fact that Yeats was musical himself that makes them so good. I heard Scott say in an interview recently that he heard Yeats could be seen tapping his finger in ryhthm while he wrote his poems, so maybe it's not a leap to say that if he was writing today, he'd possibly be a singer-songwriter rather than a written poet?
And, even beyond the lyrics, some of the songs go off in to extended musical areas that thrill an audience, using classic Waterboys dynamics and incorporating the skills and sounds of this ten piece version of the band.
The lyrics also sit in very nicely of course, and it's a selection of Yeats poems that range in topic from love to politics to mysticism, some of them very obscure. Indeed the only truly household name choices are Lake Isle of Inisfree and September 1913.
Both of these work very well, with Lake Isle given a straight blues treatment and September 1913 a suitable mid paced epic style.
Some of my other favourites were;
The Song of Wandering Aenghus - a nice slow piano led opening, building up to add more instruments, with some nice solos from the horn section, especially flute.
Down by the Salley Gardens is cleverly done to what seems to be the tune of The Lakes of Pontchartrain and works very well, nice trombone solo on this one.
Sweet Dancer is one of my favourites, faster than some of the other songs and very catchy.
White Birds - truly epic song, another builder, and nice bird like flourishes at the end from Steve Wickham's fiddle.
Mountain Tomb is a powerful short song (changed arrangement from last time?)
Let the Earth Bear Witness, nicely done to the backdrop of Iranian protests on a screen, which apparently influenced him when writing the music, and destined to become a Waterboys anthem - it would be great if they played some of these songs at their 'regular' shows.
Mad as the Mist and Snow - this one done in a very theatrical way, a fiddle led epic
Politics - another really good blending of Yeats and Waterboys, not a poem I'd ever heard of, but one of the highlights of this great concert.
As before, they finish with some more familiar encores, Stolen Child (their first Yeats experiment, a one-off song from the Fisherman's Blues era), a very rocking Don't Bang The Drum, and a crowd pleasing Whole of the Moon, sending everyone home happy.
Don't miss the chance to see this show, playing in Dublin tonight, and then touring again soon in the UK, I think.