Scott of the arch antics

The Waterboys | Cambridge Corn Exchange
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The Independent Culture

Enigmatic, driven, and perhaps a tad self-obsessed, Mike ("I am the Waterboys") Scott is one of the last true mavericks. Around 1997's Still Burning, his stock value plummeted though, and when a mooted deal with Creation records later fell through, he found himself with everything to prove.

Enigmatic, driven, and perhaps a tad self-obsessed, Mike ("I am the Waterboys") Scott is one of the last true mavericks. Around 1997's Still Burning, his stock value plummeted though, and when a mooted deal with Creation records later fell through, he found himself with everything to prove.

His new album A Rock In The Weary Land is a startling return to form, its production pleasingly raw, its lyrics an intriguing mix of bile, spirituality and cultural critique. The latter element was clearly evidenced in tonight's performance of "Dumbing Down The World", Scott augmenting its lyrics with cries of "Jerry Springer!" and "Big Brother!" (tellingly, he spat these words).

Scott has always been tremendously focused live, and tonight was no exception. On "Let It Happen" he fully inhabited his vocal, relishing both the splendour of the song's chorus and the poetry of its narrative. Further in, "Glastonbury Song" featured some deliciously hungry-sounding lead-guitar; like Neil Young, Scott knows that so long as you rely on instinct, even the simplest of phrases will ring true.

I've seen him with more charismatic Waterboys, and the able, but unremarkable playing of tonight's sessioners was a reminder that the hiring-and-firing solo artist can never front a true band. When Scott dusted down his exquisite folk song "When You Go Away", for example, the digital-piano take on the Sharon Shannon accordion reel which graced the original version could only be disappointing.

The evening's stand-outs, perhaps, were "Don't Bang The Drum" and my "My Love Is My Rock In The Weary Land". The former boasted a trumpet intro which provided instant drama, the latter swung as coolly as Mott The Hoople's "All The Young Dudes", Scott singing with an abandon which most of his peers can no longer access.

The album version of "Weary Land" features The London Community Gospel Choir, and when Scott performed it choir-less on Jools Holland's Later, it seemed like a missed opportunity. I mention this only to further illustrate that, perhaps for financial reasons, there seems to be a difficulty procuring the talent that Mike Scott needs to realise his current vision live. If he could employ the talents of TLCGC at his forthcoming shows in the capital, the impact would be immense. Perhaps it's time to speculate to accumulate.

The Waterboys play the Astoria, London on 29 and 30 Oct

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