Thirty-six years in, and The Waterboys are rocking harder than ever. That the Mike Scott-led group often gets dismissed as folk-rockers may be one of the reasons they’re not even bigger than they are – not that the packed Lincoln Theatre on Sunday night wasn’t impressive. But in a lengthy, two-set performance, the band proved that they can rock out as hard as anyone, even the Stones (whose “Dead Flowers” they covered early on in the set).
Not that the band has ever been a stranger to rock and roll, but their latest releases – 2015’s Modern Blues, 2017’s Out of All This Blue, and their latest, Where the Action Is, released earlier this year – show a side of the band more raucous and energetic than ever. It was on these three albums where the band concentrated most of their performance, with songs like “London Mick,” “Rosalind (You Married the Wrong Guy),” “If the Answer Is Yeah,” and “Nearest Thing to Hip” highlighting the strength of their latest work. Throughout it all, the interplay between Scott and fiddler Steve Wickham, and the roaring organ solos of keyboardist Brother Paul Brown, kept the energy onstage at a critical level.
Not that the band ignored their back catalog, of course. Perhaps as a gambit to draw in those who haven’t followed their recent career, they opened with two songs from their best known record, 1988’s Fisherman’s Blues. The title song in particular has become a defining moment in the group’s career, and while it might have seemed unusual to burn through it so early in the set, it did have the effect of getting the audience on their feet immediately and amplifying the energy in the room. Other classics “We Will Not Be Lovers,” “A Girl Called Johnny,” and “Medicine Bow” were interspersed throughout the night’s two sets, and the now classic “The Whole of the Moon” took the honor of being the penultimate song of the night, opening the encore.
The band closed out the set with a cover that has become a standard of their live sets over the years, Prince’s “Purple Rain.”
The Waterboys setlist
When Ye Go Away Fisherman’s Blues Dead Flowers London Mick A Girl Called Johnny Still a Freak Nashville, Tennessee Medicine Bow Ladbroke Grove Symphony
Man, What a Woman Santa Fe Rosalind (You Married the Wrong Guy) If the Answer Is Yeah We Will Not Be Lovers Nearest Thing to Hip November Tale Morning Came Too Soon In My Time On Earth