THE Waterboys appear live at the Alban Arena in St Albans this week, playing a set of vintage tracks and songs from recent album An Appointment With Mr Yeats. Frontman Mike Scott talks to the Welwyn Hatfield Times about the album.
A RE-ISSUE of The Whole of the Moon reached number three in the UK charts for The Waterboys back in 1991.
The track remains the band’s most successful release to date and is sure to figure somewhere in the group’s set list at the Alban Arena, in St Albans, tomorrow (Wednesday) night.
However, frontman, guitarist and founder member Mike Scott is justly proud of latest album An Appointment With Mr Yeats, a collection of lyrics by Ireland’s greatest poet turned into incendiary rock songs.
It’s a triumphant culmination of Scott’s 20-year dream of bringing the venerated poet’s works to a wider audience, having previously married W.B. Yeats’ words to The Waterboys’ Celtic folk rock sound for track The Stolen Child on 1989 album Fisherman’s Blues.
The idea of An Appointment With Mr Yeats first came to Scott while standing sidestage at Dublin’s Abbey Theatre in 1991, while participating in a multi-artist tribute to Yeats.
“I’d prepared several Yeats musical arrangements specially, figuring all the other acts would too, but in the event they all just did their own songs,” said Scott.
“I was surprised by this and thought to myself there and then that Yeats deserved a show all to himself.
“The idea then slumbered for many years during which now and then I’d set another Yeats poem to music.
“Then in 2005 The Waterboys’ fiddler, Steve Wickham, did a show of his own at the Yeats Summer School, which is an annual event in Sligo where Steve lives.
“He did our version of The Stolen Child in his set and told me about it.
“Suddenly my old idea of an all-Yeats show sparked back into life and I started writing the music.
“Most of it came in a fabulous avalanche of songs and arrangements – 15 or 16 in a month.
“For the first time I had enough for a full show and the reality began to take shape.”
Tracks from the album will form half of the An Appointment With The Waterboys show this week, along with a set of ‘killer’ Waterboys songs.
The idea of the album had been percolating in Scott’s mind for 20 years.
He said: “I became aware of Yeats at home, growing up in a house full of books, but I didn’t read him for myself until I was a teenager, when I found the poem News For The Delphic Oracle on a family bookshelf.
“I didn’t understand the poem, but I loved it. Years later when The Waterboys first toured Ireland, I bought myself a volume of Yeats’ poems in a Dublin bookshop.
“That’s when I started to become deeply familiar with his work. I liked the combination of passion with his sculpted, almost surgically exact writing.
“And I liked his subject set: love, metaphysics, politics, Ireland and myth.”
The band’s interpretation of The Stolen Child was the first Yeats track put to record.
“The Stolen Child was the first time I specifically adapted Yeats, though I had hollered the words of his poem The Four Ages Of Man over the outro of our song Spirit during live shows a couple of years earlier,” explained Scott.
“I set The Stolen Child to music for the same reason I’ve since set dozens of Yeats’ poems to music: the words suggested a tune in my mind.
“I guess I was lucky that it happened to be such a special poem that would draw a great performance from The Waterboys and capture peoples’ imaginations.”
Tickets for the St Albans concert cost £32 seated and £28 standing.