It’s been less than a year since former Mercury Rev pianist Adam Snyder last brought his collection of soft and fuzzy solo songs to Dublin. But having been dragged around all four corners of Europe on this Waterboys tour, it’s no surprise he returns to us on a wave of escalating confidence. Snyder’s songs – although drawn from simple American folk stock and executed with understated charm – are literally begging to be blasted from FM radio. From the down-home Telecaster-distorted country-blues of ‘Bare Bones’ to the sweet pop smack of ‘Leaves Of Grass’, the songs are traditional, fresh and often cheekily irreverent nuggets of childhood nostalgia and poignant rites of passage story-telling.
In contrast, Mike Scott and his revamped Waterboys personnel scale a bombastic polar throughout their two hour plus set. Word has it that certain back catalogue concessions are being made tonight given this is Scott’s return to his erstwhile spiritual home, and ardent aficionados aren’t disappointed with a strew of gems from 1985’s ‘big music’ opus ‘This Is The Sea’ and it’s lilting raggle-taggle follow-up ‘Fisherman’s Blues’.
Yet the leather-clad guitar-heavy material from Scott’s most recent album ‘Rock In A Weary Land’ prompts a more perplexed reaction. Scott has always harboured a propensity to take matters a melodramatic step too far, and grandiose cuts like ‘The Charlatan’s Lament’ teeter on a fine line between seething drama and corny soul-searching. That said, the hypnotic sonics of ‘I Am A Rock In A Weary Land’ recalls a fine urgency of yore.
The latter half of the show is an unadulterated celebration of The Waterboys’ diamond-studded past. The swaying Celtic folk-pop of ‘Fisherman’s Blues’, the tipsy trad melancholy of ‘When Ye Go Away’ and the piano led poetics of ‘Sweet Thing’, segued into The Beatles’ ‘Blackbird’ take us right back to Scott’s bright-eyed peak. And the guest appearance of fiddling legend Steve Wickham has the faithful dancing and whooping in the aisles. Delving further back, ‘This Is The Sea’ and the closing ‘Be My Enemy’ sounds as cathartic as ever, even if the anthemic ‘The Whole Of The Moon’ suffers from its synthesized overhaul.
Tonight was one of those demanding occasions that gradually wore thin but eventually lifted off with nostalgic fireworks.