….we hope you like our new direction.
Off last night to the beautiful and ornate State Theatre;
To see those diddly diddly merchants The Waterboys.
The concert was advertised quite simply as “The Waterboys” without any further information on the theme, if any. Amazingly (since they’ve been going since the 80′s) it was their first Sydney concert ever, so one sort of expected a fairly good walk through their back-catalogue.
Instead, 3 new “songs” in, Mike Scott informed us that the concert was entitled, “An evening with Mr. Yeats” and that the had put a load of the said Mr. Yeats’ poems to music.
My instinct was to grab Charlie and head out to Chinatown for dim sum right there and then. I later realised that my first instincts are usually spot on.
Poems to music are like concept albums, in fact, I suppose they are a kind of concept album, and all concept albums are wank. Poems to music are the worst kind though; the rhyme and meter of a poem is subtly different to a pop song. The latter is all about efficiency of words with some repetition to hold a theme across the chorus. Poems aren’t limited by those rules and therefore can get more complex themes across, but with the trade-off that they’re never going to be as catchy as, say, “Louie, Louie, ay yay yay ya, I really gotta go now”.
I don’t blame Mike Scott or the band for my disappointment with the gig, I should have done my research. To be fair, I’ve got previous on this and tend to go along anyway even when my gut-feel is not to. Trick me one time, shame on you, trick me two times, shame on me. Specifically, Lou Reed; I trotted off to see him do his Magic and Loss album (an entire album about two friends who died slowly from cancer) and then happily paid money for the concert of the Berlin album (an entire album about two people in an abusive relationship). I’ve also recently paid money for Iggy Pop’s latest album of cover versions, some of which are in “Iggy French”, i.e. not a fucking version of French I have ever heard before.
So how was the concert anyway?
The poems just don’t work to music, or at least not the music the Waterboys have written. Mostly, the melodies were Mike Scott’s two or three chord repetitions, which work great for a folky pop song but not at all for a 7 verse poem with non-standard meter. And the bass lines were total bollocks. I don’t know if it was because the bass player was a balding Italian who really wanted to be on-stage in a fright-wig and spandex trousers with the newly-reunited Kiss, but three note bass lines for most of the “songs” really didn’t work. Complex lyric, two chord piano, three note bass and thumping drums. Oh, didn’t I mention that Van Morrison’s grumpier twin was on drums and he was in an even worse mood than usual?
An hour later and I’m finding myself really appreciating the 1929 architecture of the theatre and examining the exceptional designs around the cornices and light fittings.
And then came the encore. At last, the encore. “Don’t Bang the Drum”, “The Stolen Child”, “The Whole of the Moon” and “Fisherman’s Blues”.
We then drove home with me apologising to Charlie for having dragged her out to see such bourgeois excess only for her to say, “actually, I quite liked it”. So did the rest of the audience, judging by their reaction, but then Sydney audiences are starved of decent concerts so tend to be ostentatiously-grateful to artists so as not to put them off coming back.
We got nothing to play.
I’ll tell you what we’re gonna do.
We’re not about to do a free-form jazz exploration in front of a festival crowd.
……….You are witnesses at the new birth of Spinal Tap, Mark 2.