Live review: The Waterboys at the Sage Gateshead

They’ve not long since released a new version of one of their biggest hits, albeit in cover version form, and they’ve got a five-CD box set on the way of outtakes from the album that yielded it, so it wouldn’t be unreasonable to expect that LP, 1990’s Room to Roam, to get a sizeable showing on setlists for the Waterboys’ latest tour.

Thursday, 28th October 2021, 5:03 pm
Waterboys frontman Mike Scott (Photo by Tim P Whitby/Getty Images)

Expecting the unexpected is a better bet in the case of the folk-rock veterans, however, so, almost inevitably, nothing of the sort occurred and that No 5 hit from 31 years ago barely got a look-in at the Sage Gateshead last night, October 27.

Islandman turned out to be the only Room to Roam track featured in a 21-song set lasting just over two hours.

1985’s This is the Sea, on the other hand, accounted for fully a third of the five-piece act’s set – Be My Enemy, Don't Bang the Drum, Medicine Bow, Old England, The Pan Within, its title track and encore The Whole of the Moon all being given airings.

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No one in a not-far-off-full hall one at the riverside venue was complaining, however, all those offerings being gratefully accepted.

Frontman Mike Scott, bearing a passing resemblance to late country-and-western star Don Williams after exchanging his pre-interval suit for double denim later on to accompany his now-trademark cowboy hat, was in fine voice throughout and knocked out a few electric guitar solos worthy of the likes of Neil Young, backed up by a band less than half the size of the one he took on tour to promote 2019’s Where the Action is.

The highlight of the night for me, their sixth visit to the Sage, was an acoustic take of November Tale, from 2015’s Modern Blues, one of the band’s best albums of recent years, however.

The Waterboys, formed in Edinburgh in 1983, can be seen in Aberdeen tonight and Glasgow tomorrow and Saturday.