So another new year unfolds and already there are high expectations for the upcoming gigs throughout 2014 across Ireland. The annual marquee concerts in Cork city for example promises to be something special this year with such big names as Robert Plant, Neil Young and The Pixies duly confirmed to play.
No doubt in the coming months , there will be an array of many more gigs announced to satisfy a plenitude of ticket buyers. The festivals too, like The Electric Picnic should no doubt do justice to their tremendous reputation by announcing yet another stellar line up this time around.
Looking back, 2013 was quite a year of exceptional gigs, most of the ones I attended have been mentioned in this blog in one form or other.
Perhaps it feels a little late to mention the last gig I was lucky enough to get to at the close of 2013, but better late than never I guess.
The by now legendary Waterboys did a short tour of Ireland during December to celebrate the 25th anniversary of the release of the 'Fisherman's Blues' album.
This coincided with a release of a remarkable 6 CD box set compilation of songs from the 'Fisherman's Blues' sessions aptly titled 'Fisherman's Box'. Surely one of the most expansive celebrations of a single record ,it could be more wisely viewed as a companion piece to that period of where the band were musically during that time.
Every recording from those sessions are finally available on this fine collection, including remasters and alternative versions of songs, along with covers of influential songs that inspired the creativity of such a record.
December 21st was the Killarney date and despite the awful weather, it was more than a worthwhile trip that night to one of the most picturesque towns in Ireland.
If there was to be a downside to the night, it has to mentioned that unfortunately due to somewhat unknown reasons the gig was announced as a 'sit down' performance. This news came just hours before the show, despite a number of standing tickets been previously sold.
This certainly became a subject of discussion among long time fans in the adjacent bar as to how the gig would unfold. Many people there had clearly remembered more rousing times at Waterboy's concerts some years earlier without such restrictions as being told to stay seated.
In retrospect, sitting down didn't upset too many in the end as Mike Scott and co dazzled with a most inspiring set. Highlights were aplenty throughout, like their take on the Hank William's penned 'I'm So Lonesome...' or the gorgeous reworking of Bob Dylan's 'Girl From The North Country'.
Steve Wickham's fiddle playing was majestic in moments, confirming his importance to this raggle taggle union that defined The Waterboys sound during the 'Fisherman's Blues' period.
This is a band who have been unafraid to take different directions throughout their long path, but in my opinion 'Fisherman's Blues' was their finest moment. It was an album that incorporated Irish trad with British folk music, a rediscovery of roots combined with beautiful, mystical songwriting.
25 years later, to hear these songs played live was more than just a great reassurance of a fine album, it was a confirmation that it had stood the test of time.
Mike Scott's presence onstage that night had me transfixed especially, clearly he is a lyrical craftsman first and foremost but is committed to delivering a faultlessly tight rendition of every song.
At one point while introducing a song with a very heartfelt recollection of how the 'Fisherman's Blues' sessions came about, he was abruptly interrupted by a call from the crowd to play some randomly chosen request. His prompt response was something on the lines of 'shut the fuck up, I am trying to tell a story here', to the hearty amusement of the other 99 per cent looking on. Moments like this can sometimes be boundlessly funny to witness adding to the spontaneity of what a live show has to offer over listening to a recording. By the time the celebrated album's title track was rolled out, there were few people able to sit sensibly in their seats anymore, with many making a rush towards the front of the stage. The band who were by now evidently caught up in the moment, subsequently embraced the enthusiasm played out before them.
Renditions of 'We Will Not Be Lovers' 'Sweet Thing' 'When Will We Be Married' could not have been performed more beautifully, there were two encores also which included the all too familiar hit 'The Whole Of The Moon'. Without any hurry to leave the stage Mike Scott and his ensemble lined out in appreciated pose, providing plenty of photo opportunities for anyone there. The album cover of 'Fisherman's Blues' came to mind as they sat there in that reconstructed position, this was 25 years later and that music was very much still alive, a magical moment. Of course The Waterboys, have disbanded, regrouped and changed members on several occasions since 1988, however that particular chapter in time was unquestionably there greatest.
To be in Killarney this night reliving such a memory was something very special, a reminder perhaps that we are a staggering quarter of a century further into time but we are still appreciating that same fine music today.
This was a remarkable gig in many respects, Scott's voice has not altered even slightly, the entire line up have aged gracefully and they have perfected their playing even further.I have dusted off my copy of 'Fisherman's Blues' since that night and it has been spinning on repeat pretty much every day since.