Celtic Festival set for an Appointment with Mr Scott

16 Apr 2012 in Festival, Music, Outer Hebrides, Showcase

THEY may be new to the HebCelt audience, but some of the songs that will feature in The Waterboys gig have been playing in Mike Scott’s head for the last 20 years.

AS well as classics from their back catalogue, the band will be performing numbers from the Appointment With Mr Yeats album, composed by Scott by setting to music the lyrics of Irish poet WB Yeats.

The concept dates from 1991 when the band’s writer and frontman took part in a Yeats tribute concert in Dublin and decided the poet deserved a show to himself.

Mike Scott

Mike Scott

“The idea then slumbered for many years, during which now and then I’d set another Yeats poem to music”, said Mike.

It was re-awakened in 2005 when The Waterboys’  fiddler Steve Wickham did a show of his own at the Yeats Summer School in Sligo and an inspired Scott decamped to his music room with a copy of Richard J. Finneran’s edition of The Complete Works of W.B. Yeats, given to him as a wedding present in 1990.

The result was a “fabulous avalanche of songs and arrangements”, according to the Edinburgh-born singer, with 15-16 being completed in a month.

Yeats, who died in 1939, is regarded as one of the foremost figures of 20th century literature. He first made an impression on Scott when he was a youngster growing up in a house full of books.

“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 album has 14 tracks which set Yeats’ words against a backdrop of full-on rock ‘n’ roll with the songs receiving acclaim from the critics and audiences during the band’s current tour of Europe.

“For Waterboys fans who wonder what on earth this is all about, I’d say listen to the music and forget any expectations you might have,” says Scott. “It’s a rock’n’roll record, and a majestic one at that.

“This isn’t a hack job of forcing two unwilling disciplines together, but something that wanted to happen artistically. My vision for this project always was that it should add up to a Greatest Hits album of killer stuff you’ve never heard before. Yeats’s poems demand nothing less.”  

Scott, whose first book, A Waterboy’s Adventures In Music, comes out in Ireland in June, is making a return to HebCelt after nine years but still has vivid memories of the occasion and can’t wait to return.

“I always love visiting the Western Isles and I have great memories of our last Hebcelt in 2003.  The place was hopping.

“I remember visiting Callanish, meals at our hotel in Stornoway and the sheer energy of the audience in the tent.

“I like (festivals) for different reasons.  Festivals are great fun, and I like to get a wander round the site.  They also pay well.”

So who is he looking forward to seeing this year? “I like The Proclaimers and Admiral Fallow, Roddy Woomble too.  I suspect the ubiquitous and very brilliant John McCusker will also be lurking with intent – probably in tents- waiting to sprinkle some fab fiddle on peoples’ music.”

The Waterboys will appear at HebCelt on Saturday 14 July.

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© HebCelt, 2012