The Waterboys: Poetry In Music

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Poetry buffs and music fans alike will find something to enjoy when The Waterboys make their East End debut this weekend.The famed Celtic folk-rock band, which got its start more than three decades ago, is set to perform for the first time ever at the Westhampton Beach Performing Arts Center on Friday, September 27. The musicians will bring with them a new album based on the work of celebrated Irish poet William Butler Yeats. All 14 songs on the album are rooted in Yeats’s classic writing, including such poems as “News For The Delphic Oracle” and “Mad As The Mist And Snow.”

The album, “An Appointment With Mr. Yeats,” is not The Waterboys’ first foray into setting the literary icon’s words to music—the band’s 1988 album, “Fisherman’s Blues,” included the song, “The Stolen Child,” and its 1993 album, “Dream Harder,” incorporated his poem “Love and Death.”

During a recent telephone interview, Waterboys founder and lead singer/songwriter, Mike Scott, said that his appreciation for Yeats dates back well before the late ’80s. Growing up in Edinburgh, Scotland, Mr. Scott, now 54, often heard Yeats’s poetry from his mother, who was a college literature professor. A childhood familiarity, however, soon turned into a lifelong passion, as the musician developed a love for both the text and the musicality of Yeats’ work.

“I love that much of it rhymes and scans,” he said, adding that to him, marrying the poetry to instrumental music seemed like a natural fit. “I’m not saying it’s easy to put his words to music, but it’s there to be done.”

Mr. Scott, who released his first single, “An Appointment With Mr. Yeats,” in 1983 now has 10 studio albums under his belt. He reported that composing music for Yeats’s poetry has been among the highlights of his career.

“I’ve had some of the best musical times of my life setting his voice to music,” Mr. Scott said.

Though he has spent most of his musical career fronting The Waterboys, the band itself has seen various incarnations over the years, Mr. Scott said. The group has hosted dozens of musicians, mainly from Scotland, Ireland and England, he said.

On Friday, however, Mr. Scott will add some American musicians to the mix, playing on the PAC stage with Jay Barclay on guitar and keyboard, Malcolm Gold on bass, Chris Benelli on drums and Daniel Mintseris on keyboard. Longtime Waterboys Irish fiddler, Steve Wickham, will also perform with the band.

The Westhampton Beach Performing Arts Center is just one of more than 20 venues Mr. Scott and his latest bandmates will visit on their American tour this fall, which comes on the heels of a summer spent performing across Europe. It is the band’s first North American tour in six years—and their longest string of performances in the United States, ever. Other stops are set to include such major cities as Boston, New York, San Francisco and Los Angeles.

The musician, who lives in Dublin, Ireland, when he is not touring, said the United States is one of his favorite places to play, explaining that he especially enjoys performing for American audiences because they “know the music so well.”

“They whoop and cheer and sing along in all the right places,” he said.

And while Mr. Scott said he is looking forward to visiting the larger cities, he added that he is equally excited to be performing at smaller venues, such as the PAC.

At least six of the stops in this autumn’s tour, including Westhampton Beach, will be firsts for the band, he said, adding that he is looking forward to sharing his new album, along with earlier Waterboys hits, in the intimate setting that the PAC provides.

The Waterboys will give a concert at the Westhampton Beach Performing Arts Center at 8 p.m. on Friday, September 27. Tickets are $30, $40 or $50 and are available by calling 288-1500, stopping by the box office or visiting whbpac.org.

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