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I'll Get You, William Butler...

Stuart Bailie | 14:42 UK time, Wednesday, 10 November 2010

The poetry of WB Yeats has made a few inroads into popular music. The usual suspects have all paid their dues - Van Morrison, Bono, Christy Moore, Shane MacGowan. Meanwhile, Morrissey doffed his quiff in the lyrics to 'Cemetery Gates' and even Spandau Ballet filched the line about a "terrible beauty" in their repellent single, 'Through The Barricades'.

But Mike Scott from The Waterboys is the Yeats champion, sans pareil. Way back, he was dreaming up music to 'The Four Ages Of Man' and then on his 'Fisherman's Blues' collection of 1988, there was masses of awe supplied to 'The Stolen Child'. That was such a suitable tune for Mike, who was also being entranced by the charm of Ireland and the west coast in particular. He was literally away with the fairies.

Now he's in the Opera House, Belfast, with a bold revue, An Appointment With Mr Yeats. The poet's work has been amplified, expanded and rejigged. The tone is sometimes reverential, but why shouldn't The Lake Isle Of Innisfree be delivered like it just fluttered out of Clarksdale, Mississippi? And surely The Second Coming ought to be deeply troubling?

It doesn't all connect, but Scott makes a great defense of the mystic in Yeats, rebuking the critics who don't get the "experiencial" dimension. Hence the swirling degrees of News For The Delphic Oracle, a great chance for fiddle supremo Steve Wickham to get blazing. Likewise with White Birds, which sets its compass defiantly towards the aether.

Coming close to Remembrance Day, An Irish Airman Foresees His Death find the ambiguity in a young man's heart. And of course there is The Stolen Child, still calling us towards the other side, away from the rational and the temporal. Finally, Mike dedicates 'Whole Of The Moon' to the writer, and we watch an amazing film of Yeats in his prime, checking out the camera, a great white Homburg on his head. What a dude.


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