The Waterboys live in Athens 2019

Mike Scott confirmed from onstage that The Waterboys had not played in Greece for some twelve years, which seemed like an eternity, despite the band’s evident popularity that not only helped them to sell out a large venue like Piraeus Academy in a rather short time, but prompted them to add a second date, the very next day, just to meet demand. That second date was also well attended.
The Waterboys Athens Show 2019 poster
The rainy and miserable weather on the first night made me jokingly think the band should have opened with “It’s Gonna Rain”, but with torrents already pouring down, it might have been a bit of a self-fulfilled prophecy anyway… I ended up driving to the venue early – just to be on the safe side – where I made the acquaintance of some lovely people at the front bar-ier.
The rain kept people from coming in early, but by 21:00 the massive hall was beginning to fill up considerably and it almost maxed out, without it ever becoming annoyingly “full”, by 21:30, the time when the septet was meant to come on stage. Another explanation could be that with the anti-smoking law in full effect, a lot of them where there, but just staying outside for a quick fag (cigarette in British slang for you Americans), while vying to stay dry at the same time. At any rate, the fact there was hardly any lawbreakers that night meant that the atmosphere was a whole lot more pleasant, than on most other gigs.
The crowd was a mix of pop, rock, mod fans, a few metalheads and a bunch of punks; it’s weird but also endearing how Scott’s band manages to attract such a varied fandom and the age range varied likewise, with thirty to fifty something being the majority.
Scott and his merry men and women took the stage and without any further ado attempted to cover the long absence from the Greek stages with a slightly tweaked version of the set-list they performed on their current tour, but hardly that much different. With way too many albums to choose from, the fact that they even covered about half of them in some form or other is more than enough.
The show opened, with a one, two, tree of songs from “Fisherman’s Blues”. “When Ye Go Away” went into the short instrumental “Dunford’s Fancy” only to be followed by the titular “Fisherman’s Blues” to a great reaction from the adoring crowd which Scott acknowledged just then. Then the band dropped a new tune in the form of the eponymous track from their latest album, “Where the Action Is” that sounded a little more charged and rocking to the relatively tame “Fisherman” material with Scott also switching to electric from acoustic guitar.
Throughout the show, the band would sometimes switch around roles to fit the song, with Scott even sitting on an electric piano every one so often (ie on “The Whole of the Moon”). He did so on the total throwback that the rather melancholic “A Girl Called Johnny” was a song lifted from the band’s debut, all those years ago. After that, it was back to more recent tunes, with the funky “If the Answer is Yeah” that a decent percent of the crowd seemed to know or at least be into. “Still a Freak” from “Modern Blues” wasn’t bad, although I’d have taken something like “Destinies Entwined” at a heartbeat, instead of that.
I even decided to have a small break and headed back towards the bar, to get some liquid down my tastebuds, only having to snap right back for the rather spectacular “Medicine Bow” that came on shortly after. The low point for me was the rather Americana flavored “Nashville, Tennessee” from “Out of all this Blue”, a song that while, I do “get”, I don’t like that much… and the band seemed to dwell on for a while, with even some fancy soloing courtesy of brother Paul. “Ladbroke Grove Symphony” from “Action” describes the early years of Scott in a London hamlet in impeccable style and brought a welcome change of pace at least for me, that was quite turned on its head, by a too cool and tame “This is the Sea” that watered things down a bit, despite being a firm favorite. Rocking things up again – the quirky “(You Married the Wrong Guy) Rosalind” was a nice surprise. Then Ralph Salmins, who’s been drumming for the band for quite a while now, did pay his respects to the late Ginger Baker, with a solo entitled “Blues for Baker” that allowed Scott to get offstage for a much needed breather. Back again, the persistent violin riff of “We Will Not Be Lovers” got people getting jiggy with it.
While a duo performances, I would assume specially for Greece of “The Pan Within/The Return of Pan” (depending on the night) with only Scott on 12 string and Wickham on fiddle, felt special indeed. It was also funny that when Scott asked if people wanted to hear any other “requests”, most people jokingly replied “the air-condition” as ventilation, was at best lacking, with most of the crowd sweating up, quite a bit. “Morning Came Too Soon” felt appropriate, despite being a more contemporary cut and it led beautifully into the celebratory “The Whole of the Moon” that had the entire crowd singing along. The band’s take bow after that, but returned to close both nights with a cover of Prince’s “Purple Rain” on the first and “Jumping Jack Flash” by the Rolling Stones on the second.
Overall, a great show and hopefully, we won’t have to wait around more than a decade for the “next time”… if what Scott said is true.