Wednesday 2nd September 2015
Brooklyn Bowl, London
The first time we saw Nazareth was at The Great British Music Festival at Olympia in London! It was a 3 day event and for £3.50 each day you could see some of the best bands of all time. Our overriding memories of the day were seeing Ronnie Lane's Slim Chance who had just formed after the split of The Faces (still going strong and well worth seeing) and then Nazareth lifting the roof off the place so much so that Bad Company took to the stage and just said "follow that!" Just under forty years down the line we saw them again on Wednesday night at the Brooklyn Bowl in the O2 Arena, London.
At their peak, they were huge, selling vast quantities of albums and hit singles, pulling in enormous crowds to their shows all over the world. Like all the best bands, Nazareth came from humble roots. They formed in Dunfermline, Scotland, and played the Scottish clubs throughout the 1960’s in their original incarnation as The Shadettes. The name change to Nazareth came in 1970 and in 1971 the band moved to London to start what was to become a long and illustrious recording career. 2015 sees them back on the road featuring new singer Carl Sentance (ex-Geezer Butler Band and Krokus), standing proudly alongside founder member Pete Agnew (bass) and long time band members Jimmy Murrison (guitar) and Lee Agnew (drums).
Support band The Darker My Horizon warmed up a decent crowd and after a couple of false technical starts Nazareth launched into 'Silver Dollar Forger' - the geezer immediately in front of us pulling out his air guitar to Murrison's riff from 'Rampant'! What an opener! All eyes were on Carl though - how on earth could anyone step into the shoes of Dan McCafferty? The answer just like Mercury and Queen is that you can't - but Sentance's great vocals and Agnew's driving bass on 'Miss Misery' were an early 'Hair Of The Dog' for any doubters present given that the Naz components have changed over time a bit like Trigger's broom! 'Razamanaz' was another indicator that Naz were in the groove - and as a compliment to the Brooklyn Bowl - it was like seeing one of your favourite bands in a pub (ask Wrinkly about Thin Lizzy at The Greyhound, Croydon in '76!).
Joni Mitchell's 'This Flight Tonight' was the first Nazareth single I ever bought and Agnew's bass was as tight as ever on this Rock classic. An honour to witness it. Murrison's Zep type riff on 'One Set Of Bones' from 'Rock 'N' Roll Telephone' was literally a classic head-banger as my air guitar mate managed to crack heads with me! No offence taken although Sentance slowed things down with 'Dream On' although they upped a gear with the Bluesy Pop of 'Holiday'. The mid-set recess continued with 'Turn On Your Receiver' from 'Loud 'n' Proud' - always thought that one sounded a bit like 'Last Train To Clarksville'! Back to the big hitters and 'Bad Bad Boy' which seemed quite appropriate for the Naz faithful gathered down the front although all too old to call it a 'mosh pit' methinks! The Crazy Horses cover 'Beggars Day' was followed by the brilliant 'Changin' Times' - Jimmy's riff reminiscent of his Zep namesake and similarly Carl stepping up to the plate - Dan and indeed Plant would give Sentance a slap on the back for his vocals on this one.
And if that wasn't good enough - those looking forward to a 'Hair Of The Dog' on both the night and in the morning weren't disappointed. "Son Of A Bitch!" I suppose the title track from '77 album 'Expect No Mercy' was an unusual track to end with but we knew they were coming back. Cue two covers: Bonnie Dobson's 'Morning Dew' with it's tight instrumental opening plus probably their best known number - The Everly Brothers 'Love Hurts' - not one of my all time favourites but another Rock classic. Naz finished with 'Broken Down Angel' - a good old fashioned singalong ensured that the Bowl punters went home happy. Wasn't too worried about no 'My White Bicycle' but guys how could you leave out 'Woke Up This Morning' one of the greatest slide/guitar riffs ever! Top marks to the whole band who appeared to enjoy it as much we did - particularly Sentance who not only eased into McCafferty's shoes but also created a great rapport with the crowd - even to the extent of unfurling their Belgian and French flags on stage ahead of the Bad Bad Boys forthcoming European tour!