London Brooklyn Bowl @ The O2
2nd September 2015
View From The Middle
Joe Geesin: Pictures by Sean Cameron
There's been a lot of turmoil in the legendary Scottish rockers' camp of late and this show was one of a few that should hopefully let matters settle. An odd choice of venue (a bowling alley inside the 02 complex) and day (a Wednesday) didn't stop the faithful from enjoying an evening of classic hard rock.
Nazareth have been rocking pretty hard for 45 years and with lead vocalist Dan McCafferty retiring due to ill health shortly before the release of last year's 'Rock n' Roll Telephone' (reviewed here), bassist Pete Agnew is the only original member still flying the flag. And after recent health scares, he's cleaned a few things up and looks quite fit and on it.
With many world-wide hit singles to their name, including the covers 'This Flight Tonight' and 'Love Hurts' alongside 'Bad Bad Boy', the band have had their fair share of ups and downs, including the death on the road of drummer Darrell Sweet in 1999.
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When Dan McCafferty retired, he was replaced by Linton Osbourne who played several shows with the band, including last year's DVD recording in London (reviewed here), but sadly this didn't work out. In my opinion (which is well informed, having run the band's fanclub for over ten years), while some shows may have been better than others, I strongly believe that Linton was not given a fair chance. A lot of fan resentment probably came from the fact that Dan McCafferty, a founder member, was so unique and his full range gravelly vocals nigh on impossible to replace.
Whether part of a tour or a series of one-offs (it's hard to tell, Nazareth have not played a well co-ordinated tour in the UK for years), this was a good opportunity to introduce new vocalist Carl Sentance (Persian Risk, Geezer Butler, Don Airey, Krokus).
The evening started with a chat with the band, featuring (alongside Pete Agnew and Carl) longtime guitarist Jimmy Murrison and drummer Lee (Pete's son) Agnew. Here we talked current band activities, the catalogue, and the forthcoming recording of a new album, for which they have already started writing. This was followed by a few pre match beers in a nearby bar, a wise move with the venue charging £5+ a pint.
Formed in Scotland in the late 60s, out of ballroom covers band The Shaddettes, Nazareth recorded their eponymous debut in 1971; alongside McCafferty and Agnew were Darrell Sweet and guitarist Manny Charlton. Neither the debut nor 1972s 'Exercises' sold excessively, but signing to Mountain Records and (after a tour with Deep Purple) enlisting bassist Roger Glover to produce their third album, 'Razamanaz' took off, as did the band.
Mixing blues and hard rock, the hard edged sound (and vocals to match), the album featured the hits 'Bad Bad Boy' and 'Broken Down Angel', as well as the classic title track. 'Loud n' Proud' and 'Rampant' followed suit. 1975s 'Rampant' (produced by Manny) accompanied the cover of 'Love Hurts', a world-wide hit.
'Close Enough For Rock n' Roll' and 'Play'n The Game' were more laid back, then 'Expect No Mercy' picked things back up, before the band expanded to a five piece with the addition of Alex Harvey guitarist Zal Cleminson. 'No Mean City' and 1980s 'Malice In Wonderland' boosted the band and fans alike before the cold war influenced 'Full Circle'.
Guitarist Billy Rankin and Spirit pianist John Locke joined for the classic 'Snaz' live set, and the wonderful '2XS'. Sadly 'Sound Elixir' saw a downturn in fortunes and the band were back to the original four piece for 'The Catch'. The 80s were rounded off by 'Cinema' and 'Snakes n' Ladders', the latter probably the band's weakest album, before Manny left to go solo and move to Texas.
With Billy Rankin back in the fold, 'No Jive' and 'Move Me' received critical acclaim (if not the sales), before 1998s 'Boogaloo', featuring guitarist Jimmy Murrison and Stone The Crows pianist Ronnie Leahy. Ronnie left the band after a couple of tours and Darrell Sweet died while on tour in 1999.
With Pete's son Lee on drums, the four piece recorded 'Newz', 'Big Dogs' and the more recent 'Rock n' Roll Telephone', the band seem to be constantly touring.
The staged section of the Bowling Alley was a little over half full when Nazareth took to the stage, a stuttered start with the intro tape before the driving groove of 'Silver Dollar Forger', the band energetic from the start. The chunkier and slower riff of 'Miss Misery' followed, while 'Razamanaz' picked things back up.
'This Flight Tonight' went down well as always and 'One Set Of Bones' (the one track from the new album 'Rock n' Roll Telephone') rocked and delivered with the same energy.
'Dream On' slowed down the pace and the Billy Rankin penned ballad gave Carl a chance to show his range. This song was a hit pretty much everywhere except in the UK. 'Holiday' had an uplifting groove, and next up was 'This Month's Messiah' (a trio of tracks from the 80s) then back to the early 70s for 'Turn On Your Receiver' and 'Bad Bad Boy'.
A standout was 'Changing Times' which had extended guitar and bass work; a nice live move.
'Expect No Mercy' finished the set with a bang before an encore of 'Morning Dew', 'Love Hurts' (a track Dan made his own, and one I'd be glad if they dropped) and the hit 'Broken Down Angel'.
While no-one will ever replicate Dan McCafferty at his best or in his prime, Carl did a cracking job, some tracks spot on and better than others. The performance was fantastic, and given his recent health scares, Pete looked fit and a lot better than at the last year's London show.
Venue aside (nice place but I don't think suited, certainly the location is a bit out of the way), the only issue was the setlist; too much 1971-1975, three early 80s tracks and then nothing post 1984 except one new track. The Metropolis Studio setlist was better and more varied. I know this suited many, but too much good stuff left out.
On this performance though, the new album is definitely one to look forward to.
Silver Dollar Forger
This Flight Tonight
One Set Of Bones
This Month's Messiah
Turn On Your Receiver
Bad Bad Boy
Hair Of The Dog
Expect No Mercy
Broken Down Angel