The health-induced retirement of singer Dan McCafferty has created a king sized headache for veteran Scottish rockers Nazareth. It is not uncommon for bands of their vintage to plough on without several key members, but it is particularly difficult for a band whose sound, with respect to his bandmates, was so defined by his distinctive whisky-soaked rasp.
Local singer Linton Osborne was the first to take on this unenviable role and late in 2014 I witnessed them film a live DVD at Metropolis Studios which will now presumably end up on the proverbial cutting room floor as his brief tenure ended soon after.
The ‘Naz’ then turned to a more experienced journeyman figure in former Persian Risk singer Carl Sentance who has recently been a well respected gun for hire, providing the vocals for figures as diverse as Don Airey and Uli Jon Roth.
This rare London show was an opportunity to see if he could cut the mustard. Considering Nazareth’s status as respected artists with a large worldwide following but also regular UK top 20 hitmakers in the first half of the seventies, I am always disappointed at how poorly attended their London shows are and this was no exception.
As a more experienced performer, the Welshman certainly looked the part of frontman, projecting his voice, working the crowd and putting his arm around guitarist Jimmy Murrison. Even his curly hair bore a superficial resemblance to Dan but I fell too much for the temptation to rate his vocal performance against the master rather than just enjoy the show for what it was. While no soundalike, generally he was versatile and technically capable enough to stay fairly faithful to the originals.
After a false start when the intro tape had to be played three times, ‘Silver Dollar Forger’ was a fine up tempo opener followed by the slower grind of ‘Miss Misery’ and a double of two old favourites in ‘Razamanaz ‘ which had a noticeably looser and bluesier feel than usual and ‘This Flight Tonight’.
Unlike many contemporaries, Nazareth have kept up a steady stream of new releases but other than a solitary cut from last year’s ‘Rock n Roll Telephone’ this was a retrospective, seventies dominated set.
Carl did fluff a couple of notes on the otherwise excellent power ballad ‘Dream On’ but I thought the gig was warming up nicely with a pleasant surprise in ‘Holiday’, the moodier atmospherics of ‘This Month’s Messiah’, and ‘Turn On Your Receiver’.
Together with Jimmy, the father and son rhythm section of Pete and Lee Agnew were laying down a tight, economical sound, with Pete, now the sole original member, keeping the faithful entertained with his facial expressions.
However I didn’t feel that Carl’s voice didn’t quite nail ‘Bad Bad Boy’, which showcased some great slide guitar from Jimmy, and he was found wanting on ‘Beggars Day’ which otherwise would have been a highlight of the set.
I did hear gripes from the odd diehard fan, including one late of GRTR!, that the setlist was on the safe side, but ‘Changing Times’ was unexpected and saw the band divert into a lengthy improvisation, Jimmy and Pete reminding me of the way UFO jam off piste during ‘Rock Bottom’, before ending the main set by returning to old favourites in ‘Hair Of The Dog’, albeit without the fake bagpipe solo Dan made his own, and the fast and furious guitar licks of ‘Expect No Mercy’.
The encores began with a surprise in a lengthy version of ‘Morning Dew’ before the expected in ‘Love Hurts’, Carl doing a pretty good job all in all on the classic ballad Dan made his own and ‘Broken Down Angel’ where he orchestrated a crowd singalong.
It was a typical Nazareth performance mixing professionalism and fun. While I had mixed feelings about Carl Sentence’s performance he is probably the best fit for Nazareth with the hand that fate has dealt them, and this set packed with classics showed there is plenty of life in the seasoned Scots yet. I just hope the small turnout does not discourage future London shows.
Review by Andy Nathan
Photos by Noel Buckley
In his show broadcast on Get Ready to ROCK! Radio on 10 May David Randall played a further selection of artists and albums included in the new Features series, “2020 Vision”.
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Featured Albums w/c 25 May (Mon-Fri)
09:00-12:00 FM Synchronized (Frontiers)
12:00-13:00 THE ROCKET DOLLS The Art Of Disconnect (indie)
14:00-16:00 BEN KUNDER Searching For The Stranger (indie)
Power Plays w/c 11 May (Mon-Fri)
THE MERCY KILLS Alone (Golden Robot Records)
DEAD REYNOLDS By Your Side (indie)
THE JAILBIRDS Watery Grave (Golden Robot Records)
ALI MASS & MICKY MOODY These Times (Last Man Music)
MASSIVE WAGONS Bangin In Your Stereo (Earache)
UDO We Are One (AFM Records)
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