Gigs by Nazareth in the UK –certainly in London – used to be as rare as rocking horse dung with the veteran Scots finding the European and world markets more receptive to their enduring charms. However this nightclub, tucked away among Roman Abramovich’s Chelsea pleasure palace (oh, and with a football ground attached) was the unlikely scene of their second gig in ten months in the capital.
The support was even the same in The Darker My Horizon, fronted by Paul Stead who has been on the scene several years. They are a little heavier, though no less melodic, than his former band Sacred Heart which to me is a better fit for his voice, which reminds me of Triumph’s Gil Moore, and the enthusiastic passion he puts into his performance is always entertaining to watch.
The show was also a release party for their second album ‘No Superhero’ and the title track kicked things off convincingly, while all band members supplied backing vocals. On the heavier numbers like ‘Paradise’ and ‘Diablo’ Paul’s almost Hetfield-like heavy riffing provided a solid base for Mark Stephenson’s more melodic lead guitar work.
However, like someone recovering from a bad break up, they should probably steer clear of power ballads for a while as I did not think Paul’s voice was suited to those they played in ‘Summertime’ and ‘Feels Like Home’.
They went down extremely well and the number of people wandering around with cameras suggested a number of their own crowd were present. Even though some of the songs were being played for the first time, it was nevertheless a tighter and more assured performance than when I last saw them which bodes well for the future.
Taking the stage to a crowd that seemed predominantly international, Nazareth made a flying start with ‘Silver Dollar Forger’ and ‘Miss Misery’ tight, crisp and bluesy, followed by a fun ‘Razamanaz’ and surprisingly early ‘This Flight Tonight’, spoiled only by bassist and founder Pete Agnew’s backing vocals coming through too loudly in the mix.
Three years has now passed since the enforced retirement of Dan McCafferty and while many bands of their generation plough on without original members, his sandpaper voice was so much their trademark that this presents a particular problem for Nazareth.
Journeyman singer Carl Sentance fills the unenviable role. At last year’s show at the Brooklyn Bowl he still gave off the air of a hired gun, but this time he was the real deal. He got close enough to the McCafferty style to ensure the songs stayed true to the original while also adding a more metallic sheen – indeed some of his sharp higher-pitched screams were positively Halford-ian. He is also a confident and engaging frontman, even if his stage patter and song links were on the corny end-of-the-pier side.
The set list was pleasingly balanced with even a song from their last album in ‘One Set of Bones’. Uptempo numbers like ‘Holiday’, ‘Turn On Your Receiver’ and a bouncing ‘Beggars Day’ nestled alongside a brilliantly delivered version of the ballad ‘Dream On’, a mean and moody ‘This Month’s Messiah’ and ‘Bad Bad Boy’ with Jimmy Murrison, face obscured by a silver curtain of hair, reeling off some tasty slide guitar work.
There was barely a pause for breath until ‘Changing Times’ with its mighty Zeppelin-esque riff led into a jam with Jimmy, and father and son rhythm section Pete and Lee Agnew given freer rein to show off their musicianship.
We were then into the home straight of some of the better known crowd pleasers, beginning with ‘Hair Of The Dog’ (though Dan’s traditional ‘bagpipe’ solo was replaced by more conventional guitar effects) while ‘Expect No Mercy’ had various members of the London rock reviewing fraternity headbanging.
Proving he is more than just a metal screamer, Carl also delivered ‘Love Hurts’ in faithful fashion, before a surprise to end the main set as they delved way back to the early days to do the old standard ‘Morning Dew’, another number where they could jam at greater length with some particularly nimble bass playing from Pete.
An hour and a half set saw just one encore in breakthrough hit ‘Broken Down Angel’, and by now the atmosphere was even more relaxed with a singalong and various fans punching the air and jumping up and down.
I came into this gig with modest expectations, and yet with Carl really making his mark and the band in confident form, a well balanced setlist full of classics, and it has to be said a great venue with a large stage, sharp sound and backdrop fitting of larger places, it ended up being one of the most enjoyable of the year. There is plenty of life in the Naz yet.
Review and Photos by Andy Nathan
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