When their seventies hit making days in the UK ended, Nazareth seemed to concentrate on less fickle foreign markets, and opportunities for more recent fans like me to see them in the UK seemed few and far between. Yet in recent years they have been a regular touring presence, this show being the third in a little over two years in different London venues, the latest the 229 Club.
It sits rather unprepossessingly in the basement of what looks like a student residence building, yet is a well appointed venue inside with a big stage. There was a healthy crowd in attendance but I was puzzled by how many younger, metal-looking, and presumably European, faces there were alongside more seasoned fans from their heyday.
Sadly Dan McCafferty’s health issues leave Pete Agnew as the sole remaining member of the classic line up, and yet the band have hit paydirt with Carl Sentance as his replacement. Having done time (pun intended) with a variety of bands over the years, the Welshman brings an easy stage presence and from opener ‘Silver Dollar Forger’, it was clear few could do a better job of getting as near to the trademark McCafferty whiskey-gargling gravelly rasp, allied to a few powerful screams reflecting his metal background.
‘Miss Misery’ was the first of many big riffs that saw hair flailing from the aforementioned hirsute youngsters, and there were more sharp but economical bluesy guitar runs on ‘Razamanaz’ from guitarist Jimmy Murrison who seemed more animated than I remembered him in the past, and Carl got a bit of clapping going during a surprisingly early ‘This Flight Tonight’.
On the likes of ‘Shanghai’d In Shanghai’, which I couldn’t recall them playing for a while, and ‘Turn On Your Receiver’, the overriding impression was quite how taut the band were with not a note wasted, and a rock solid rhythm section of drummer Lee Agnew and father Pete.
The latter engaged the crowd with an almost avuncular smile as if to reassure the doubters that Nazareth are still going strong, and I also noticed his backing vocals were an important part of the sound, although they were not needed on ‘Dream On’ as Carl showed he can deliver ballads with Dan’s passion.
Meantime the hippy corniness of ‘My White Bicycle’ was rescued by some tasty slide work from Jimmy, while ‘This Month’s Messiah’ had a great moody feel to it, and my gig companion and I were jumping in the air to the great intro to ‘Beggars Day’, though this was one where Carl didn’t quite seem to catch the vocal melody.
The setlist fairly closely followed a Greatest Hits template, the shock omission of ‘Bad Bad Boy’ apart, and ignored their more recent recording career. While this may have frustrated the diehard fans (one of him an ex writer of this parish!) it meant the set whizzed along at a fair pace.
Yet having raced through the first ten songs at breakneck speed, ‘Changing Times’, with a gargantuan riff even Jimmy Page would have been proud of, changed the musical pace as it developed into a nine minute jam though it never outstayed its welcome.
It also segued into a crowd pleasing climax to the set with ‘Hair Of The Dog’ complete with singalong, though Dan’s old bagpipe shtick has wisely been replaced by Jimmy playing an effects-laden solo, who then produced a furious flurry of notes during a hard-hitting ‘Expect No Mercy’, before in a musical contrast Carl did the old chestnut ‘Love Hurts’ full justice.
He was also good enough to admit how many of their songs were covers before they played one more, a slightly surprising closer in ‘Morning Dew’ which was a second opportunity for the band to relax their tightness and jam out in rather more improvised fashion.
With a curfew in place, the set fell just short of an hour and a half with a solitary encore, which could be no other than ‘Broken Down Angel’ with a great atmosphere as fans joined in.
Last year’s London show at Under The Bridge was great, but this if anything was even better. The unexpected late career renaissance of one of the UK’s often ignored rock treasures continues, and any doubters should set aside reservations over the shortage of original members to enjoy their back catalogue delivered live with such sharpness and panache.
Review and Photos by Andy Nathan
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