Review by Woody with Pics by Rob Stanley
For one reason or another tonight’s trip to the Robin to see legendary Scottish classic rockers Nazareth is my first gig of the year. I’m very much in need of a gig fix and looking forward to seeing this classic band, a band I’ve never seen before.
Supporting Naz tonight is The Deborah Bonham Band, whom other than knowing she is the sister of Black Country Hero John Bonham, I know absolutely nothing about and other than a presumption that her musical style is ‘Classic Rock’ that is all of my knowledge. I suppose it is a little bit of a surprise I’ve never seen her before given that she was a regular staple in the gig listings for my old haunt JB’s in Dudley.
So my virgin ears are taking in the music with an open mind tonight. Although she very much performs music in the ‘Classic Rock’ genre, the set wasn’t quite what I expected. I have to say I was really taken with the band, musically and with their performance. As a group of musicians they are extremely tight and have an air of quiet confidence on stage, whilst the band as a whole were near faultless I thought the drummer in particular was on fire!
Obviously Deborah is the focal point and she has an exuberant stage presence which I really like in singers, never standing still and dancing to every note, to emphasise every word. She has a very emotive performance style which is very much in keeping with her voice. She shows a lot of vulnerability and emotion on stage and this is something that really appeals to me, I know gigs are about fun but I always like a performer who can bare their emotions to us in their performance at the same time, Deborah is definitely a emotion driven performer.
I was also pleasantly surprised by her voice, I was expecting something full of gravel and that indicated a 100 a day cigarette habit. She did have a powerful rock vocal but it was far more melodic and light than I had originally expected and makes her far more versatile in her songs.
Second song ‘Killing Fields’ particularly grabbed my attention a highly melodic song which highlighted Deborah’s vocal versatility perfectly. She also played ‘Pain Alert’, ‘Feel So Alive’, ‘I Need Love’, ‘What It Feels To Be Loved By Somebody’, ‘Duchess’ & ‘The Devil In New Orleans’.
She introduced ‘The Old Hide’ quite emotionally, explaining the origins of the song, and finally dedicating it to her mother who passed away last year. A very old school classic rock tune in which Deborah just poured her heart out on. They closed their set with a cover of Black Country heroes Led Zeppelin’s ‘Rock N Roll’ which she dedicated to her brother John, although she was nervous to perform the song in the birthplace of the band, the audience loved it and were very quick and loud to sing along!
Nazareth have been going since the early 70’s and have built up a huge wealth of songs as well as a loyal fan base, who have turned up in numbers to pack the Robin out to near capacity. The band are out promoting their latest album ‘Big Dogz’ and they show no signs of slowing down either in the creation of new music or indeed on the live front.
The four piece create a big sound and have an easy confident stage presence. Front man and legend, Dan McCafferty not only has one of the most distinguishable voices in rock but also has a warm and very Scottish sense of humour which keeps us entertained throughout. The crowd may not be excitable youngsters but they shower the band with appreciation at every opportunity and an easy relationship is formed between band and audience – like old friends sharing a pint with a kick ass sound track through to the early hours.
Given most of their ages Nazareth don’t bounce around the stage like they may have once done but they do put on a entertaining spectacle with bass player Pete Agnew probably has the biggest guitar body I have ever seen (by the way tub thumper Lee is Pete’s son who has been with the band for over a decade!). Guitarist Jimmy Murrison may not be an original Naz member but his performance gives the band some real powerful oomph on all of their old classic riffs.
Nazareth delivered a long solid set, at least two hours long and kept the momentum going in the most part making it a definite ‘value for money’ evening of rock. The band mixes old and new with ease and whilst fans shouted and applauded just as much for latter day Naz tune’s it was always the hits of the 70’s that were going to create the biggest roars! The band wisely fills the latter half of their set with their classic tunes.
Amongst the set we got ‘Big Dogz Gonna Howl’, ‘Babylon’, ‘Sunshine’, ‘Turn On You Deceiver’, ‘See Me’, ‘Flight Tonight’, ‘Bad Bad Boy’, ‘Whiskey Drinkin Woman’, ‘Time & Tide’ & ‘Hair of the Dog’.
Probably my highlight of the set was the highly melodic ‘Radio’ from their latest album Big Dogz. It came across fantastically and whilst it was without a doubt the most melodic song of the evening, the fans loved it and Dan really impressed me with his vocals throughout.
It was also really cool to see Deborah Bonham join us down the front for a few songs, obviously given her set I wasn’t surprised to see her dancing excitedly!
As the evening was wearing on I thought the band would only reappear for a one song encore, I was wrong and like most the fans was very happy more was still to come! The band took a while to return and as chants for ‘We want Naz’ died down; Pete seemed to indicate the delay was due to drummer Lee needing a much needed and long piss!
The sound went a little awry for the last few songs, with the guitar drowning out Dan’s vocals which disappointed me a little. That said I still enjoyed the trio of classic songs opening with the rock n roll energy of ‘Razamanaz’. This was followed by the big hit ‘Love Hurts’ which sent all the rock chicks into a frenzy! Rounding off the set is my favourite Naz track ‘Broken Down Angel’ which leaves the entire crowd riding on a high and is great way to end a great evening of rock n roll!
I’ve never seen them before but after tonight it sure won’t be the last time, I’ve found a real love for these Scots! I have to give a big shout out to the drunken guy who slowed everyone’s exit down by being so drunk he could barely stand! His girlfriend had to guide him out by letting him lean into her chest as he walked virtually diagonally (does anyone remember the old Mr Soft advert?) as she guided him slowly towards the exit. Dude, I agree drinking in moderation is for pussies! LONG LIVE ROCK!!!
See all of Rob’s photos here;