These days it’s becoming an uncommon occurrence to find myself amongst the younger members of an audience at shows. Thursday night at the Corona was one of those exceptions, not surprising as rock n’ roll legends Nazareth were taking the stage. Although the band has seen some lineup changes over the years (bassist Pete Agnew is the only remaining original member, and lead singer Dan McCafferty was replaced first by Linton Osborne in 2013, and then by current singer Carl Sentance in 2015), the band will be entering into its 50th year of existence next year! Let that sink in for a moment.
People were still slowly making their way into the venue as Les Deuxluxes warmed up the crowd. A female/male rock n’ roll duo from Montreal, whose names are only listed as ♂ and ♀. They opened with “Queen of Them All” which is off of their 2016 album Springtime Devil. ♂ pounded on a snare and bass drum set up controlled by his feet while he simultaneously shredded some heavy bluesy chords. ♀ commanded the stage with a sultry voice and super sweet guitar licks. She was wearing a jacket with an incredible story behind it. The jacket in question belonged to a family member who had worn it to a Nazareth concert back in 1978 at the Montreal forum. Pretty amazing to see something come full circle; she even produced the ticket stub from the show back in 1978!
The duo jumped right back into some floor stomping blues rock, looking and sounding a lot like Jack and Meg White of the White Stripes, with the genders reversed. They closed out the set to a much larger crowd with the song “So Long, Farewell” and got everyone clapping along to its feverish pulsating rhythm.
Nazareth eased into things as the crowd, perhaps still settling in and purchasing beers, seemed slightly reluctant to get into full rock n’ roll mode. Sentance joked about, “Slipping on this dodgy stage,” as he tried to settle into a groove. When the band kicked into “Razamanaz,” which Sentance jokingly introduced as a “new one,” the energy in the room picked up considerably. Carried by the galloping kick drum of Lee Agnew, and the punchy and ferocious bass lines of Pete Agnew, the song sounded fresh and vibrant. Nazareth jumped right into another classic, their cover of Joni Mitchell’s “This Flight Tonight.” Of all the rock songs out there with the “galloping” pulse bass chords, this has to be at the top of the list for greatest ever, perhaps only out done by Led Zeppelin’s “Achilles Last Stand” (Funny coincidence Sentance was wearing a Led Zeppelin shirt that night). I realize these statements can lead to long, arduous debates, but let’s just move along.
Sentance introduced “Shanghai’d in Shanghai” by saying it had been a “hard two weeks in Canada,” and joked about how the country is too big. The band was hitting its stride now and laying the classics out; “Love Leads to Madness” was dedicated to “the back of the room, the people near the bar.” It was becoming apparent that the guys in Nazareth were still fond of putting back a few pints, though that should have been obvious as soon as I saw the 10 or 15 beers laid out across the drum riser. Nazareth tore through takes of “White Bicycle,” “Sunshine,” and then “Hair Of The Dog,” which got a huge reaction from the crowd as they sang along to the chorus; “Now, you’re messing with a son of a bitch!”
Sentance toasted the crowd while complaining and apologizing that it was Budweiser before the band laid into the song that everyone was surely waiting for, “Love Hurts.” It was fittingly the climax of the set, and the crowd climaxed as well. Not literally, I’m sure, but you never know! The Scottish and Canadian flags were brought out for the encore and draped over the amps. (For those few crowd members who booed, shame! That’s all I’ll say). Most people were appropriately elated as Nazareth winded down with the raucous “Turn On Your Receiver” and looked as if they could go on for another hour or two!
50 years later, Nazareth are still delivering top shelf rock n’ roll and showing no signs of slowing down.
Written by Lee Ferguson
Photography by Danny Donovan
*edited by Danielle Kenedy