Monday, September 12, 2005

The Horseshoe Fury swept our first two playoff games in the Queen Street Softball League on Sunday and went back to our sponsor bar for some celebratory pitchers of Wellington and collective back-patting. That wasn't enough for many of my teammates, however, who talked me into going to Lee's Palace to see '70s Scottish hard-rock band, Nazareth (which took its name from The Band's The Weight).
I knew the band's hits from classic rock radio, and didn't mind a few of them, but this definitely wasn't the kind of show that I usually find myself at. I was probably one of the younger people in attendance and had more hair than a lot of the balding older fans. But the guys who did still have all of their hair were definitely quite proud of it and wore it as large as their Farrah-inspired wives and girlfriends. I found myself watching the crowd as much as I did the Spinal Tap spectacle on the stage. A few guys tried to get me to dance or play air guitar with them, while a surgically enhanced blonde seemed to be distracting the sound man as she bounced up and down beside him. I heckled three times and wasn't roughed up, so Nazareth fans must embrace the "Peace, love and dope" message espoused by singer Dan McCafferty.
There was a huge drum kit that hid the youngest member of the band, who obviously wasn't an original member. Bassist Pete Agnew reminded me of a less gay Rob Halford. I don't know if the guitarist was an original member or not, but he certainly looked like a time machine had dropped him from 1974 on to the stage. McCafferty has probably had a glass or two of Scotch in his lifetime to get his voice to sound like a cross between AC/DC's Brian Johnson and a messenger of Satan (if, indeed, one of Satan's messengers would be permitted to wear a vest on stage). McCafferty also had a habit of tucking his chin into his chest that made him look like Ian Drury, and gesturing with his hands so that I thought of wrestler King Kong Bundy signaling that he wanted a five-count.
The second song was Razamanaz, which isn't without its primal charms. I also remember Love Leads To Madness, Shanghai'd In Shanghai and My White Bicycle. It was quite loud and at one time I went upstairs to the Dance Cave for a respite and to hang out with Jordan, Michelle, Rachelle and DJ Jazzy Joel. I went back downstairs, only to race back up and breathlessly announce, "He's bringing out the bagpipes," before returning to hear the "Now you're messin' with a son of a bitch" chorus of Hair of the Dog. The next minute was quite surreal, as McCafferty appeared to be playing the bagpipes, but the sound emanating from the speakers was some kind of vocoder (think Peter Frampton's Show Me The Way) version of Loch Lomond. With that moment of oddness over, the band launched back into the conclusion of Hair of the Dog and played another song or two before leaving the stage.
The group returned for an encore of the Boudleaux Bryant-penned power ballad Love Hurts that had Fred and Joanne and Tima and I slowdancing like we were at a satirical high-school dance from the past. Things ended with an energetic cover of Joni Mitchell's This Flight Tonight. I think I heard every Nazareth song I know, so that was more than enough.
I was tired from playing two softball games in the hot sun, having a few beers and the Nazareth experience. But when I got home, I found that I had a very queasy stomach that has persisted until now. I don't know if I should blame it on any of the three above factors or the one-dollar hot dog I bought from a street vendor while at the Horseshoe. I haven't seen The Proclaimers since 1987 and am interested in seeing them play Lee's on Wednesday night since I like the group's new album, but in the back of my mind I have this fear that the combination of that club and Scottish bands may not be good for my health. I hope that's not the case, just in case The Rezillos ever come to Toronto.
Yesterday was also the first anniversary of my going-away party at Lee's with the Old 97s, the last band I got to see before I embarked on my around-the-world journey. Here's another thank you to all of you who helped organize that (the giant alphabet song card is still leaning up against my bedroom wall).
Nazareth will be playing Winnipeg on Wednesday night and then will continue its way westward playing a lot of venues I've never heard of in Alberta, Saskatchewan and British Columbia. If you enter Nazareth at, you can see a relatively recent photo of the band (with McCafferty wearing the vest), although not the same version that played last night, as well as a vintage shot where McCafferty is wearing a Colorado Rockies hockey jersey.

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