While he usually loves revisiting the carefree days of his chemically-enhanced misspent youth, Judge Bill Gibron finds very little that's "righteous" or "far out" about this unexciting concert DVD.
Love Stinks? Love Bites? Love Bleeds? NO…Love HURTS!
There's probably not a single poor male dope out there who didn't slow dance with his mid-'70s prom queen dream date to the ultimate in hormone-humping hard rock power balladry: 1975's "Love Hurts" by Scottish sons of the soil Nazareth. It's become so indicative of the time and the place of its release that Guided by Voices frontman Bob Pollard—himself more or less permanently lost in the sonic waves of the Me Decade—recorded a randy duo with the Breeders' Kim Deal for the soundtrack to the film Love & A 45. Certainly there have been other versions of the venerable tune—artists as diverse as Roy Orbison, Gram Parsons, and Boy George have taken a swing at the sentimental lyric filled with angst and longing. Yet it's Naz's version that resonates with the real, righteous stuff.
Amazingly, it's not even the groups' composition. It's an amped-up revisit of the '50s acoustic classic by those sentimental siblings, Phil and Don—The Everly Brothers. It's remarkable that a single song, not even written by the band itself, has managed to become Nazareth's signature sound for over three decades. And once you re-examine some of the so-called "hits" the band has had over the last 30 years, you will instantly recognize the rationale behind their limited sonic scope. Nazareth may be well loved by their fans, romanticized by leisure suit-scarred lotharios, and able to faux-rock riff with the best of them, but they are far from timeless. Indeed, they are exactly the opposite—a hard driving combo capable of mirroring the present pop culture landscape, yet unable to move beyond the confines of a concrete musical dimension. They appear destined to remain a power chord concept wrapped inside the need for early '70s nostalgia.
Nazareth: Homecoming—The Greatest Hits Live in Glasgow is DVD documentation of the band's "triumphant" return to their home turf for a more or less routine rock and roll reunion. Over the course of 85 journeyman-like minutes, the current amalgamation of old and new members run through a set list heavy on pre-Reagan era entertainment. The music is made with passion and professionalism, the playing always precise and appropriate for the smaller, club venue. The songs performed by the band—also included on a bonus live CD enclosed as part of the digital package—are as follows:
• "When the Lights Come Down"—from the 1998 album
Let's get the praise out of the way right up front. Nazareth are not a crap band. They don't overreach their abilities or try to update their sonics to meet current MP3 preferences. If you like your hard rock randy, riotous, and reeking with basic steak-and-kidney chording, you'll truly enjoy this journey down the AM/FM Memorial Highway. Even without a solid familiarity with the group, one will almost instantly recognize other radio favorites such as the Slade soundalike "Holiday," the slow burning "Dream On," and the gem of a Joni Mitchell cover "This Flight Tonight." The rest of the material mimics the titles given to each track. "Whisky Drinkin' Woman" recalls a liquored up and loose legged lady, while "Walk By Yourself" seems to suggest an iconic band fighting the failed, formulaic music industry for recognition and relevancy.
There are also a few frightening aspects of the new Nazareth: Homecoming—The Greatest Hits Live in Glasgow DVD, and none of them have to do with the stale smell of bong hits, black light posters, or quadraphonic stereo systems. Lead singer Dan McCafferty, who's been with the band since the beginning, sounds like he's channeling AC/DC's Brian Johnson after 75 packs of cigarettes and a gargle or two with industrial strength paint stripper. That strangled scrotum screech no longer seems natural, but milked and manifested through a series of vocal tricks and performance prestidigitation. Both he and sole remaining original member Pete Agnew are listed on the band's official website as being 59 years of age. Honestly, they look at least five years older, and there's nothing quite so disconcerting, no matter how proficient they are at rock and/or rolling, as seeing aged white guys throwing the goat. It's kind of like your Grandpa rapping. Eww…
And just to make musical matters a little more potentially cacophonous, McCafferty breaks out the bagpipes for what appears to be a threatened Scottish pig's bladder solo. Turns out, it's just a clever way of hiding that bane of the '70s rock show—the vocoder (Peter Frampton and Joe Perry would be so proud). By the time we get to the big ballad moment, ready to recast our minds back to those glory days in a donut-shaped Panasonic portable transistor time machine, Nazareth fails to deliver. The version of "Love Hurts" here is rote, derivative, and lacking the immense emotional depth of the recorded take. Or maybe, just maybe, it's that "jammed inside its own generation" ideal come back to haunt us. Maybe Pollard and Deal's delightful deconstruction represents where the song really is in a post-millennial world. Nazareth's nod is too drenched in reminiscent reverb, lost in a luxuriant analog echo that can really never leave its pre-Dolby dimension.
It's a similar sentiment for this entire Homecoming concert. Nazareth are genial blokes ready to give their audience a hard rockin' good time, but it will only make sense to anyone already programmed to their 8-track tenets. Unlike their fellow heavy metalists, there will always be an annoying anchor in the Nazareth canon, a concrete footing that forces the band back, again and again, into that junior high school auditorium of ambiance. While such similar sentiments as "We've Only Just Begun" and "We May Never Pass This Way Again" seem far more significant, the '70s will always find the vast majority of its emotional core in the languorous lament of "Love Hurts." Before disco undermined the morale and minds of millions, rock rode the rails of success, scoring the soundtrack for that personal motion picture you were playing in your head. It's near impossible to recapture that sensation—something Nazareth has more or less learned. So while it's competent and pleasant, there are no long lost revelations to be found during this humdrum Homecoming.
Relatively new to the entire DVD arena, Eagle Vision and Eagle Rock Entertainment are building quite a reputation. Their packaging is always first rate, their attention to technical detail consistently outstanding. The Nazareth: Homecoming—The Greatest Hits Live in Glasgow product is no different. We are treated to a wonderfully clear, pristine picture, offered in 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen glory. Though it is a digital video presentation, there is none of the flaring or bleeding one comes to expect from such scenarios. On the sound side, the Dolby Digital mix, offered in Stereo, 5.1 Surround, and DTS is just terrific. You can really hear the sound separation in the 5.1 version, as individual instruments find their own space in the sonic environment.
While it comes with a bonus CD, many fans might be mislead into thinking this is a part documentary career retrospective, part modern concert creation. Sadly, the closest we get to a look behind the scenes of the band is a series of interviews with the current Nazareth crew, including a nice Q&A with remaining original members McCafferty and Agnew. Both men can't believe they still get to do something that they truly love, and each on has a unique take on being an aging rocker. The rest of the band is also interviewed, and their outlook is equally interesting. But without a lot of background and context, it is hard to get emotional when they discuss fallen band mates, missed opportunities, or certain seminal events in their lives.
Though it's not on par with other live rock and roll retrospectives, fans of Nazareth will thoroughly enjoy this DVD. Newbies may need to look elsewhere, as this disc is not meant to stir unfamiliar interests. Instead it's a souvenir of a certain side of our sonic youth. To many, Nazareth will always be "Love Hurts." To most, that is all they will be. Nazareth: Homecoming—The Greatest Hits Live in Glasgow will honestly do very little to change that.
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