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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Naz Wows Moscow, Tyumen Next

There's an expectant hush, then a sudden burst of applause which fades just as suddenly as the crowd realizes they are cheering the guitar technician. The crowd makes no mistake, however, when a ponderous synthesizer-intro finds its way through the clouds billowing from the smoke machine -- Nazareth has taken the stage.

The opening concert of Nazareth's fourth tour of Russia had begun Saturday at the Gorbunov Club. Having already taken their show to Murmansk, Vladivost ok and Tolyatti on their "Russiamanaz" tours in 1996, the aging Scottish rock legends now boldly go where few Western bands have even considered going before. Their tour schedule may have many reaching for their atlases as the group heads off to sold-out venues in Yoshkar-Ola, Tyumen and Nizhnevartovsk.

Nazareth has come a long way since the group started as The Shadettes covering Freddy and the Dreamers and Eddie Cochran songs in the ballrooms of Dunfermline.

More than 30 years later the band is popular around the world, but especially in the former Soviet Union.

"The first time we came to Moscow in 1990, it was because we were finally allowed to come and play," said drummer Darrell Sweet. "And it was great, because the crowd knew all the words."

Even so, at the after-show party Sweet wondered nostalgically, "Where have all the ballrooms gone?"

Fronted by Dan McCafferty, whose voice is so gravelly you could drive a car along it, the band plays a predictable mixture of heavy rock and blues. According to their fans they are the world's hardest-working rock band for the past 30 years.

The band's career spans the lives of an entire generation, and fittingly the concert hall was packed with fans of all ages.

One fan, Andrei, brought his 9-year-old son, Andrei, to the concert, explaining: "They're the group of my youth. I listened to them when I was still at school. They're a great band, one of the classics."

The Gorbunov Club, usually more at home with punk bands like The Exploited, was a much calmer place Saturday. A gold-toothed coat attendant, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said that the crowd for this concert was nicer than they usually get. Pointedly refusing to comment on the music, she did voice discontent at the fact that they had sold more tickets than there were coat hooks.

The crowd went as wild as it could as Naz belted out its increasingly indistinguishable songs. The band interspersed fast songs with enough ballads to keep the cigarette lighters burning solidly. Burned thumbs notwithstanding, the crowd wobbled arrhythmically but good-naturedly to the strains of hits such as "Love Hurts," "Razamanaz," "Hair of the Dog" and the wonderfully titled "My Wife's Bicycle."

Comedy was intentionally or unintentionally supplied by Dan McCafferty's bagpipe solo, as "Flower of Scotland" blossomed over Jimmy Murrison's twiddly lead guitar. Ronnie Leahy looked on, concerned, from behind the keyboards, while Sweet lurked somewhere in the darkness beyond the drum kit. On bass, Pete Agnew grinned.

For the final number, McCafferty divided the crowd into two halves and had them sing "Now you're messing with a" and "son of a bitch" respectively.

Still based in Dunfermline, the band is on the road for much of the time.

Asked about his memories of the road, Sweet said: "I've got lots of great memories, but nothing you could put into print."

The present tour precedes the release this summer of Nazareth's 20th album, "N."

"Obviously I'm opinionated and biased, but it's f***ing great," Sweet said.

Nazareth plays Riga, Latvia on Tuesday and winds up the tour in Almaty, Kazakhstan on March 9.