The Sensational Alex Harvey Band

by Guest – ‘Plucky’

Carling Academy, Oxford. Tuesday 11th December

My knowledge of SAHB is not extensive. I know that Alex Harvey himself has been dead for many years, and before this gig, I only knew three of their songs, and they didn’t even play two of those!

One of my main reasons for going to this gig was to see Zal Cleminson – I’m a big Nazareth fan, and Zal was a member of Nazareth for a couple of years (1979 – 80). But, I didn’t really know what to expect…

I must say from the outset – they rocked loud, and they rocked hard. They had a very full, fat sound. When they came on stage, the singer (Max Maxwell, Alex Harvey’s replacement) looked very much like Dan Aykroyd in The Blues Brothers. I knew the titles of some of their songs, if not the songs themselves, so when Max started yelling ‘Can I put my hands on you’, I guessed it must be Faith Healer. I believe it’s one of their best-known tracks, but unfortunately I didn’t think much of it. Maybe I need to hear it a few more times. Besides that, Max gave the impression of taking it all a bit too seriously.

Thankfully, my first impressions turned out to be wrong. The second track, Midnight Moses, was a great rocker, and throughout the gig, there was a lot of banter and fooling about on stage. Far from taking it too seriously, Max frequently pretended to wonder what was going on, and during Framed, he bemoaned his fate, wondering what he had done to deserve being forced to be in the band! For the first four or five songs, Max wore a t-shirt with a graphic equaliser on it that actually worked!

Now for Zal Cleminson. If you’re at all familiar with SAHB, you’ll know that he’s the one who wears clown make-up on stage. In SAHB’s 70’s heyday, Zal looked like a curly-permed Pierrot, but in his current incarnation, he looks like a dangerous, punk clown. He has great stage presence – he was very active throughout the gig, seldom standing still, and pulled plenty of faces. He’s also an excellent guitarist – he delivered his solos with ease and precision. He sang lead vocals on one track, too.

One of the songs they played was called Isobel Goudie, which, coincidentally, is about burning a witch! The gig contained a number of pumping, fast rockers, including the closer of the set proper, Action Strasse. The encores were Rambo Coming To The Rescue and Delilah. Delilah was notable because it included an audience singalong, and best of all, Zal and Chris Glen (bass guitar) did the silly dance! (If you’ve seen their performance of Delilah on The Old Grey Whistle Test, you’ll know what I mean.)

Overall verdict then – well worth going to see, and great entertainment value.

But what of the three songs I knew beforehand? Well, Delilah was one of them. The two they didn’t play were Next and Boston Tea Party. Oh well, you can’t have everything, I suppose…

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