Not even on a bitterly cold festive evening, with the temperature hovering around the freezing mark, was going to deter the already impressive queue snaking away in the distance from the highly anticipated return of URIAH HEEP in support of their fine new studio album “Living The Dream”. With two top drawer supports acts in VON HERTZEN BROTHERS, and GUN this looked on the cards to be a fine evening.
Started proceeding at 7pm on the dot with a 6 song set consisting of all manner of musical styles ranging from full on rock mode to funkadelic, psychedelic, and a few jazz touches for good measure. Opening up with the inspiring “The Arsonist” its evident that they have a good following and a generous scattering of assorted T-shirts worn by numerous punters.
Hailing from Finland they have made their mark on the British public and tracks such as “Jerusalem” and “Sunday Child” showcasing their musical ability. When vocalist “KIe Von Hertzen” announces from the stage that he is suffering from a really sore throat and has been for a few days it highlights the quality of the performance even more and undeterred this fine group soldier on and finish with a delicious version of “New Day Rising”
All the way from Glasgow Scotland this enduring band should need little or no introduction. Fronted by the swirling dancing man of white leather jacket fame is the ever improving Dante Gizzi, who has transformed himself into a great showman.Opening up we get “She Knows” a up-tempo rocker from new album “Guilty Pleasures”. Then, because of a limited time slot, we get a greatest hits package from the Mark Rankin fronted hey day with “Don’t Say Its Over” and a ball crushing “Better Days” with a crushing guitar riff from Jools Gizzi, that gets the gathering singing along.
Without even drawing breath we get “Word Up” the cover song that really broke the group into the big time all those years ago. To Gun’s great credit, they throw in the title track from their latest studio album “Guilty Pleasures” before ramping it up for the final throw of the dice with the double header of “Steal Your Fire” and a rousing triumphant version of “Shame On You”. I last saw gun on their previous tour and judging by tonight’s show, they are just going from strength to strength.
Entering to a rabid audience roar, the mighty Heep with 48 years of material behind them steam roll into “Grazed By Heaven”, a full on rocker and the song that opens their brand spanking new studio album “Living The Dream”. With a backdrop of red and green lights this ageless band would put artists half their age to shame and with the humble and ridiculously gifted guitarist and original member “Mick Box” weaving his remarkable talent all over proceedings. The band must be rightly confident of the new album because they pushed the barrel out and played “Living The Dream”, “Take away My Soul”, and “Waters Flowin”. An extended version of “Rocks In The Road” had me captivated by its guitar driven crunching riff and Mick Box doing all his one handed trickery while his other hand is up in the air and moving left to right and up and down. Pure class.
Next up was the first track from the classic Heep back catalogue. “Gypsy” is the track that has become the group’s stand out legacy song with the stage bathed in green light, the familiar strains of Phil Lanzon’s hammond organ with vocalist Bernie Shaw singing at the top of his lungs to be heard over the wall of sound denoting classic 1970 Uriah Heep. As the song crashes to a end without a pause its into the familiar strains of “Take A Look At Yourself” with the muscle bound drummer Russell Gilbrook keeping solid timing on this frantic paced track before it just settles down to a drums and a bass solo from Dave Rimmer and his blue lighted fret board. Slowing things up briefly is the longest and best song of the evening, “July Morning”, that has every element of Uriah Heep in its 10 plus minutes from gentle vocals, soothing hammond crunching riffs, and thunderous drums. Its a master class in song arrangement.
After the crowd had caught its breath, Mick Box takes to the Mic and announces a special guest. The one and only former Ozzy and Heep Drummer , Lee Kerslake, who was there to play tambourine on the haunting “Lady In Black”. When I say it raised the roof I am not exaggerating with Lee Kerslake announcing 3 days previous that his cancer is now terminal it was an emotional, uplifting experience to witness him on stage in his Hawaiian shirt smiling away and enjoying the party atmosphere. That’s when the word ‘legend’ springs to mind !!
With the main set over, the group return with “Sunrise” and a supercharged “Easy Livin” before the band take their final bow to a totally blown away crowd. In all the years I’ve watched this band, it always amazes me when people talk about the classic 70s bands such as Zeppelin, Purple, and Sabbath. All fantastic but personally I would put Uriah Heep’s material up with any of those 3 bands. Also when one of the hardest touring bands in the world return to London I think they need a bigger venue because Shepherd’s Bush is just to much of a pinch for everyone.
A great evening as it always is with this band and roll on next year.
Review by Steve Bruty
Photos by Eric Duvet Photography