Heep of good live music
ROYAL NORTHERN COLLEGE OF MUSIC
SATURDAY, FEBRUARY 23.
UNLIKE many of the audience, this show was my first experience of seeing – and hearing – this vintage rock band live; and I was left with the thought, why have I waited this long?
Like a lot of bands of the era, Heep is better on the live stage than on record, which is pretty good when you consider they have an amazing catalogue of music.
First things first though, and singer Bernie Shaw’s first thought was why we were at an all-seated venue. It wasn’t long before everyone was on their feet. Being a classic rock band, they left their best-known numbers to the end, but what came beforehand was no less impressive.
Some of the tracks took us right back to the band’s first album in 1970 and three of them were taken from a most recent studio outing Into The Wild. From that album we had the title track, I’m ready and Nail on the Head which, for me, was the highlight of the evening.
As Shaw said: “We have a lot of classic, but if we play the newer stuff often, then they too will become classics.”
Back in the day, they rehearsed in a studio next door to Deep Purple, and some influences did appear to have crossed over. Founder member Mick Box said: “They have one singer, whereas we have five.”
That is one of the things that mark Uriah Heep out among all the other bands; they have some excellent vocal harmonies, headed by the strident singing of Shaw.
Stand-in bassist John Jowett never put a foot – or finger – wrong, and Phil Lanzon’s keyboard work was of the highest order. His Hammond Organ (?) is a trademark sound of the band.
Russell Gilbrook caned the hell out of the drum kit (“It’s what you gotta do,” he told me afterwards.)
The guitar virtuosity of Mick Box was what everyone had come to see and hear. Guitar playing has never looked so effortless, but there’s no way anyone in the crowd could ever hope to do it as well.
Gypsy, Look At Yourself, the quieter July Morning and Lady In Black brought the show to a conclusion, but the band encored with Free & East – for which they invited ladies in the audience to to join them on stage – and the anthemic Easy Living.
What struck me was all the smiling. Box had a smile throughout the show, and singer Shaw grinned like a Cheshire Cat from start to finish.
Yes, they were having a ball on stage. And so were we in the audience.
Set-list: Against The Odds, Overload, Traveller in Time, Sunrise, All of My Life, I’m Ready, Between Two Worlds, Stealin’, Nail on the Head, Into The Wild, Gypsy, Look at Yourself, July Morning, Lady in Black.
Encores: Free & Easy, Easy Living.