I was first introduced to Uriah Heep’s music when I was about 11 years old, by a guy who lived across the road from me when I was growing up. He was quite a fan and played their records all the time so, consequently, ‘Very ‘Eavy, Very ‘Umble ‘ was part of my very early record collection and I still do have a soft spot for their very early material but, I have to say, after hearing some of the tracks off the band’s latest album, ‘Outsider’, I’m quite impressed with their current material as well.
Sunday night was a rare treat… the opportunity to see one of rock’s biggest bands; a band that has more than earned their stripes in the industry over a period of 45 years, in a much more intimate setting than your usual rock venue. The gig was at the Chelsea Heights Hotel in Melbourne’s east , a far cry from the likes of The Palais Theatre and Festival Hall where they have played to packed houses in the past. Having said that, the crowd was enthusiastic and made enough noise to compensate when urged on by singer Bernie Shaw to take part in the show and to make themselves heard.
The set opened with one of the band’s newer songs, a track off the current Outsider album, ‘Speed of Sound’, kicking off with the big beat of drummer Russell Gilbrook, which is complemented by the other half of Heep’s rhythm section, Davey Rimmer who replaces previous bassist Trevor Bolt who sadly passed away from cancer in 2013.
The band then took a leap back in time to the 70s with ‘The Hanging Tree’. The set included a few more tracks off the new album like ‘The Law’, the title track ‘Outsider’, ‘One Minute’ and ‘Can’t Take That Away’ and old favourites including ‘Magician’s Birthday’ and ‘July Morning’. The set closed with ‘Lady in Black’ but, of course, the crowd wasn’t about to let it end there and the guys returned for the encore, going way back in time with ‘Gypsy’ which, if I’m not mistaken, was their first single released in Australia and ending the night with the classic, ‘Easy Livin’.
Only one original member, guitarist Mick Box, is still with the band after 45 years, and I couldn’t take my eyes off Mick’s dexterous fingers during some amazing guitar playing throughout the show.
A synthesis of prog rock and heavy metal, Uriah Heep’s keyboards and harmonies always set them apart from other bands of their genre and era and is still a distinctive part of their music today, thanks to keyboard player Phil Lanzon.
Real rock bands of Uriah Heep’s calibre are few and far between these days and even fewer, if any have stood the test of time like this band and if this gig was any indication, they will be doing it for a few more years yet.
by Sharyn Hamey