Review by Mark Snedden & Photography Mick Goddard
It has been four years since the Heep have graced our shores and tonight, the first night of their Australian/New Zealand Tour, they did not disappoint. Uriah Heep had only flown in to Australia that morning and they talked about being extremely jet lagged, but this didn’t show within their performance.
The two support acts Under Night’s Cover and Hemina came to play and each had something to say, however, they seemed a little unsuited for the support of Uriah Heep. The youth and enthusiasm of Under Night’s Cover, coupled with their musical ability was engaging. I really look forward to seeing how this outfit develops in the future and I encourage you to but their debut EP as there is lot of potential here. I have seen Hemina play a number of times and I appreciate what they are developing musically, hearing overtones of both Yes and Fates Warning, however, I think a lot of the audience were lost in their technical songs and lack of predictable structure and melody. I am sure that the band makes no apology for this, and nor should they, but this was maybe not the right slot for them.
Now to the venue, Rooty Hill RSL, it is a typical club venue and strangely it was totally seated, and seemed to be set more for bingo than a rock gig. Despite this, the room was packed and must have been very close to a sell-out. I was fortunate to have a table down on the floor and right under Mick Box’s nose. Even though I was initially a little uneasy about the lay out of the venue, the band certainly weren’t.
Uriah Heep hit the stage and opened with the first track from their new album Outsider, Speed of Sound. The band was pumped, they were extremely tight and they had a great sound. Bernie Shaw was commanding from the outset of the show, he sung well, he engaged the audience and he commanded the space. The band played nearly half of the first album and all of the new songs blended in to the classics. Unfortunately there were a number of people in the audience who were unfamiliar with the new material, but I would be shocked if they don’t go out and find the album after last nights performance.
Unlike a lot of bands who are trailing a career in excess of forty years, Uriah Heep’s newer material is so strong. This was actually brought to the attention of the audience by Bernie himself, who drew a parallel between The Magician’s Birthday, the classic prog track from the same named album from 1972, and the technical and brooding, What Kind of God, from Wake the Sleeper released in 2008. Both songs were played back to back and so the strength of the bands newer material was explicitly evident. The audience digested both tracks, between them lasting over fifteen minutes, a reasonable portion of the show, but it was just a natural progression in the set and it worked.
The band didn’t disappoint with their classics, however, I am sure they would have left something out that would have upset someone, as all bands inevitably do. They did a stirring version of Sunrise, from the 1973 album Sweet Freedom and the other track that stood out for me was Lady Wore black, from Salisbury, released 1971. Uriah Heep has been through an endless number of line-ups but in 2015, but this band is hitting all the songs and is an amazing outfit. The rhythm section is so strong, with drummer Russell Gilbrook and new bass player, Dave Rimmer. Dave has only been in the band since the last tour, for the album Into the Wild, when Trevor Bolder, long time bassist, became ill with pancreatic cancer and since unfortunately passed away in 2013. Dave is a master bass player, he locks into the feel of Russell so well but is also a musician in his own right, and he has definitely added his own dimension to the band. Keyboardist and Mick Box’s writing partner, Phil Lanzon, never fails to impress. Not only is he one of the principal song writers, he is also an amazing musician and a great vocalist. Now to Mick Box and what can I say, he was just seamless. I know that I have said this many times before, but Mick is such an underrated guitarist. He barely broke out a sweat, he never lost his smile and he didn’t drop a note all night. The band and its longevity is really a tribute to him, not only is he the sole remaining founding member of the band, but he is a tireless work horse who is the back bone of the band.
The bands encore consisted of two tracks, the classics Easy Livin’ and Gypsy, a fitting tribute to the set and the bands legacy. I really think that you would be hard pressed to find someone who walked away disappointed from this set and it was an amazing opening show of the tour. Uriah Heep is not only a relevant band from the birth of metal/hard rock and prog rock from the 1970s, but they are a power house band for 2015. I sincerely hope that it doesn’t take Uriah Heep four more years to return to Australia. If you are interested in catching Uriah Heep on their current Australian tour the dates are as follows and tickets can be purchased through Metropolis Touring
Sunday 22nd March
MELBOURNE Chelsea Heights
Tuesday 24th March
Wednesday 25th March
ADELAIDE The Gov
Thursday 26th March BRISBANE Eatons Hill
Saturday 28th March AUCKLAND The Studio