Uriah Heep – The Bridgewater Hall, Manchester – 3rd October 2022
From Lockdown to Rockdown! is the tagline and with Uriah Heep commemorating a remarkable fifty (plus) years of doing this. Inevitably playing catch up with the date delayed from 2020, much like earlier this year with Saxon’s own delayed anniversary show (our review) with Heep in support.
The longevity of some bands is becoming not only admirable, but also quite common these days with varying degrees of success. However, there’s no stage sharing with four bands on the bill and shortened setlists tonight. This is a full ‘evening with’ experience for Heep devotees, marking a career that runs to 25 studio albums, 21 official live albums, more than 45 million albums sold worldwide and over 4000 shows performed across 60 countries.
Tonight’s show, runs the gauntlet from the 1970 debut album Very ‘Eavy… Very ‘Umble, through to their last and no less satisfying studio record Living The Dream – life in the old dog and all that. The quintet take to the stage in front of a gauze backdrop to play support to their main set with an acoustic set before an interval and full electric set. It’s no brief warm up either.
Lights down we’re treated to various video messages of congratulations from the great and the good of the rock world. A very impressive gathering includes Def Leppard, Paul Stanley, Ian Anderson, Deep Purple, Alice Cooper, Rob Halford, Scott Gorham, Midge Ure, Brian May, Biff Byford and Steve (thumbs up) Harris and shows the esteem in which the ever grinning Mick Box and the boys are held. Quite humbling.
For an opening acoustic set, they don’t skimpt on the quality or quantity. A bit different with all in their seats yet everyone is on their feet for the soul of Free Me while Bernie Shaw and Phil Lanzon get the stage to themselves for an intimate Confession. Mick switches to the twelve string to make the likes of Waters Flowin’ ring out and confirm the quality of even their most recent work. The early highlight is perhaps the three songs (“glued together” says Mick) from Demons And Wizards – familiar from previous incarnations yet most welcome, and a revelation if acoustic Heep is a new experience for anyone who’s been living in a cave for the past five decades.
Another video/photo montage plays out that takes us through the years, the hairstyles and the fashions before the volume is turned up. It’s apt that they open the second – electric – half with Against The Odds. We can reflect on the fact that bands like Heep don’t come along very often amidst those images as the drapes fall to reveal Box hammering out the opening riff before Shaw is striding out and commanding Manchester to get on its collective feet. A clarion call, the fight for survival and a proud triumph.
While the keepers of the flame, Mick Box and Bernie Shaw might take the spotlight, a mention in dispatches for Phil Laznzon. His backing vox and stirring Hammond lines along with his most dexterous piano skills provide the balance between fizzing rock and a subtle delicacy. The relatively fresh faced rhythm section of Dave Rimmer and Russell Gilbrook, the latter a real powerhouse, are most noticeable as the band rip into a pounding Stealin’ that could have happily run for another ten minutes.
Reasons why Heep rank up with the Deep Purples of this world – Between Two Worlds (Heep’s Highway Star) marries the best of the Hard and Heavy Melodic Rock with keyboards. Normally home to classical music, tonight it was home to classic Rock music along with beams of coloured lights that scanned, panned and matched the might of the vast environs of the Bridgewater Hall.
The breakneck pace of Free ‘N’ Easy underlines why Maiden’s Steve Harris was more than happy to add his endorsement and just one example of the Heep influence and inspiration for upcoming bands albeit ones like Maiden who are now international stars these days. The prog rock credentials are enhanced by the likes of July Morning and a reminder that Heep were the first ever recipients of the Outer Limits accolade in the 2014 PROG awards. The trophy is one of many mementoes on display at a careful curated display in the foyer that includes a stunning Abominog guitar and well worth a browse.
As the electric set powers from one peak to another, skirting the edges with the dramatic What Kind Of God and with plenty of dips into the massively fertile Seventies period for a hefty dosage of nostalgia, the finale arrives with a double dose of Easy Livin’ and Gypsy winds things up. Predictable? Yes, but not many complaining.
They may be very ‘eavy and very ‘umble but there’s no need for humility tonight. It’s about celebration. We may have lost past members along the road but the Uriah Heep of 2022 do the legacy proud.
Categories: Live Reviews