Uriah Heep: We’re Just A Garage Band!
Come inside for a review of the mighty Heep at London’s Relentless Garage on Wednesday (November 4), part of Classic Rock‘s sensational week of awards gigs.
Words: Dave Ling/Photos: Steve Way
Shortly before this show at London’s Relentless Garage took place, bassist Trevor Bolder theorised upon why Uriah Heep have now withstood four decades of all the vagaries of music taste could throw at them.
“We’re still here because we never gave up,” he shrugged. “You go in and out of fashion but we’ve always wanted to play. Had that not been the case we might have thrown in the towel, but we love being on the road.”
Tonight Uriah Heep are playing a smaller than usual venue during a week of shows for the Classic Rock awards, also confirming a new surge of interest in their own activity, inspired by Wake The Sleeper, a record that was shortlisted in last year’s Album Of The Year category at the awards.
Surprisingly, the two brand new songs that complete the current 40th anniversary compilation Celebration are both overlooked, though the band’s set offers plenty for new converts and aging disciples alike.
Bursting on to the stage with three songs from Wake The Sleeper, it’s clear that Heep are focussed upon featuring their first studio work in almost a decade. And why not? Based upon Mick Box’s rock-solid Wah-Wah guitar, the swirling Hammond organ of Phil Lanzon and the animalistic rhythms of (relative) newcomer Russell Gilbrook, Wake The Sleeper, Overload and Tears Of The World tap neatly into the group’s signature sound. From start to finish, with Box grinning as though his beloved Spurs have just won a North London Derby, it’s also clear that Heep are enjoying themselves just as much as the heaving crowd.
Stealin’ is the first of the oldies, before Sunrise, from 1972’s The Magician’s Birthday and featuring the superb falsetto vocals of Bernie Shaw, slows the tempo to emphasize the band’s sense of drama. The Book Of Lies drags us back into the present day. Then, after a brief solo from Lanzon, Gypsy, the song that started it all by kicking off 1970’s debut release Very ’Eavy, Very ’Umble, bursts into life, succeeded by an extended Look At Yourself.
After three more from Wake The Sleeper (What Kind Of God, Angels Walk With You and Shadow), we are into the home straight. July Morning, debatably the band’s finest composition, is greeted by rapture that borders upon the seismic, and Easy Livin’, one of Heep’s inimitable boogie-shuffles, begins the cries for an encore.
Box appears from the wings to thank Classic Rock and enthuse about the “fantastic” awards ceremony of two nights earlier, also cheekily namechecking his wife Sheila (“I’m here darlin’!” she chirrups back not two feet away from where Classic Rock stands).
“This one brought us two Grammies,” beams the guitarist, “but when we’re in Germany we always call them Grannies, just for a laugh.” Heep then launch into Lady In Black, an acoustic-driven crowd participation number that Box declares has become as much the property of the fans as the band (perhaps its composer, original keyboardist Ken Hensley, might have something to say about such flippancy, though that’s by the by).
That the show lasts for just 90 minutes might disappoint, but its brevity only serves to enhance the quality of what has just been experienced. Uriah Heep might have ensured good times and bad, but this latest renaissance is richly deserved.