The numbers are getting scary for us old rockers. It may only feel like a couple of decades since our scruffy denim-clad selves were discovering the majestic sounds of Uriah Heep and following the twists and turns their line-ups and sound went through. But here we are at a gig to celebrate the band’s fifty-year career. Fifty! It’s even actually fifty-two as Covid-19 delayed this tour like so many others.
Uriah Heep – Glasgow Royal Concert Hall – 30 September 2022
Words: Ian Sutherland
Photography: Ya Cheng
The need to cover twenty-four studio releases through those decades means there’s no room for a support tonight. An acoustic set, then an electric set delivered by the current road-hardened line-up.
The evening opens with a video montage of rock luminaries wishing Heep well, from Biff Byford to Steve Harris and Brian May. Alice Cooper and Ian Anderson had the most fun with it, but it was a nice reminder that the band’s peers give them more respect than much of the rock press has over the years.
The acoustic set naturally has the band in relaxed mode, sitting on stools and giving cultured performances of the likes of the rarely played Come Away Melinda and a medley of tunes from the classic Demons And Wizards album.
This format let Bernie Shaw show the controlled power of his voice, effortlessly adding colours and highlights to tunes like the piano-only Confession and a terrific version of the much-underrated Circle Of Hands. He couldn’t resist getting everyone off their seats for the anthemic Free Me and Lady In Black, too. The rock frontman can only be contained for so long!
After a short interval, the rock set saw the band back on more familiar territory. Mick Box was free to play his wah-wah pedal and show off the most infectious grin in rock ‘n’ roll while spreading his magic guitar dust all over the sound. Keyboard player Phil Lanzon shone too, adding flourishes and style to the integral part that the keys have made to the sound of this band over five decades.
The songs got to shine as well, with the band delving deep into their catalogue to play the likes of Against All Odds and Wise Man but also sliding in tunes from the current line-up. What Kind Of God featured a powerhouse performance from Shaw in a song that fitted neatly alongside all the older classics.
Classics there were a plenty, too, with the crowd happily roaring along to Stealin’, Sunrise, Sweet Lorraine and many more.
The David Byron era of the band inevitably dominated the closing part of the evening, and who can argue with a closing trio that was July Morning, Gypsy and Easy Livin’. Sandwiched in between was a video tribute to all the band’s previous members, which was a classy touch and a nod to everything that got them to this point.
This was a superb evening of classic rock music performed with a smile, a swagger and the knowledge that this is not the end. There’s more to come with a new album already recorded and due next year.
I hope the ghosts of David Byron, Lee Kerslake, Gary Thain, Trevor Bolder and all the other musicians who have trod the boards with this rock institution over the years were feeling the love tonight. They all earned it.
And the current line-up just smashed this delayed celebration out of the park. Here’s to the first fifty-two years of Uriah Heep. Cheers guys!
Uriah Heep – Setlist
Set 1: Acoustic
Come Away Melinda
Confession / Rain
The Wizard / Paradise / Circle of Hands
Lady In Black
Set 2: Electric
Against the Odds
The Hanging Tree
Traveller in Time
Between Two Worlds
What Kind of God
Too Scared to Run
Look at Yourself
Free ‘n’ Easy