Artist: Uriah Heep
Venue: B.B. King Blues Club (New York, NY)
Label: Frontiers Records
In 2010 I was one of the hundreds of NYC Hard Rock and Metal fans to enjoy Uriah Heep’s regional return and I did so as someone very new to the bands material even though they had been at it for forty years at the time. As I mentioned in my review of that show, while I had liked a few tunes from their repertoire when I heard them, they were just not a band that I followed. Of course I can now proudly say that they have me supporting their cause now and I think more should join up in the ranks because the group appears to be stronger than ever. The last NYC appearance was held at B.B. King Blues Club and tonight would find them looking to make lightning strike twice in the same space. This gig would also be a seated show and while that makes for difficult navigation for someone like me, depending on the age of the bands supporters it might be preferred. I had to admit that with the amount of rocking that Uriah Heep does in concert that the fans are eventually all on their feet and finding it difficult to stay in one place. Speaking for myself, I love to move around at shows and get the best “feel” from various locations in the club. Some of you probably know what I am talking about but others might not realize that different sections of a venue often give the fan a different feeling during a show. Anyways, here is how the event progressed. Their return in 2011 was a no-brainer in terms of an event to see so after a nice dinner and drink preparation with some good friends it was into the recesses of the B.B. King’s venue once more. I had been here last week to catch Robin Trower who also delivered the goods.
The last time around the band was supporting their “Awake The Sleeper” CD and a comprehensive re-recording of hits called “Celebration”. These two releases were exceptional and since that time they had delivered “Into The Wild” on their new label Frontiers Records. This is a great home for this band as they are in good company with Whitesnake and Asia and Yes. All older bands for sure but with dedicated and pure followers. This is never a bad thing. Sadly there would be no opening act for the gig and I felt that was a mis-calculation as it would have been great for the Heep to let their crowd enjoy a rocking opener in addition to themselves. They opened up with “I’m Ready” which was a new number and a bit of a brave choice to deliver to their core assembled fans but I was okay with it, having felt that their new material showed a certain strength and maturity for the band. That being said they were on fire from the moment that they hit the stage and while Bernie Shaw was acting the consummate Rock Star emcee for the night he was decked out a little more comfortably than the last time it seemed. A collared shirt and black pants instead of the spandex attire from last year’s gig. It was summer so I could hardly blame him. “Stealin’” led us to “Rainbow Demon” and then Bernie spoke of the band having a new release entitled “Into The Wild” before they hit us with “Money Talk”. With the second new tune I watched the audience shift their interest gear as many decided that this was the time to get a beer, a smoke or hit the bathroom. It was amazing and one would think that the material being played was sub-par to deserve such a response. This was hardly true and just a testimony about some fans of groups not being able to move on from the classic era stuff. I guess that many of these fans cannot give props to the new lineup even though they have been in place since around 1987. The only change in recent years was on the drums and that my friend was a monster upgrade in my humble opinion.
After “Money Talk” the band left the stage while drummer Russell Gilbrook began to deliver a powerhouse solo. Without question the dude is a heavy hitter and while capable of some fierce speeds and power he does not lose any of his technical finesse. I was enjoying him greatly and felt that one of the prime reasons that Uriah Heep was sounding so tight again was based on this drummer pushing the talents of the musicians in front of him harder and harder night after night. Good job Russell, you totally kick ass. Upon their return Bernie and Box and company kept at some classics before deciding to hit us with one more final new number. The new album’s title track. I didn’t feel that the crowd was as insane as it was the last time that the band arrived and maybe only a few less in terms of overall number. I’ve seen this happen when a band that never comes around finally arrives to a region like this. Some of the fans seem to be those who “get it out of their system” at that long anticipated gig and then don’t return to supporting the band on a regular basis at their next visit due to their lives changing and having other demands. Continuing on, it is without question that Uriah Heep is a band with many legendary tunes but also a group with two very solid recent releases and that brings me to the next issue that I had with the show.
When the band played a classic the room exploded but when something new came up, the people moved to the bars or to the bathroom as I mentioned. There was even a batch of very loud fans that actually had the audacity to physically grab this writer when I applauded a new tune. The dude said “hey man, why are you clapping for this – we don’t want to hear this stuff, only the classics”. I politely said that the band needs to keep alive and that is the only way to do it. They shook their collective heads and went back to mass drinking. It’s a shame when the audience relegates the bands existence to that of a nostalgia act because the new Uriah Heep material is rather strong and nothing marginal or time wasting. Oh well I guess Rock and Roll brings out all kinds. Granted I prefer classics in a number of bands as well, but I am open to hear what is new and hopefully exciting from a band at the same time.
Everyone sang along with Bernie for the chorus parts of “Lady In Black” and it was a massive dose of NYC harmony that I hope someone recorded as it sounded pretty good from my vantage point. As the night got closer to ending, Mick Box spoke about the next tune “Free ‘N Easy” and said how he had read that this was considered one of the first Heavy Metal songs by the press and he had to laugh citing that there are so many better Metal songs than this one, but it was a solid head banger. He then invited a bunch of fans onto the stage to help the band by head banging during the number. This was met with approval and a lot of fun to watch. During the tune Box was a very visual guitar player and doing many hand gestures as if he were a magician musician. He even gave the dancing fans guitar picks as they left the stage. That is always a cool thing to walk away with. “Bird Of Prey” sadly would lead us into the rousing closer of “Easy Livin’” and by this time there was nobody sitting and fans left their spaces at the tables to get closer to the action. A power packed night with an epic finish to say the least.
During the show Shaw spoke of the band possibly securing some bigger tours for the next go round and I am hoping that it is with a band that brings a lot of new fans to their camp. We already know that Thin Lizzy and Black Label Society are opening for Judas Priest on the first leg of their tour but perhaps on the second go round. That would work for me and I am sure you are not going to argue about that. Be sure to check out some of the bands compilation releases to get caught up and then dig into their latest work as its some really good stuff.
1. I’m Ready
2. Return To Fantasy
4. Rainbow Demon
5. Money Talk
6. Drum Solo
7. Nail On The Head
8. The Wizard
9. Into The Wild
11. Look At Yourself
12. Guitar Solo
13. Kiss Of Freedom
14. July Morning
15. Lady In Black
16. Free ‘n’ Easy
17. Bird Of Prey
18. Easy Livin’
This would be the second time I have seen the Uriah Heep name up on the marquee and the band surely deserves the props and with that in mind we as usual present that visual for the readers.
The poster looked rather cool as well but that would be it for our candid shots as we did not swing backstage to catch anything with the guys this time around. Sadly there isn’t always time to present that to the public in all honesty. Maybe next time.
I do think that fans should start collecting these as it calls back to the days of the Fillmore West and East where the wonderful posters became coveted things by the audience who attended. Sometimes when there are meet and greets the band signs these posters, making them all the more appealing. So from the back of the crowd I took a couple of clips with the Panasonic Lumix camera for your enjoyment. The first one was “Free ‘N Easy” and what was great about this one was when Mick Box told us that press had once labeled this as one of the first Heavy Metal tunes. He disagreed and chided that there were much better songs at the time, but he still wanted to invite some fans up to head bang with the group. I thought this was a blast and everyone who got up on stage seemed to enjoy themselves as well.
Next up would be the band’s signature tune and sadly their final number for the show. You know I am talking about “Easy Livin'” of course and at this point even though there were tables on the main floor there was no one standing. I apologize for a lack of Mick Box in this clip, I was shooting this from the rear of the venue on my camera and people were jostling about and blocking my line of sight. These are added to our YouTube channel with the express intent of making you realize that you need to see some of these shows. I think you can safely enjoy it just the same.
Official Website: http://www.uriah-heep.com