By PERRY GRAYSON / Photos by TANYA CATELLI
In live gig territory Uriah Heep still delivers the heavy rawkin’ goods after nearly 45 years and many lineup changes. Guitarist Mick Box is the last remaining original member, but that’s not a drawback. Uriah Heep stands tall amongst their legendary heavy brethren Deep Purple, Black Sabbath, Thin Lizzy and Blue Oyster Cult. Heep can still bash out a bevy of dynamic tunes with the best of ’em.
Keenly aware how to keep an audience on their toes, Heep played a cornucopia of old and new songs. Nearly all the immortal classics were in the set list. They blazed through a few tracks off their latest album, Outsider (including the title track), as well as timeless tunes like “Gypsy“, “Sunrise”, “Lady in Black”, “Stealin’”, “July Morning”, “Hanging Tree”, and the encore – “Easy Living”.
Despite the passage of time and band members, Heep can out rock bands more than half their age. Irreplaceable and humble elder statesman of rock, Mick Box doesn’t get the accolades he truly deserves. Mick is both a fiery lead and solid rhythm player. Mick unleashed salvos of wah-laden axework on an eager crowd. Harking back to the customs of the early ‘70s, Mick played a searing solo with Russ Gilbrook as his only accompaniment – far from self-indulgent or boring.
The latest addition to the Heep ranks is Davey “Diablo” Rimmer, a skilled southpaw bassist. Davey replaced Trevor Bolder, who passed away in 2013. Drummer Gilbrook proved he can more than manage to keep up with the kiddies, pounding double bass grooves like a man half his age. Vocalist Bernie Shaw may be thought off as “the new guy”, but he has been with the band for nearly two decades. Bernie’s job was cut out for him, considering the brilliance of past singers David Byron (R.I.P.) and John Lawton. Shaw’s vocals are a perfect fit for Heep. Phil Lanzon has likewise been playing in Heep for longer than his predecessor, crowd favourite Ken Hensley. Those are some big boots to fill! Lanzon pulled it off admirably.
It’s the opinion of your ’umble reviewer that Heep should still be packing out arenas as they did in the fuzzy-wuzzy ’70s. If there’s one thing that stuck out as a sore thumb, it was the support acts. The Veil and Anubis did not fit the bill, proving that it isn’t always skill that gains bands a foothold as an opener for such a massive international touring mob as the mighty Heep. Perhaps a reminder of the politics that occur behind the velvet curtain. I’m left wondering why Sydney stoner rockers Arrowhead didn’t get the gig.