When I realised that this year the band is celebrating their 50th anniversary, “not counting the two years of the pandemic”, there was no way I wouldn’t be there.
Τhe Dock (aka Docken) is located at Nordhavn, and as you probably guessed, it is on the docks. A former salt storage, it was turned to a culture center a bit less than 20 years ago. With freezing temperatures outside, and as I went through the main gate, the heat and the smell from the indoor “street” food was welcoming… Maybe too welcoming. Fighting the Sirens calling for a second dinner, I passed through the spaceous entrance hall dominated by guarderobes, the afore mentioned street food joint, a coffee vendor, and the merchandise stand. The main hall was covered in a light mist. The arena had a strange arrangement with the sitting area taking up the whole right side of the hall, and the standing being on the left. The place was busy but not overcrowded, so I easily reached the second row of the standing part of the arena. On stage, a drumset, a few mic stands and seats, and a keyboard set, all packed to the front of the stage made me realise I had no clue about the support band – the ticket said nothing on it. The white curtain that was dividing this front part with the back of the stage did not give any information either.
It was eight o’clock precisely and my questions were soon answered. The show started with an almost 7-minute video full of “‘appy anniversary” messages from musicians such as Steve Lukather, Ian Anderson (playing off-tune with the flute and wishing happy birthday to Uriah and the Heeps), Joe Lynn Turner, Alice Cooper (celebrating by targeting the band members with the darts), Vanilla Fudge, and Brian May. Then Uriah Heep came out silently and took their seats. They would open for their own show!
In a very cozy, casual, familiar environment, Uriah Heep were in conversationist mode, both musically and between the songs.
With Bernie Shaw’s amazing voice, the stories of Mick Box for each song, the melodies of Phil Lanzon (“piano forte” according to Shaw), and the soft rhythms of Russell Gilbrook and Dave Rimmer, the first 40-min was magical.
The set started with Circus – written to comment on the Los Angeles scene of the early 70s when everyone wanted to be a star, went on with Tales and Free Me, one of my favourite Uriah Heep songs ever. It then went on with Come Away Melinda, for its anti-war message, Confession – “the best way to confess something is with a song”, the moody Rain, the Wizard, Paradise, and Circle of Hands, all three from Demonds and Wizards glued together. Not unexpectedly, the 50-min opening acoustic set ended with Lady in Black, the “sleeping giant” that was discovered by a German DJ before it became the hit it is today. The running joke of the evening was the weird arrangement with the standing audience on the left and the sitting on the right of the stage. Every now and then, Shaw and Box were urging the sitting audience to get up and join the party. “You don’t have to sit there!” Shaw urged them and “the seats are gonna be there when you are back” Box told them before the last song. It must have been a strange view from the stage.
Half an hour later, around 9:20, another short slideshow went through the different members of the band, while from the speakers sounded the Dreams of Yesteryear. The large white sheet was already removed and the whole stage was now visible. As expected, and with the “slow” songs not in the upcoming queue, the band came up as dynamite, setting off with Against the Odds, followed without pause by The Hanging Tree. Then Shaw welcomed us to Part II, with the first part being the “humble” side. Then asked the “sitting bunch” if they feel good and asked for a nice crochet when the show is over. “You dont have to sit down, though. You can get up!”. 50 years plus two of COVID of Heep history. “We are just Travellers in Time”. After Between Two Worlds, Shaw was joking that “we are not 35 anymore, we are twice that” and he introduced Stealin’, as song he remembered because he graduated high school when it came out.
Moving to the early 80s, Shaw described how Abominog, the album with the next song, Too Scared to Run, was voted the second worst album cover of the year, coming after Ozzy Osbourne. Coming next, the keyboard-heavy Rainbow Demon, followed by What Kind of God, from Wake the Sleeper, an album that took eight years to be released, back in 2008, delayed by “men in suits”. The slower Sunrise gave its place to the uplifting Sweet Lorraine. The “metal” Free ‘n’ Easy led to July Morning, and the encores Gypsy and Easy Livin’.
That was 120 minutes of pure Uriah Heep show, plus some intro videos, and with the two sets, one acoustic and one not, that was a really unique way to celebrate the 50+2 years of this legendary band. I am so glad I didn’t miss it.