It doesn’t matter if know how to expect from a Uriah Heep show, because what you are going to witness will be something beyond your expectations. Every time I’ve seen them live they weren’t something less than perfect. So, the last show of their 50th anniversary show couldn’t have been the exception.
The show had two halfs, the first one was the acoustic with the band sitting down creating a whole different camp fire atmosphere with songs spanning from their entire career in stripped down versions. Even the stage was simple with a simple white backdrop. The first chills came with Bernie Shaw singing “Rain” in his own way, I swear I saw a couple of people crying, while hundreds of others were filming with their phones. Note, that the last time we saw Uriah Heep playing an acoustic show in Athens was in 2008 in a posh club down town which was invitation only. Unfortunately, most people that graced them with their presence weren’t even music fans so they were covering the band’s music with their chatter and loughs, while a small group of Heep’s followers were going nuts. The exact opposite happened at Fuzz where the crowd was watching the band with total devotion, like they didn’t want to lose a single note.
Another highlight was the medley trilogy from our beloved “Demons & Wizards”, “The Wizard/Paradise/Circle Of Hands”. Once more their performance was top notch, proving that unplugged doesn’t mean to lose dynamics and energy which is transported to the audience. In general, the show was a crash course on how to make the perfect gig. It started with a sort movie with fellow rockers wishing the band for their anniversary, there was a flashback with videos and photos of all previous members and all lineups from the past, which weren’t just a few, plus a little museum of artifacts at the merchandise shop.
What surely didn’t go down equally well was the show’s organization, since there were a lot of complaints from people that had bought tickets ages ago for the show which was initially scheduled for a different venue which was seated. Moving to Fuzz however, which is mostly a standing venue, people who bought seating tickets were either left to stand, or the stage was’t visible from the spot they were supposed to be seating in the balcony. Also, what was outrageous was the band’s tour manager decision to not allow photographers in the photo pit. Resulting in manic camera people pushing through the audience in order to get a few snapshots. Thankfully, most of the fans were patient and understanding.
The main dish, the meat and potatoes, the electric show was all the money. Again, the band showed up in an amazing setup on stage with great lightining. The five… teenagers stormed in offence with the superb “Against The Odds”, followed by the magical “The Hanging Tree”. Up next where “Traveller In Time” and “Between Two Worlds”, leaving no room to breathe to the packed venue that were going bananas and settling the score to 2-2 between the ‘70s and ‘90s, proving that great bands can make great music no matter the decade, or their age. From then on, the setlist for someone who hadn’t looked online to know exactly what was next and preferred to surprise himself –blimey, who are these people?- was quite predictable. Only “Too Scared To Run” managed to squeeze in between the super classics, such as “Stealin’”, “July Morning”, “Sunrise”, etc.
On the other hand, bands with so many years on their back and so many albums, could play for days in order to satisfy their fans, who in the end will still have complaints.
Surely, their passion, energy and playing on stage was so great that made everyone happy. Given the fact that they had played an almost 50-minute unplugged set, to play like that another 90-minute electric set is something worth praising, if not… supernatural! Mick Box was releasing his thunderous riffs and played blistering fast solos, while his wah pedal wasn’t having an easy night. At the same time, Bernie Shaw was changing hats and transforming to David Byron, John Lawton, even Pete Goalby from one song to another. Russel Gilbrook on the back was a beast as always, like the “turbo” button in the band’s engine.
I am sure Ken Hensley, David Byron, Lee Kerslake, John Lawton and all the others who are not still with us would be proud for them… “See you next year”, they told us and we can’t wait!
Acoustic: Circus, Tales, Free Me, Come Away Melinda, Confession, Rain, The Wizard / Paradise / Circle of Hands, Lady in Black
Electric: Against the Odds, The Hanging Tree, Traveller in Time, Between Two Worlds, Stealin’, Too Scared to Run, Rainbow Demon, What Kind of God, Sunrise, Sweet Lorraine, Free ‘n’ Easy, July Morning
Gypsy, Easy Livin’