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URIAH HEEP/Focus -
Astoria, London 8 November 2003
The third year of the Magician's Birthday and a change of venue from
the Shepherd's Bush Empire to the Astoria. I personally prefer the
Astoria as a gig venue but of course there is a 10pm curfew as the
GAY club starts at 10pm. Tad bizarre if you ask me as the club has a
bar licence until 3am - surely they could allow live music until at
As a result Focus were on at 7pm & I missed the first two songs of
their set. Only keys/vocalist/flautist Thijs van Leer remains from
the 70's line-up but he has a very talented band around him, none
nore so than the bassist who switched from hard rock to jazz tinged
bass runs with ease. Of course the two big UK hits 'Sylvia'
and 'Hocus Pocus' were played, but not just once but twice as both
made reappearances in the encores! I love both tracks and it was a
delight to hear them played live. Plenty of new material as well from
the band's recent album, 'Focus 8' that ranged from jazz rock
wrokouts to some nimble prog rock passages. Really enjoyed Focus and a
great warm-up for Uriah Heep.
Uriah Heep opened in hard rockin' style with 'Easy Livin' - what a
great way to open any live show! The band seem to love this annual
show and the fans certainly do. They played tracks from across all
their eras and highlights for me were 'Stealin' (with great crowd
sing-a-longs), 'July Morning', the all -out rock of 'Too Scared To
Run' and the acoustic versions of 'The Wizard' and 'Firefly'. Rarer
live airings included 'Pilgrim' and 'Cry Freedom'.
The band are such a tight unit and in vocalist Bernie Shaw they
have both a natural frontman and talented vocalist. Mick Box is the
original Cheshire cat as he seems to love every minute of it. Former
vocalist John Lawton joined in on and then Mostly Autumn's Heather
Lindlay duetted on 'Lady In Black'. But no John Wetton as previously
advertised which was a bit of a let down.
The show finished with the classic 'Other Side of Midnight' that
has one of the best guitar riffs of all time. Then we had 'Come Away
Melinda' to finish the show bang on 10pm.
Superb as always and roll on next year :)
PS How about a new album AND more UK dates next year?
Review: Jason Ritchie