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URIAH HEEP/Martin Turner's Wishbone Ash
Brighton Centre, 3 December 2011
first discovered some of the classic hard rock pioneers as a teenager in
the mid eighties, most people's stock response was 'are they still
around'? It is a pleasure to report that over 25 years after those bands
were dismissed as rock dinosaurs, so many are still gigging and now in a
position to benefit from the revival of interest in their work.
circumstances, and with Heep's London show clashing with a Bryan Adams
show for which I already had tickets, this was a perfect double bill
worth the 50 mile train trip to the South Coast on a Saturday night.
expecting the gig to be in the rather cavernous main hall of the
Brighton Centre, but the gig was staged in the East Wing, essentially in
a large function room. The room could not have been far short of its 750
capacity, which made for a good atmosphere, although the stage had a low
ceiling and the lighting was a bit erratic, with Martin Turner being
momentarily shrouded in darkness at regular intervals!
had a third band, Daylight Robbery, who after impressing me at Z
Rock earlier in the year seem to have a bit of a push behind them and
were promoting their Cross My Heart and Hope to Die album.
musicians playing melodic rock with a British feel, reminiscent of
fellow Midlanders Shy in places, their stage act rests heavily on
charismatic singer Tony Nicholl, who has the soaring tones that suit the
music perfectly, even if he didn't always hit the mark.
not in the first flush of youth, but songs like Shame on You, Reunite
and Real Love is the Answer, with its great vocal harmonies, mark them
out as a band with talent.
Turner's Wishbone Ash have been on the road fairly relentlessly for
several years now, and that shows in the way they play in an assured,
relaxed manner with almost intuitive understanding.
encouraging that an audience of primarily Heep fans loudly cheered every
introduction of a song from Argus, with Ray Hatfield's guitar solos
during Warrior and a brilliant twin guitar arrangement of Throw Down The
Sword the pick alongside old favourites The King Will Come and Blowin
me, as a diehard fan of Wishbone's music, the highlight was Rock n Roll
Widow, complete with a humorous introduction in a fake Texan accent from
born raconteur Martin, guitarist Danny Willson doing a fine job on lead
vocals and some spectacular slide guitar from Ray.
Page News' was another great pick while the surprise of the night was a
rare airing of the more boogie-styled 'No Easy Road'. Danny again took
lead vocals, allowing Martin, on a night when he appeared to be
suffering some sound problems, to rest his voice before a closing duo of
'Living Proof' and 'Jailbait'.
guitarists were again on great form, but as they mucked about I felt
slightly uneasy. Lightening up and having fun is one thing, but
especially given the skirmishes between rival Wishbone camps, MTWA need
to make sure the cabaret element does not overshadow the quality of
It was a
nice touch for Uriah Heep to be introduced by local resident
Roger Dean, creator of some of their great album sleeves such as Demons
and Wizards and the Magicians Birthday.
opened with new song 'I'm Ready', all of the band getting a brief
instrumental turn in the spotlight: however, in contrast to the Wake The
Sleeper tour when they bravely played virtually all of the album, this
tour strikes a perfect balance between showcasing some fine new product
and the back catalogue that, let's face it, most people have come to
rollicking 'Return to Fantasy' was followed by one of the heaviest
versions of 'Stealin' I've seen the band play and 'Rainbow Demon', built
around Phil Lanzon's heavy Hammond organ, this was swiftly turning into
one of the gigs of the year.
can never replace the late great David Byron, Bernie Shaw is part of the
Heep furniture and his quirky charm always gets an audience on side.
also a fun moment when, as he changed his earpiece, one wag in the crowd
suggested he should wear a pink one being in Brighton, at which founder
member Mick Box quipped that they had better not play 'Free and Easy'!
Of the new
material, 'Money Talk' had a fierce riff - even if too close to Thin
Lizzy's 'It's Only Money' - and after a drum solo from Russell Gilbrook,
a powerful ball of energy who really has added a fresh dimension to
time when some other bands of their era are slowly tarnishing their
legends, Uriah Heep, over 40 years into their career, have arguably
never sounded heavier or more vibrant.
The Head' came over as a great live anthem, yet its impact was lessened
by the fact so few people seemed familiar with it. In contrast, as Mick
Box donned an acoustic, everyone knew the timeless 'The Wizard'.
title track from 'Into The Wild', the second half of the set was one
Heep classic after another. 'Gypsy' saw Phil's head bob furiously as he
played the classic Hammond organ riff and developed into a fine band
jam, before segueing into a 'Look at Yourself' of two halves, a storming
first part with guitar and organ riffs cascading off each other in the
best Heep tradition, then an extended guitar passage for Mick to stretch
Morning', with Trevor Bolder's up front bass playing again to the fore,
was as epic as ever, though those of us near the front could have done
without the stoned hippie who pushed his way to the front to headbang
madly to it and cause mayhem, and 'Lady in Black' - moved out of its
traditional encore slot - the excuse for a mass singalong.
atmosphere was growing and to cap it all, a variety of women in the
crowd were invited onstage to join the band for 'Free and Easy', which
Mick claimed tongue in cheek had been voted the all time best heavy
metal song in Germany.
still time for two more classics from the vaults, the now rarely played
'Bird of Prey' - showing that Justin Hawkins was not the first to bring
falsetto singing into heavy rock – and 'Easy Living', which flew by in a
At a time
when some other bands of their era are slowly tarnishing their legends,
Uriah Heep, over 40 years into their career, have arguably never sounded
heavier or more vibrant.
closing strains of 'Land of Hope and Glory' (thankfully uninterrupted by
Sergeant Major Williams!) sent us into the Sussex night, I did think
that we should cherish them as a great British institution.
photos by Andy Nathan
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