It’s Halloween night, and Uriah Heep came to town.
This is the second 35st anniversary tour I seen this year; makes me wonder how many of today’s flavours of the month will still be around in a generation’s time. The venue was Manchester Academy 2, part of the Manchester University student’s union. But the age profile of the audience suggested there were very few students in attendance.
Support was a local band called Coldflame, who I’d never heard of before. Their appearance was a one-off for the Manchester show, which for some reason was arranged by a different promoter from the rest of the tour. Don’t ask me why! Coldflame played bluesy hard rock with some very Tull-like flute playing from the singer. A good sound mix and some excellent musicianship made them the best support act I’ve seen for a long while. They do in fact moonlight as a Jethro Tull tribute band, which explains the flute. This time, though, they were playing their own material.
The mighty Uriah Heep hit the stage at nine. One thing I’ve always noticed about them is how much they clearly enjoy being on stage, especially guitarist Mick Box. Many, many years on the road, but it’s clear this is not bunch of jaded has-beens going through the motions. While they went through a lot of lineup changes in during the 70s and 80s, the band has now been stable for something like half their 35 year history. Mick Box (the only remaining founder member!), Lee Kerslake and Trevor Boulder have been around since their 70s heyday, and joining them are Phil Lanzon on keys and Bernie Shaw on vocals. All five of them were on excellent form. The sound perhaps was a little bit muddy, but not enough to spoil the show.
With an extensive back catalogue they tend to vary the setlist a lot from tour to tour; this time the early part of the set mixed relatively recent material by the current lineup from the ‘Sea of Light’ and ‘Sonic Origami’ albums with some less well-known older songs such like “Year and a Day” and “Rainbow Demon”. They even dipped into the 80s with “The Other Side of Midnight” from the previously neglected Mick Goalby years, plus a couple of songs from ‘Raging Silence’. It’s noticeable how some of their 90s songs have become standards in their own right now; “Between Two Worlds”, with the poignant line ‘And those no longer with us’ (referring to the late David Byron and Gary Thain) and the epic “Love in Silence” with some great acoustic playing from Mick Box and Hammond organ flourishes from Phil Lanzon. The final part of the set brought out the obligatory classics from the early 70s era of David Byron (RIP) and Ken Hensley; “Look at Yourself”, “Gypsy”, “July Morning”, and the encores “Easy Livin’” and “Lady in Black”, which turned into the obligatory singalong.
Did the infamous Melissa Mills expect the band to have lasted so long?