Uriah Heep Carlisle Sands Centre 30th October 2004
Support from Doogie White’s White Noise
Thanks for sticking with my during my week of ramblings on Uriah Heep. This will be my last post on that mighty, great band (at least until I see them again).
It was 2004 and I was suffering Heep withdrawal. I had foolishly lost touch with the band and it had been 19 years since I last saw them perform at a gig at Newcastle Mayfair. I read that they were touring the UK, and saw the nearest concert to me was at Carlisle Sands Centre, so I decided to go along. Carlisle is a 60 or so mile drive, and the Sands Centre is a leisure centre cum concert venue just outside the city centre. I arrived in time to catch support act Doogie White and White Noise. The ticket lists Manfred Mann’s Eartband as support, but this wasn’t the case. Doogie White was the singer in a later line-up of Blackmore’s Rainbow, and his set contained quite a few Rainbow favourites.
The 2004 line-up of Uriah Heep was Mick Box (guitar), Lee Kerslake (drums), Trevor Bolder (bass), Phil Lanzon (keyboards) and Bernie Shaw (vocals). Shaw and Lanzon both joined the band in 1986, and Shaw is now their longest serving vocalist. It was really great to see Uriah Heep again. I wasn’t sure how many old songs they would play, and whether I would know many, but I need not have worried. They started with Easy Livin’, and also played Stealin’, Gypsy, The Wizard and July Morning. The encores were Bird of Prey and Lady in Black. Shaw is an excellent front man with a great voice, and does justice to those classic Heep songs. It all came back to me, and I was once again a big fan. I’ve seen Uriah Heep on four further occasions since then, in Stockton, Workington, Newcastle and Holmfirth, and have already blogged about those shows. During that period Trevor Bolder has sadly passed away, and Lee Kerslake has retired from the band. Mick Box continues to lead the band. Long may they continue to rock.
Setlist: Easy Livin’; Shadows of Grief; Pilgrim; The Other Side of Midnight; Stealin’; Wise Man; The Wizard; Devil’s Daughter; Sunrise; Gypsy; July Morning; Look at Yourself
Encore: Bird of Prey; Lady in Black
Archive for the ‘Uriah Heep’ Category
Ken Hensley Sunderland Mayfair 1981
In 1980 Ken Hensley left Uriah Heep, unhappy with the direction the band was moving, and recorded a solo album “Free Spirit”. This was actually his third solo effort, as he had released two previous lps “Proud Words on a Dusty Shelf” (1973) and “Eager To Please” (1975) while with Uriah Heep. He also formed a band Shotgun which featured Pete Thompson on drums (ex-Silverhead), Ian Gibbons on keyboards (ex-Kinks), Derek Marshall on guitar and Denny Ball on bass. The band played a series of UK gigs, including one at Sunderland Mayfair, which I attended. Ken and his band played songs from “Free Spirit” and the Uriah Heep classics “Gypsy”, “Easy Livin'” and “July Morning”, the latter song, as I recall, featured a long keyboard solo from the main man. It was great to see Hensley in concert in a small venue, and hear him play those Uriah Heep songs. Sounds reviewed a Hensley and Shotgun gig at the Marquee London, and declared “ex Heep man plays blinder shocker”. Shortly after the tour, Hensley relocated to the USA and joined southern rockers Blackfoot, which seemed to me to be an unlikely pairing at the time. I saw Blackfoot at Newcastle Mayfair in 1982; I think Hensley may have been in the band at the time, but can’t be certain. I’ve never seen Ken Hensley live since those days, and would love to do so. He continues to tour with his own band, but very rarely plays in the UK.
“Ken Hensley wrote the rule book for heavy metal keyboards as far as I’m concerned” (W.A.S.P. frontman Blackie Lawless)
Uriah Heep Newcastle City Hall 6th Feb 1980
Support from Girlshool
It must have been pretty confusing being a member of Uriah Heep in the late 70s and early 80s. There were so many comings and goings. Let me recap on the Heep saga that I have been telling for the past few days. John Lawton was now an ex-Heepster having been ousted by Heep main man Ken Hensley. Enter a new young guy John Sloman fresh to Heeping, and last seen (by me anyway) singing about the “Bells of Berlin” in the excellent rock band Lone Star. A month or so later long-time drummer Lee Kerslake jumped off the Heep ship. Enter Chris Slade from Manfred Mann’s Earth Band. The new line-up recorded the “Conquest” lp, which was released in February 1980 and went out on their 10th Anniversary Tour, with NWOBHM rockers Girlschool as support. I saw the band at their concert at Newcastle City Hall, and was pretty impressed by the new Heep, who excelled themselves as usual, playing a set of crowd-pleasing Heep classics. Sloman has a pretty impressive vocal range and a great rock voice.
However, Ken Hensley was less than happy with this new Heep line-up, and felt that they were moving too far along a straightforward rock track: “The band had chosen John and I had opposed that decision. He was a good musician and he looked great but I thought he had little going for him vocally. The way that he interpreted songs was totally different to the way I had written them….we weren’t re-establishing our musical direction..” (from bio on official Uriah Heep site)
Ken Hensley decided to leave the band on June 8th, 1980 after the previous night’s gig in Cascais, Portugal (which marked the end of a huge chapter in the band’s history).T his was probably as big a blow to the future of Uriah Heep as the departure of David Byron had been 4 years or so earlier. Hensley was the main songwriter in the band, and along with Mick Box, one of only two remaining original members. Nonetheless, this was Heep, and change was always happening, so onward they went. Gregg Dechert, a Canadian who had worked with John Sloman, was brought in on keyboards and they immediately went on a UK tour. The tour called at Sunderland Mayfair on 12 Nov 1980, where they were supported by NWOBHM bands Spider and Samson. To be honest I have scant memories of that gig, but think I was present. After finishing the tour John Sloman decided that he had enough of being a Heepster and left the band. At this point Mick Box asked David Byron to rejoin, but David turned the offer down. Trevor Bolder then also decided to leave and joined Wishbone Ash (are you following this ? 🙂 ). The band essentially disintegrated and Uriah Heep were down to one member, Mick Box.
More of the Heep saga tomorrow!
Typical Heep set list for 1980: Stealin’; Look at Yourself; Free ‘n’ Easy; No Return; The Wizard; July Morning; Free Me; It Ain’t Easy; Lady In Black; Won’t Have To Wait Too Long; Carry On; Feelings; Sweet Lorraine; Easy Livin’; Do You Feel Alright; Gypsy; Suicidal Man
Uriah Heep Newcastle City Hall 4th March 1979
Support from Bram Tchaikovsky
I saw the John Lawton era Uriah Heep once more, at a concert in 1979 at Newcastle City Hall. At the end of 1978 Heep released Fallen Angel, their third studio album with this lineup lineup. The album was well received although it did not chart and Mick Box said that he thought it was “Too poppy.” Uriah Heep continued to tour and were as always, great in concert, but behind the scenes there was unrest. Ken Hensley was writing most of the material and as a result he was earning much more than his colleagues. Box is quoted as saying: “Everything he wrote, he had to use… And if you insist in using everything you end up with substandard albums.” But the relationship between Hensley and new singer John Lawton was the worst problem within the band. There was apparently “constant friction between the two, resulting in the nearest thing to violence the group had seen” and Lawton was eventually sacked in August 1979 after a festival in Belgium. Long time drummer Lee Kerslake also left the band shortly afterwards, after a row with the management, over the constant apparent insistence on the use of Ken Hensley’s songs.
The replacements were ex Lone Star front man John Sloman on vocals, a young rock singer, and drummer Chris Slade from Manfred Mann’s Earth Band. However, Ken Hensley was soon unhappy with the new singer…but more of that tomorrow. It must have been fun to be a member of Uriah Heep at the time 🙂
Support for the 1979 tour, including the City Hall show, was guitarist/singer Bram Tchaikovsky who was at the time fronting his new power pop band, having recently left the successful punk/pub rock band, The Motors (Airport!)
Typical Uriah Heep setlist from 1979: Look at Yourself; Easy Livin’; Stealin’; Falling In Love; Woman Of The Night; Lady In Black; The Wizard; July Morning; Free Me; One More Night; I’m Alive; Who Needs Me; Sweet Lorraine; Free ‘N’ Easy; Gypsy
Uriah Heep Newcastle City Hall 30th Nov 1977
Support from Fury.
Uriah Heep were on a roll, and released their next “Innocent Victim” shortly after “Firefly”. 1977 was a very successful year for the band. The single “Free Me” was a big international hit (making it to No. 1 in New Zealand), and in Germany “Innocent Victim” sold over a million copies and became Uriah Heep’s most successful, and the rereleased single “Lady in Black” was a big hit. Although “Lady in Black” originates from the early days of the band, having originally been released in 1971, it didn’t feature regularly in their live set until 1977. Written by Ken Hensley, and featuring him on vocals and acoustic guitar, it’s a classic Heep song, with its tale of the mysterious lady and of battles of old.
I saw Uriah Heep for the third time in November 1977 at Newcastle City Hall. Support came from rock band Fury. It was another great gig. Uriah Heep remained an excellent live act throughout this period, and would play many of their classic tracks.
A typical Uriah Heep concert in late 1977 would probably contain the following songs: Do You Know; Stealin’; Look At Yourself; Lady In Black; The Wizard; July Morning; Sympathy; Who Needs Me; Easy Livin’; Gypsy; Sweet Lorraine)
“She came to me one morning, one lonely Sunday morning,
Her long hair flowing in the mid-winter wind.
I know not how she found me, for in darkness I was walking,
And destruction lay around me from a fight I could not win.”
(Lady in Black, Ken Hensley, 1971)
Rough Diamond Sunderland Polytechnic Wearmouth Hall 1977
I’m going to take a side-step out of my Uriah Heep bloggings to say a little more about their great first vocalist David Byron.
In 1977, after leaving Uriah Heep, Byron formed a new band Rough Diamond along with former Humble Pie guitarist Clem Clempson and ex-Wings drummer Geoff Britton. The remaining members were Willie Bath (bass) and Damon Butcher (keyboards). Rough Diamond were hailed as a new “supergroup” by the Melody Maker, who featured them on their front cover. They recorded one album and toured the USA, opening for Peter Frampton. The album was not a big success, peaking at No. 103 in the US charts. Rough Diamond also played a small number of UK dates, one of which was at Sunderland Polytechnic’s Wearmouth Hall.
I was quite excited at the prospect of seeing David Byron again, and had also seen Clempson with Humble Pie and knew that he was an excellent guitarist. I figured Wearmouth Hall would be packed with Heep fans, particularly as the concert was one of a handful of gigs, and if I remember correctly, the only one in the north of England. So I persuaded Marie that we had to go along early, to make sure that we got in. How wrong I was. When we arrived the place was empty, and by the time Rough Diamond took to the stage, it still wasn’t very full; there were probably 100 or so people there. It’s always seems a bit strange seeing “name” acts in smaller halls. They tend to bring massive set-ups, and fill the hall with equipment and sound. Seeing Rough Diamond was a bit like that. The stage was set with a massive back line of brand new looking amps; it seemed that someone was investing heavily in the new “supergroup”. They were also incredibly loud, ear-splittingly so (which was just great 🙂 one more band to include in my lawsuit for rock fan deafness ). The concert was interesting, in that all the individual elements were in place, but yet they was something missing. David Byron was in excellent voice, and delivered a great performance for the small crowd, and Clem Clempson, as expected, played some excellent rock/blues. The rest of the band were fine. The set consisted of songs from their new album. I don’t recall if any Heep songs were played, although something in the back of mind tells me that they may have played “Sweet Lorraine” and a cover of Free’s “The Hunter”. I remember one slower rock ballad “Sea Songs” as being a highlight. The songs were ok, and it was a good gig, but not exceptional. Often such “supergroups” don’t live up to their promise, the result does not match the sum of the parts. Makes me think of when I saw Paul Rodgers and Jimmy Page in The Firm; they both performed great, but overall I left a little underwhelmed. Still it was a great opportunity to see David Byron again, and in such a small venue.
Rough Diamond split shortly afterwards. They were together for less than one year. David Byron went on to form his own band. Reports suggest that Mick Box and Trevor Bolder invited Byron to re-join Uriah Heep in 1981, after Ken Hensley left (it was Hensley who insisted on Byron’s dismissal), but Byron refused.
David Byron passed away on Thursday, 28 February 1985 as a result of alcohol problems and liver disease. He was 38 years old. Subsequently in concert, Uriah Heep would often dedicate “The Wizard” to him.
I like to remember David Byron when he was at his best, fronting Uriah Heep, standing magnificent and proud, stage centre, surrounded by dry ice, singing “July Morning”, his voice clear, powerful, and sweet. We will never experience his like again.