Living The Dream is the title of Heep’s most recent and, frankly, magnificent 25th studio album release. It’s also an apt manifesto for their musical career which continues to be so very, very heavy and humbly good. Sole original band survivor Mick Box has certainly been thinking outside the box on this tour’s set-list with the confident inclusion of five new numbers from the LTD album; all of which seamlessly flows in with the true classics from one of the finest back catalogues in rock history.
Making a wizardly entrance with puffs of smoke shooting up from the stage, tonight’s magical musical box of sonic tricks opened with a manna full Grazed By Heaven providing plenty of audio food for thought as the entree to the full meaty set to come.
Living the dream himself, I have to scratch my follicly unchallenged head to think of a more infectiously watchable singer as Bernie Shaw who exudes an aura of complete contentment with his Cheshire cat grin demeanour. Hitting the operatic high notes that Heep’s songs demand, a feral Too Scared To Run, from the Abominog release, had the rammed to the rafters faithfull head-banging and punching the air with wild and joyful frenzied abandon.
Title track Living The Dream and Take Away My Soul unfurled their epic elements as Phil Lanzon played a skittering flurry of keyboard fills which is a defining musical motif of Heep’s sound.
However, this set up the first of many classic 70s songs as they delivered Rainbow Demon with a grinding, intense organ and guitar duality with Shaw superbly rising to David Byron’s acrobatic vocal levels.
In fact, Shaw respectfully represents the vocals of this legendary band by bringing his own inimitable style to the songs as did David Byron, John Lawton and Jon Sloman before him whilst achieving the trademark high wire vocal harmonies for which Heep is renowned for.
The immense wall of sound that Mick Box generates through his Engl amplification from his Carparelli guitars was used to a tsunami of soundwave effect on Gypsy, from the very first Uriah Heep album Very ‘Eavy Very ‘Umble. The theatrical vocals were again carried off with aplomb by Bernie Shaw who also spent most of the night endearingly waving at his family in the balcony.
Talking of hands, the onstage sign language displayed by Box, Lanzon and Shaw to emphasise crucial musical moments in songs was a fun sight to behold. Air keyboards anyone?
It was anything but a July Morning outside the venue as temperatures plummeted towards sub-zero. However, the heat generated between band and audience as the throb of bass buoying the twitch of keyboard intro prior to the band launching into this legendary song’s monumental chorus raised the performance levels up to a fever pitch. I could imagine both David Byron and Gary Thain nodding with approval somewhere in the gods.
However, there was not a dry eye to be seen in the house when the much-loved former drummer Lee Kerslake was introduced onstage to join in on a rousing Lady In Black. Having recently announced that he had terminal cancer, Kerslake beamed his way through singing backing vocals with tambourine in hand. He even joined in providing extra percussive assistance to the perpetually smiling stick-smith Russell Gilbrook during this enduring song’s coda.
It was emotionally uplifting to see Kerslake still living the dream as he and a visibly affected Mick Box joshed with each other to heartwarming effect.
A stirring encore of Sunrise and Easy Livin’ wrapped up this evening’s stunning show. As the buzzing crowd swarmed warmly out of the venue into the wild of the cold outside, I caught up with Uriah Heep remastering and mixing wizard Robert Corich who sagely nodded in agreement as I remarked that this was one of the best shows a band has played at The Shepherds Bush this year.
Props must be awarded to both support acts Gun and The Von Hertzen Brothers who both played their own incendiary sets to light the fuse for Heep to detonate on an electrifying night in West London.
Words: Paul Davies Photos: Eric Duvet
Event Date: 14-Dec-2018