Uriah Heep -This marks a first where a touring band comes from a show from the town I grew up in, Kettering Ohio, and makes its way to the DC area (they played Annapolis on Saturday). The first time I saw them was when I was in high school there making our way to Hara Arena to see Trevor Bolder's first tour with Heep. Bolder is still on board and this line-up (aside from drummer Lee Kerslake's retirement) is the same one for the last 16 years. I hope the Kettering show was better attended than this one, as it looked really bleak in here. The balcony was closed to push everybody a little closer to the stage. This was instantly noted by Heep's sharp singer Bernie Shaw as he commented before the first note was struck, "Golf's over, now for some rock'n'roll. We have a small but rocking crowd tonight..." They kick it in and it is loud, but I kind of expected that as I was right up front with Mick Box's four Marshall stacks right in front of me. Shaw invites people to get up front and have some fun. Enough people do, so it is a good solid set of fans up front and enough people at tables in the back to make this look like a decent rock show. They ripped through plenty of the hits and debuted several songs off of a new album, as they are a full working and recording band. They said the new album was the reason they were back in the US which is reasonable, although since they had visa struggles delaying their tour last year, they were also trying to recoup some of that expense as the upfront costs are prohibitive unless you get a lot of tour dates out of them. The US is just not their turf, as they do extremely well in Europe and Asia still. Oddly enough, Deep Purple is another even bigger band that does fantastic in those markets and just doesn't come to the US any more, even though they were much bigger than Heep, Wishbone Ash, Strawbs, and all the others that tour here. Anyway, the new songs were fair except for the title cut, "Into the Wild" which was a red-hot smoker. Frankly, better than some of their old hits even. The band are pros and had fun. Mick Box made amusing gestures and facials to keep people into it, including a brief gesture to me which made me smile. He smiled back and he does seem like one of the good guys in rock. The singer was working the crowd in his usual manner of smiling, but with a very cutting and intense undercurrent. He really reminds me of... well, me (for those that really know me). So I enjoyed the set. The music is solid, they play the songs the crowd wants and mix in a few they want to play in the usual correct formula. Box can still rip into "Gypsy" 42 years later as well as keep the pace on the faster songs. Trevor Bolder is a great bass player as he shows tonight as well as on album 30 of my Top 100 albums. I hope the Kettering crowd enjoyed them as much as the hardcore fans did here and as it turned out they got the exact same 1:40 set, so they probably did.
Set List: I'm Ready/Return to Fantasy/Stealin'/Rainbow Demon/Money Talk(new)/drum solo/Nail on the Head (new)/The Wizard/Into the Wild (new)/Gypsy/Look at Yourself/Kiss of Freedom (new)/July Morning/Lady in Black... Encores: Free 'n Easy/Bird of Prey/ Easy Living
Quote of the Night: The 'umble Mick Box... "Free'n'Easy is a song someone in Europe said was the first heavy metal songs. Actually, there's loads better than this, but..."