Monday, June 20, 2011

Concert Review: Uriah Heep @ Fraze Pavilion - Dayton/Kettering, Ohio: June 17, 2011


Wow, what can I say here? Uriah Heep put on one of the best concerts I've seen, coming second to the first time I saw Iron Maiden, though the experience may have been augmented because I sat on the stage while the band played. Iron Maiden certainly puts on a better show, but how many bands can top Maiden live? Few. Anyway, yes, I had the opportunity to sit on stage during the concert; to say the least, the perspective was interesting. Imagine facing the stage as at any normal concert. I was off to the left in between Mick Box's couple of Marshall stacks and some other equipment sitting on a little podium. I really got a sense of how concerts work (although, really, they aren't complicated). It was pretty sweet. Worth the money as my dad said.

Cool view, eh?
Before the concert, I was able to watch the band's sound check. Initially, it was your standard procedure. Play around with the instruments, tweak the sound. But after a while of sitting in the sweltering sun and heat, the band played a few songs for my family and I, effectively making it like a private little concert. And not to knock on the band or anything, but that was easily the best part of the day. I strongly believe they put in their best performance during the songs they played during the sound check, but the rest of the concert, as I said before, was very good in its own right.

Afterwards, the band left the stage for a meet and greet, some autographs, and a photo-op. They were all humble guys, genuinely wanted to talk to their fans, and were interested in hearing what we thought. Because Uriah Heep is somewhat unknown in the United States nowadays, the band is able to do just that. Bigger bands probably wouldn't dream of doing a meet and greet or, most obviously, let their fans sit on stage during the concert. I likely won't get to do anything like this ever again, but I'm surely glad I got to meet them (and that they turned out to be great guys). Despite that, I'm doubtful that I want to meet a band again. I wouldn't want to find out someone [insert band of your choice here] is a total jerk and sour the experience.

Mick doin' his thing during the sound check.
Following that, the band embarked to prepare for the concert. I had a long wait of ~3 to 3 1/2 hours before Uriah Heep would hit the stage. Yes, they got delayed and, to make things worse, the strangest opening act was paired with them. The opening band was Artisto, a poppy rock group that sounded akin to 1,000,000 other mainstream bands today. Totally unfitting, but the Aristo guys seemed pretty nice, even admitting that they hadn't heard of Heep before the concert. Mind you, this wasn't Uriah Heep's fault, as random acts are paired with them as openers at nearly every venue. Heck, I even asked the band who was opening for them, and they had no idea. Phil Lanzon [keyboards] summed it up nicely: "Hit or miss." In this case, a miss.

Although it may seem pretentious, I skipped Aristo's performance. From what I could hear, they were rather average. As I made my way down to the stage when it was time, a Uriah Heep fan complimented me on my Morbid Angel shirt; just goes to show that Heep is still popular with the metal and hard rock crowd. Upon climbing on stage and into my seat, I had a short wait while Heep came on. I took this time to examine my surroundings, primarily gawking at the stage setup. It was very plain Jane, no frills. With no decorations to be found, all equipment was exposed to the naked eye. This is likely my favorite kind of stage setup as I got to see extra guitars and equipment floating around.

Bernie being entertaining.
Shortly thereafter, the band stormed the stage in a typical confident fashion, as they should. Despite many line up changes, Uriah Heep has a considerable reputation because their influence on hard rock and metal has been generally unparalleled. Anyway, the band started off very strong and maintained that strength for the duration of the concert. They played quite a few tracks from their most recent album Into the Wild, along with a good chunk of classic material, though I would have loved to hear something from Abominog or Head First, two albums that I'm attached to for whatever reason. They're just fun. On a negative note, I was particularly appalled with the crowd's reaction to the new material. Very few seemed to know the songs, and their reactions were as predicted. Only a small number of people seemed to dig/recognize the new tracks, while the majority simply stood there with nothing more than a "Huh?" plastered all over their faces. These people only seemed to know songs like "Easy Livin'" and "Stealin'" as well. This duo is easily Uriah Heep's most well-known songs, inferior to a good measure of their discography at that. To me, those songs are like Judas Priest's "Living After Midnight" or " You've Got Another Thing Comin'." I could not care less if I ever hear them again. Funnily enough, the band kept turning around during the concert giving us a thumbs up or thumbs down to see what we thought. Of course we returned with a big thumbs up!

- (There were, however, a small number of people who were into the whole concert. One guy with the longest hair I have seen was headbanging so aggressively that his hair practically reached the stage [he was a few rows back]. The dude had the longest whipping hair I have EVER seen. In addition to that, there were a few people that seemed to be emotionally affected by the concert, along with others that were totally into it, singing all words and jumping up and down. The crowd wasn't a total failure!)

Tres amigos.
Moving on from my rambling, the whole band put in a great performance. Bernie Shaw's vocals were excellent, though I thought he struggled a bit on the falsetto "AHHHHHHH" highs. This is no bash on him either. I imagine those are hard to pull of in the fashion that Heep likes them. Surprisingly, I walked away most impressed by Russel Gilbrook. I reckon he was much better live than in the studio, in part due to his clean and lightning fast fills that he would pepper everywhere and because of his entertaining drum solo. The drum solo wasn't overly technical, but it was entertaining and memorable, in my eyes, the key to success. Trevor Bolder's bass playing complimented the drums nicely and formed a rock solid foundation. Mick Box's guitar playing was good, but I can't particularly remember anything special about it, mostly because he seemed to get buried in the mix like he does on some of the albums. In my opinion (at least for the albums), he needs to layer his rhythm playing, one track for each side as if there were two guitar players. I found myself staring at his custom Caparelli guitar for far too long as well. It's safe to say that I want that guitar, though I would nab one of his Yamaha Pacificas that he used on the Sea of Light tour over it any day. In a nutshell, the band was very tight, well-versed, and energetic, but I wouldn't expect anything less from a bunch of veterans.

Subsequent to the concert, we got the opportunity to hang out with the band again. This lasted for a good 30 minutes, and as before, the they were willing to chat about anything. They're just a group of great guys in it for the love of music. I walked away with two of Mick's signature guitar picks and one of Russell's drum sticks. I never saw that one coming!

Bashin' the skins.
In short, this will be a show that I will never forget, and it's evidence that Uriah Heep still knows how to put on an entertaining concert. Let's hope the band keeps releasing new material as consistently as they have been, so they can keep touring. Personally, I hope they gain a smidgen of popularity in the United States, so their return is guaranteed. No Europe, you can't have Uriah Heep all to yourself.

-The Metal Advisor


The setlist.

Phil and Trevor during the sound check.
Lookin' cool.

6 comments:

  1. GREAT review! I wondered who those lucky few were sitting up there! Love your photos and the blog rocks, too - many thanks for posting!

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  2. Thanks for the compliments. It's much appreciated.

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  3. I brought 5 people who really didn't know who Uriah Heep is. They didn't know the old or new. I'm glad you were there to cover for them. However, they seemed to rock with every song. Surprised? Shouldn't be. The band played with heart for their "new" fans along with the "old." I think Tony Conleys' review is a better description of the night. I don't believe Tony was sitting next to you! That may have been the highlight of the show! P.S. Maybe we'll crowd surf next time. Wink Wink

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  4. The vantage from the stage was a lot better than that of audience. We're all entitled to our own opinions, though everyone is wrong sometimes. Wink wink

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  5. I wish I could have been on stage for this concert. I'm just jealous. No wink's this time....my eyelids are getting sore. Rock on.

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  6. I was at this show. UH fan since 1972. First time seeing this lineup and was very impressed. We were in about the 5th row. I also took four people who only knew their music from my album/CD collection. They came away impressed, even my wife!! Great review. I hope they come back too!

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