When Uriah Heep was founded in 1969, the writer of these lines was just one year old. One year later the legendary debut album ‘…Very ‘Eavy … Very ‘Umble’ was released which marked the beginning of a more than impressive career for the band. Even if the press at the time harshly commented on the album, Uriah Heep remained true to their mission and passion, and it is the very first song on the record, ‘Gypsy’, which is still a mandatory song on any setlist.
This all took place more than five decades ago and it was in 2020 when Uriah Heep celebrated their 50th band anniversary. With no real space for a big party due to pandemic restrictions, the celebration was moved to 2022. Mick Box and bandmates start these days to an extensive ‘Uriah 50 Heep – Celebrating 50 years of Uriah Heep’ tour, under the premise of ‘From Lockdown to Rockdown! 2022 just got a whole lot heavier’. Announced are special shows with many songs and additional delights.
The tour starts with a show in Hamburg’s legendary Laeiszhalle. The neo-baroque building from the early 20th century offers an impressive scenery for such an anniversary party. It starts right from the fact that the staff is neatly dressed and welcomes the fans. The doors to the large hall are still closed and it is noticeable how curiosity grows steadily. A good pastime, however, are the photos, books, trophies,… exhibited in the foyer; all pieces that vividly document the history of the band. When the doors open shortly before 8pm, a glance at the stage reveals that the show will probably take place in two parts. A big white cloth covers the view to the main stage and in front of it a minimalistic setup is installed, which foreshadows an acoustic start.
The lights in the hall go out and a three-hour journey through decades of rock begins with a projection that includes the various phases of the band with numerous photos and snapshots accompanied by ‘Dreams of Yesteryear’, although from the tape. One immediately feels taken back to the different eras and as the last photo on the screen fades away the moment arrived – Uriah Heep enters the stage under great applause of the fans, many of whom have accompanied the band in the last five decades.
As expected, there are two sets. It is an acoustic show which the band presents to their fans during the first hour. In total, there are eight tracks to listen to, two of which are medleys aptly reflecting the depth of Uriah Heep’s discography. However, ‘Circus’ from the ‘Sweet Freedom’ album kicks things off, followed by ‘Tales’, another song from the early 70s. With ‘Free Me’ the mood really comes to life for the first time, and encourages the fans to stand up and clap along. The band honors the rising vibe and Bernie Shaw additionally motivates to rock along instead of just sitting, latest in the second part of the show.
It is worth mentioning that the quintet has with ‘Come Away Melinda’ a song on the list, which comes from the debut album and does not appear too often on the setlist. Musically as well as thematically the anti-war song, written by Fred Hellerman and Fran Minkoff, fits perfectly into today’s time and is an extra treat this evening.
Mick Box and band end the first part with a classic, which is tailor-made to round off an acoustic set. ‘Lady in Black’ is played after Box telling a few more anecdotes. Of course there is no longer any holding back and the temperature in the Laeiszhalle rises noticeably.
After an hour the lights in the hall are turned on again and both band and fans have deserved a little refreshment.
After the bell reminds everyone to head back to the hall, the plugged-in part of the evening begins. But before the band enters the stage, video congratulations are delivered. Rob Halford, Alice Cooper, Paul Stanley, Joey Tempest, Steve Lukather, Steve Harris, Francis Rossi and many more; they all send their congratulations to Uriah Heep for the impressive band anniversary. What follows is an almost two-hour rock and metal spectacle that on the one hand seems like a journey through time and at the same time shows why the band belongs to the pioneers of heavy metal and progressive rock. With an incredible enjoyment of performing, the band presents a superb selection of their musical creations. What becomes apparent during this evening is that rock and metal is not primarily a question of age. Uriah Heep perform at their best and it feels like this evening opens a valve that was closed for a long time due to the pandemic. Of course the spark jumps over to the audience, who can’t keep sitting in their seats any longer. From song to song the crowd’s mood rises and it is obvious that Uriah Heep are not allowed to leave the stage without an encore.
With ‘Gypsy’ the band goes back to their roots in the encore part before ‘Easy Livin” makes the walls of the time-honored Laeiszhalle shake.
After three hours on stage the band says goodbye and satisfied fans make their way home. Hamburg was the first concert of a longer tour and if you have witnessed the show today, you can conclude that even after 50 years, it’s far from over. The passion for rock and metal still burns with Uriah Heep and some of the young bands can take such a band as a role model; not only musically, but also in terms of attitude. “It’s called Easy Livin'”.
Set 1 Acoustic
- Free Me
- Come Away Melinda
- Waters Flowin’
- Medley: Confession /Rain
- Medley: The Wizard / Paradise / Circle of Hands
- Lady in Black
Set 2 Electric
- Against the Odds
- The Hanging Tree
- Traveller in Time
- Between Two Worlds
- What Kind of God
- Rainbow Demon
- Too Scared to Run
- Wise Man
- Sweet Lorraine
- Return to Fantasy
- Bird of Prey
- Falling Under Your Spell
- Free ‘n’ Easy
- July Morning
- Easy Livin’
Location: Laeiszhalle, Hamburg, Germany
Date: September 9th, 2022
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