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Uriah Heep @ The Robin, Bilston, Wolverhampton (8/2/14)

posted 14 Feb 2014, 15:02 by Paul Woodward

Review By Woody

I hadn’t done any research on tonight’s support act Blackballed, I know I’m getting really slack but I’ve just been so busy lately damn it! I wish I had discovered these guys sooner because I was bowled over by their high energy set of blues driven classic rock. I loathe using the term power trio just because they are a three piece but for once that term actually suits brothers Marshall and Leon Gill and bass man Tom Wibberley. They are without doubt all completely bonkers, and not just from their stage apparel of top and bowler hats, waxed moustaches and a beard a mountain man would be extremely envious of, but from in their onstage banter and antics also. Musically they are far from a comedic act although their stage presence was refreshing and amusing and they are skilled musicians who create a full invigorating sound.

I liked the high energy aspect of their set as it hooked you straight into what they were about, lots of head bopping beats and plenty of driven grooves. Bands of this genre are a dime a dozen at the moment and most of them are uninspired seventies revivalist clones, Blackballed are far from nostalgic they play a modern classic rock sound which sparks of originality rather than mimicry. Surely if they got into the good books of some rock media outlets and garnered their support and exposure Blackballed would be destined for the big time.

It was great to see a really healthy turn out for Uriah Heep despite the horrendous weather we are having at the moment! But for a band with such a long history and well loved back catalogue it’s no surprise the hardcore Heep fans turned out in force. I’ve never seen the Heep live before and with them coming to the Robin I thought it was about time to get my ass out to see one of the most legendary classic rock bands of all time and tick them off my bucket list. I have to admit I was far from a fan of their last studio album ‘Into The Wild’ but of course I’m a huge fan of their classics so I was very excited to finally hear these songs live. As vocalist Bernie Shaw tells us this tour is in support of that album but they are currently taking a break from the studio where they are recording a new album due out later this year. It goes without saying that the newer tracks weren’t met with the same thunderous roars as the classics were, but they still got a very warm reception which the band were very appreciative of.

If there’s one word that sums up Uriah Heep as a live act it is – Showmanship! These guys obviously come from an era where performance was an integral part of a live show and for a bunch of old guys they have a lot of damn energy! Guitarist and Heep main man Mick Box has obviously honed his stage presence and act down to a fine art and a smile never leaves his face. He is appreciative of the vocal crowd obviously loving the shower of love. Box is very much the performer and displays hand flourishes that Bob Catley would be proud of, he makes for a really entertaining musician who likes to draw the crowd in. Keyboardist Phil Lanzon also likes to get into it and never shies away from a fist pump or air grab whilst pumping out some majestic keyboard licks. Young buck Dave Rimmer is also very active and dances around with his absolutely huge bass whilst drummer Russell Gilbrook literally beats the shit out his drum kit a very energetic and hard hitting performer. Vocalist Shaw obviously knows how to work a crowd and comes across as an eternal lad with his cheeky attitude, wearing an old west style gun holster which he slips his mic into occasionally harks back to a time where flamboyance was an appreciated part of a bands image.

The crowd were very noisy and Box and Shaw found it very easy to illicit sing along's, hand claps and roars! They all seemed to be happy playing in the UK having recently performed across a multitude of non English speaking countries which obviously makes crowd interaction a little harder. The crowd tonight were well up for it and were in fine voice and the band seemed to get a real buzz off it!

They kick started the show with the wonderfully melodic ‘Against All Odds’ which set the night up perfectly and got the crowd entranced with the band’s performance. For me the highlight and judging by the crowds involvement many other too was ‘Lady In Black’ which Box introduced as their hippie campfire sing along song and Shaw gave us all plenty of opportunity to raise our voices to it was really cool to hear this classic in the live arena with such a vocal audience. We also heard ‘Overload’, ‘Traveller In Time’, ‘Sunrise’, ‘Stealin’, ‘I’m Ready’, ‘Between Two Worlds’, ‘Nail On The Head’, ‘Into The Wild’, ‘Gypsy’, ‘Look At Yourself’ and ‘July Morning’. They played two of their most well loved full force rockers to close the show as an encore and invited ladies from the audience up onto the stage to ‘head bang’ to a sped up version of ‘Free and Easy’ – which indeed had more of a heavy metal feel to it as Box told us it would played faster. Then they closed the night out with ‘Easy Livin’ which was greeted by the loudest roar of the evening!

The Heep may be a little older but they sure know how to rock and party and they treated us to a loud high energy dose of classic rock. I had been told what a killer live act they was and I wasn’t disappointed in the slightest a proper old school rock and roll band and it’s clear to see why fans flock to see these guys at every opportunity.