Uriah Heep – Shepherd’s Bush 7 Dec 2001
Shepherd’s’ Bush Empire was the lovely setting for Ken Hensley’s return appearance
with Uriah Heep. This billed as his big goodbye to the fans. It was also quite
ironic as it was about a year after Lee Kerslake stated in a national magazine
that he had never forgiven Hensley for his skulduggery and he never would.
Also making guest appearances were Flautist Thijs van Leer of Focus fame and
former Heep vocalist John Lawton.
The warm-up act tonight were Stella and Trevor Hensley. Trevor played a guitar
and sang one song. Stella sang the others. They were Ok but very mild, not really
to my taste at all.
The Crowd were very international tonight. This gig was the highlight of a
Heep festival weekend. It had started with the John Lawton band on the Thursday
night and ended with John Wetton and Ken Hensley playing on the Saturday. A
lot of the international fans had done all three gigs but some had flown in
just for tonight’s show only.
The show was being recorded for DVD and CD release one of the camera crew told
me he had footage of tickets being sold outside the Empire for £100.
At 9pm Uriah Heep took to the stage with an Intro tape and then “Return To
Fantasy”. They then proceeded to delight the fan base with a set of old and
I couldn’t help but marvel at how much Bernie Shaw enjoys performing. His face
is just so alive and delighted throughout the show.
Mick box also looked happy but due to the coming and going of guests I didn’t
really get round to observing the others in the band.
I was also distracted a lot at the start of the set as some drunk came pushing
down to the front and proceeded to annoy everyone in the vicinity for a few
songs. He finally disappeared only to return near the end. This time people
got really ratty with them and one kind soul managed to escort him out of the
crowd. I later spotted him being kicked off the stage as they were breaking
the equipment down. He wasn’t the only troublemaker either. Some more short
guys came pushing in then waved their arms about and tried to say "I’m
here" to the musicians. What kind of egos do these people have?
The lights tonight were strangely not as good as York.
Fairly basic stuff actually. There was a back projection of photos but these
didn’t show up that well on the white backdrop curtain. They used the same effect
on the "Acoustically Driven" DVD and I didn’t feel it worked that
well then. I would much rather have seen the York lighting again. In the press
conference there had been a comment about the lighting people for the York gig
not turning up on the night so presumably the lights could have been even better.
I wonder if the cameras would have had more difficulty with that set up? It
seemed a shame anyway.
“Universal Wheels” was next and three backing singers appeared for this. I
suspect they were the same as on the Acoustically Driven DVD recording but I
only recognised 1 maybe 2 of them.
“Only the young” was next followed by “Stealin’” and “Tales”. This was the
first appearance of Thijs on Flute. He looked really eccentric. I hadn’t picked
up on who he was at the gig but when I did and I confirmed he was from Focus
in the early 70’s I was still surprised the he was the yodelling organ player
from clips of Hocus Pocus on Whistle Test.
“Sweet Pretender” was next and then “Between Two Worlds”, “I hear Voices” and
“Mistress of All Time” again featured Thijs on Flute and this was followed
by “I’ll keep on trying”.
Then it was the time so many fans had been waiting for. Ken Hensley took to
the stage and sat at his keyboards for “July Morning”. Phil Lanzon also sat
during this one to my surprise.
This was followed by “Paradise”, “The spell” and “Circle Of Hands”. Then it
was the song after which the night was named, “The Magician’s Birthday”. This
was full length and complete with Mick Box’s guitar solo in the middle. I after
this section I was then caught off guard when John Lawton came on stage and
sang instead of Bernie Shaw. They were soon swapping lines together though.
In fact they really seemed to get on well with each other and were often singing
face to face.
“Sympathy” was next. This seemed to prove tricky. Ken was on Slide guitar but
it was effectively a twin guitar piece and I wasn’t convinced he and Mick were
getting in sync properly. I don’t know the piece so perhaps I am just not used
“Easy Livin’” finished the main set and “Sunrise” and “Free’N’Easy” made up
the first encore. John Lawton again singing a good a lot of the lines.
The final encore started with an acoustic solo from Mick Box (I think) but
then Ken Hensley came on with a 12string acoustic to start “Lady In Black”.
Ken sang the first verse of this and then John Lawton took the next verse. Bernie
took the next verse and then Thijs also joined in on flute. This is standard
ending to a Heep set complete with Bernie’s sung "give me a little bit
more"’s but this was a nice variation.
I enjoyed the whole night tremendously even though I was an absolute wreck
and I am very much a modern Heep fan. The whole crowd were in ecstasy from start
to finish. There is no doubt it was a truly special night and there were vague
promises to try and match it the same time next year.
I have recently expressed concern that Heep are spending too much time recording
live DVD’s and albums and not getting on with something new but I have no doubts
tonight’s project was a valid project and I am sure it will be a great release
when it comes out next year. There is no doubt it is what the fan base wanted
and I expect it will attract a lot of old time fans to the current band.
I had no expectations at all for this gig the main reason I was there was because
I had a pass and I was able to get there as my girlfriend drove me. I had wanted
to get to the press conferences during the day but I was too much of a wreck
from the day before.
The support act was Mostly Autumn and since my girlfriend and I are big fans
of them that is why we made the effort. They went on stage at 6.45 sharp (I
assume) and sadly we didn’t make it to the venue until about 6.55. They were
playing “Spirit Of Autumn Past” as we arrived but by the time I had my camera
taken off me they were onto “Evergreen”.
Then they did “Out Of The Inn” and then it was time to end on “Heroes”. There
was confussion as to weather there was time for another song but in the end
it was decided there wasn’t. It’s a good job that I knew in advance that it
was a short set and that I might not make the start in time.
For the main set I managed to use my contacts and disability to get us in the
circle, which was officially closed. This is a relief I am not sure I would
have handled staying for the main set if I had had to stand.
Before we had meet my girlfriend and I had seen John Wetton doing a 3 song
acoustic set and neither of us had enjoyed. We therefore were not expecting
to enjoy things. It has to be said however John Wetton was the star of the night
for us. We really enjoyed his songs. The whole evening in fact turned out to
be highly enjoyable and we were pleased we stayed.
Ken Hensley came on solo and played a minor life, which was a Piano piece with
Then John Young on Keyboards, Andy Pyle on Bass, Dave Kilminster on guitar
and Steve Christey on drums come on and the crowd quickly recognised “Easy Living”
despite it taking me until Ken started the vocals to realise what it was.
Dave Kilminster is a very different player to Mick Box of Uriah Heep so I found
it quite odd listening to the arrangements. I would say Dave has been influenced
by the likes of Steve Vai or Steve Morse. He struck me as less melodic and perhaps
more Metallic in style. I liked Hensley’s Organ and the Keyboard parts. Ken
Hensley had a cold so I am not sure if this was a fair representation of his
voice. Hopefully it will sound OK on the DVD and live CD of the night.
When playing Ken still rocks his Organ.
Ken introduced John Wetton and he came on and sang “One Way Or Another”. I
think he was on Guitar as well but it could be that he was on bass. Certainly
Ken was also on back vocals and Lead Guitar too.
Next was “Return to Fantasy” with John singing again. As a fan of modern Heep
I found it interesting to here someone other than Bernie Shaw singing and Mick
Box doing the solo. The keyboard backing seemed much the same.
Ken then sang “July Morning”. John Wetton didn’t appear to take any leads solos
so I guess he must have been a rhythm guitar most of the night
John Wetton switched to Acoustic guitar and then sung “Battle Lines”. We both
thought this very good
Next up was “Confessions”. This starts with Ken solo on the piano. Then he
is joined by everyone except Bass and drums. Dave had switched to acoustic guitar
though. John Wetton was also on acoustic guitar still.
John Wetton then did “Emma” as a duo with John Young on keyboards. Ken sat
at his keyboard but just had a smoke. Dave eventually joined on acoustic guitar
and was very good.
“Hold me now” was next and everyone was back stage. John Wetton was now guitarless.
Dave seemed confused over which guitar he was due on next. This song started
as ballad with just the two John’s but built up into a classic power ending.
I wonder what the audience were here for tonight. I am not sure it is the sort
of thing a Heep only audience would go for but it was well received and a favourite
of mine in the night.
"After all" was next and this was another keyboard vocal start. Then
everyone joined in including Ken on the Hammond. The backing vocals on this
Ken at this point said how pleased with the weekend he was but that he had
a cold and was worried about his singing. He then sung "The Wizard".
John Young moved to Ken’s keyboard set on the right for this and John Wetton
moved to John Young’s keyboards on the left. Ken was on Electric guitar.
Next up was "I don’t want to wait" from Kens new album. Dave Kilminster
was on acoustic for this. John Wetton did a keyboard break in this one.
Everyone reverted back to the normal instruments for "Out of my control"
again from "Running blind"
The set finished with "Tell Me" which started with a slide solo.
This very much reminded me Ken had been in Blackfoot. I must admit it had me
wishing he had chosen to do a Blackfoot song but I guess not many remember that
period especially in England.
For the encore John Wetton played bass and Ken was on 12-string acoustic. Just
like Heep Ken chose “Black Lady” for his final number. After the first verse
the song went heavy with the full band joining in. It was really weird for me
to hear it without Bernie Shaw singing it. The end section with the crowd being
encouraged to sing along seemed really flat because I was missing Bernie’s adlibs.
I am not knocking this performance it was just different to the way I normally
hear it and I need more listens to adjust. Ken sung this one through out.
“Heat of the moment” was the final song of the night and Wetton naturally sang
being an Asia song it.
All in all the night was a pleasant surprise to me. It wasn’t as good as Heep
the night before but I am sure the fan base loved it.
It was really strange sitting upstairs all alone. The was a half wall behind
us and we were getting echoes of shouts and people talking from behind us even
though no one was there. It was such as strong effect we stood up and looked
over the wall a couple of times. We had a good view from up in the Circle it
is a shame it is always closed when I go there especially as I have trouble
standing for more than a couple of minutes.