British rock band Uriah Heep is not resting on the laurels of an extensive and varied career that has seen them tour the globe and release two dozen studio albums, becoming a staple on the concert circuit throughout Europe, North America and beyond.
The band is literally as old as the person writing this article, 49 years, and continues to play concerts regularly, including throughout North America. As you are reading this, Uriah Heep is in the midst of short Canadian run before heading into the United States. After two sold-old nights at the Brass Monkey in Ottawa on Feb. 6 and 8, the band moved on to Quebec City at the Palais Montcalm. This Saturday, Feb. 10 they are at the Corona Theatre in Montreal, followed by a show at the London Music Hall on Feb. 11, wrapping up their stint in the Great White North Monday, Feb. 12 at the Phoenix Concert Hall in Toronto.
It is a sort of homecoming for Bernie Shaw, who has been the band’s vocalist since 1986, and who is originally from Canada.
“Bernie is off the scale delighted to be playing in Canada again. [And] the band are too as we have some wonderful Canadian fans that we now have a chance to play our music to,” said band co-founder, lead guitarist and primary creative force, Mick Box, who was also asked about legendary Canadian rock band Rush and their apparent retirement. Rush was an opening act for Uriah Heep during some American tours in the early 1970s.
“To be honest, they may be quitting long tours, but I am sure we will see them again somewhere, somehow as the demand will be too great. I liked them a lot and for a three-piece there was no one to touch them for the power they created.”
Speaking of power, the power of crafting good, memorable songs that stick with people and become the soundtrack of their lives is truly rare. There is no way any band can stick around for five decades without making music that did and continues to live in the hearts of many fans. Nor can they continue to subsist on the fans of old. Box said he is delighted that new fans keep discovering the Uriah Heep back catalogue, and that new and old fans alike keep digging the new material.
“I think playing great live shows and have a good reputation for it helps, but along the way we have had some great songs that have stood the test of time, that people still like hearing in the live arena,” he said, adding that the diversity of the fan base is a source of pride and motivation.
“The fans are getting younger which is terrific. We still have the old fans with us, but as each year passes a new flush of fans appear. When you get younger fans shouting out for songs that are older than them, that is a wonderful feeling.”
Recording of the band’s 25th studio album, Living the Dream, has been completed, and mixing is underway under the guidance of Jay Ruston (Stone Sour, Fozzy, Anthrax), with a release set for some time in September.
Coming from similar influences as contemporaries such as Led Zeppelin, Black Sabbath and Deep Purple, Uriah Heep’s gritty, blues-infused hard rock stylings with the occasionally prog-rock leanings, have earned the band legions of fans throughout the U.K., Europe and other international markets. While not as commercially successful as those three previously mentioned collaborators, in North America, the fan base is growing, as the current tour sees the band performing throughout the eastern seaboard and into the Midwest, hitting key markets such as New York City, Detroit, Cleveland, St. Louis, Milwaukee and Kansas City. More dates on the western portion of the continent are being confirmed.
But the tour is an indication of that new fan phenomena that Box already discussed, as well as the re-awakening of old fans, keen to hear Uriah Heep staples such as Lady in Black, Stealin’, The Wizard, Sweet Lorraine, and the iconic radio hit Easy Livin’.
“There are certain classics that we have to play, as people expect to hear them. We then pepper that with some other old tracks along with songs from our last CD Outsider . It is a good musical journey through our career starting with the first to the last,” Box said.
And it’s a journey that continues with Living the Dream, which Box said ‘is a natural extension of the mighty Heep in all its glory.” Although some pundits and so-called ‘tastemakers’ have trumpeted (sometimes quite smugly) the demise of the album format, and even noted the alleged decline of rock and roll as a genre, Box is having none of it, calling rock and roll “the music of the people.”
“Because with albums you can expand your musicality. Sometimes you buy an album for the immediate tracks and then after a time the slow burners creep up and get under your skin and stay with you forever. I love that,” he said, adding that even after nearly 50 years and multiple lineup changes, his love for writing, recording and performing music is as strong as its ever been.
“I knew for sure I would be a musician for life, but I did not count on the fact that most my musical life would be in Uriah Heep … I have the same passion and energy for our music that I have always had, and this is my driving force.”
Besides Box and Shaw, the band is rounded out by keyboardist Phil Lanzon, who joined the band alongside Shaw in 1986, drummer Russell Gilbrook, who has been in the band since 2007 and bassist Davey Rimmer who joined in 2013. Speaking on behalf of his bandmates, Box said he and his colleagues were “amazed and delighted at the same time” that Uriah Heep continues to rock audiences and make relevant music for such a long time.
For more information on Living the Dream and upcoming tour dates, visit http://www.uriah-heep.com/newa/index.php.
- Jim Barber is a veteran award-winning journalist and author based in Napanee, ON, who has been writing about music and musicians for a quarter of a century. Besides his journalistic endeavours, he now works as a communications and marketing specialist. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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