Can you name a band that’s been around as long as URIAH HEEP? How about a band who’s released as many albums? This classic British heavy metal/hard rock band has been around since the ’70s and has released near-countless studio albums! Their latest release, the appropriately titled “Living the Dream,” came out in 2018, bringing these legends to Helsinki on October 12th, 2019, as part of its supporting tour. Check out the gallery here.
We arrived at Kulttuuritalo right at the end of the opener’s set. MELROSE appeared to be a high-energy rock n’ roll band of middle-aged guys who weren’t afraid to jump around on stage like teenagers. We were a bit too late to make any real comment on their music but the performance seemed pretty solid and full of life.
URIAH HEEP took the stage a few minutes after their set showtime and we quickly discovered that Kulttuuritalo is a great place to have gigs. The wide stage allowed for a lot of movement, while the floor was open for drinking and dancing, but those who wanted to relax and enjoy the show were able to sit at the back. They began the show with a few new tracks, “Grazed by Heaven,” “Too Scared to Run,” and “Living the Dream.” While none of us had actually heard the new album, we were very impressed with the songs and the overall sound – it seems that after five decades, these guys still know how to write good music. How rare is that?
The first and most clearly notable thing is that Mick Box is still the coolest ever. His hair is even longer than the last time we saw them and he still rocks the sunglasses on stage. But even then, it’s the way he just chills and shreds on his guitar that’s the most impressive. Adding to that, Bernie Shaw can still sing with all the power he’s ever had and is just such a charming and delightful frontman. Every few songs he chatted with the crowd, joking about their 5-decade history in music. Box also greeted the fans, repeating a sentiment that Shaw had already touched on: that it’s always great to come to Helsinki because there is so much love for the band.
The overall playing was phenomenally tight, so it was great that the sound quality in the venue was up to the task of keeping them in good balance. As well, considering how old most of these guys are, we were very impressed with the stage energy. They threw a few classics interspersed with the new material, such as “Rainbow Demon,” “Gypsy,” and “Look at Yourself,” which are always fun live and the former is a personal favorite. The crowd was quite enthusiastic all night (and unfortunately lacked in younger attendees, save a few children attending with their dads in the front row), though of course they went the craziest for the older material.
Box gave a little backstory on “July Morning,” saying that when the song was written he had been sick, so he had come into the studio to find a bunch of different song parts ready (as written by other band members while he was away), which I believe were then combined to make the song. It was one of the longest of the night, but fortunately the band never made it feel long. Even when HEEP took some time at the end of the songs to just jam (which happened quite a few times), the music didn’t feel like it was dragging on, nor did the band seem like they were showing off. It was just pure good times all around.
Shaw teased the people in the seats for not being very rock n’ roll before Box came up with an acoustic guitar for “Lady in Black.” Naturally, the crowd did the chants throughout the entirety of the song and the band joined in after a while to turn the acoustic version into a very fun and lively rendition that may very well be the best version we’ve heard thus far!
They left the stage after this but were rigorously called back for more by the audience, and a heartbeat and pulsing yellow light told us they weren’t done yet before they played “Sunrise” and, of course, “Easy Livin’.”
Really and truly, how cool are URIAH HEEP? 50-odd years in the business and they are still going strong. If there were any complaints about the show, it was simply that they didn’t play longer and cover more of their discography. We would’ve loved to hear “Traveler in Time” or “The Wizard,” which aren’t quite as popular, but we were still glad to hear a few of the best old songs. The songs sounded perfect and the extra jams only added groovy guitars, funky bass, powerful organs, and strong drums into an already fantastic mix. We truly hope that these guys keep coming back because they are the kind of performers you want to see as many times as possible!
1. Grazed by Heaven
2. Too Scared to Run
3. Living the Dream
4. Rainbow Demon
5. Rocks in the Road
7. Look at Yourself
8. July Morning
9. Lady in Black
10. Sunrise (encore)
11. Easy Livin’ (encore)
Photos & text by Bear Wiseman