Uriah Heep/Snakecharmer - London, Shepherds Bush Empire - 8th December 2011 Print E-mail
Written by Jim Rowland   
Thursday, 15 December 2011 04:45

Heep_2Still one of the hardest working bands around, Uriah Heep have been on their mammoth 'Into the Wild' tour since April, clocking up hundreds of thousands of miles, and visiting numerous countries in the process. Tonight sees them back on home turf as they hit the wilds of Shepherds Bush on the last leg of the tour.


Support for tonight comes from Snakecharmer, formerly known as Monsters Of British Rock, featuring classic Whitesnake line-up members Micky Moody and Neil Murray, alongside Harry James (Thunder/Magnum) on drums, Laurie Wisefield (Wishbone Ash) on guitar and Adam 'son of Rick' Wakeman on keys, with vocals handled by Chris Ousey, formerly of Heartland, who does a good job filling some very difficult shoes. That's a pretty stellar line-up and their experience shines through as they breeze effortlessly though a set of classic-era Whitesnake tunes. It was definitely a case of "'ere's some songs for ya" as we get treated to spot on renditions of 'Ready An' Willing', 'Ain't Gonna Cry No More', 'Slow and Easy', 'Ain't No Love In The Heart Of The City', 'Here I Go Again' and of course 'Fool For Your Loving'. It all makes you realise that there haven't been too many Whitesnake classics since the days of Micky Moody etc. It's a brief set, so they stick to the 'snake classics and don't attempt to charm us with some of the new material, which from what I've been hearing sounds very good.


It has to be said it's not exactly a brilliant turnout tonight, and the venue is probably only about half full so there's a fair bit of space to mill about in the stalls when Heep hit the stage with the impressive new track 'I'm Ready'. This doesn't deter the band at all though, they're instantly firing on all cylinders, and Bernie Shaw works as hard as ever to get the crowd going. One of the great things about Uriah Heep is that they have such a vast back catalogue, they can always throw in a few surprises along with the new album tracks and the obvious classics, and that's just what they do tonight. So we get 'Return To Fantasy', a superb 'Stealin'', and a sizzling 'Rainbow Demon' to sink our teeth into nice and early.


Heep1'Money Talk', featuring a vicious drum solo from Russell Gilbrook, whilst 'Into the Wild' and 'Nail On The Head' are good samples of the new material, although it has to be said, and it has been commented on already, that 'Nail On The Head' sounds perhaps a little too close to 'Oops Upside Your Head' for comfort. For me, I'm not so sure the band have picked the best tracks from the excellent 'Into The Wild' album for the live set as 'I Can See You', 'Southern Star' and 'Trail Of Diamonds' would all have been welcome additions.


Mick Box gets the acoustic out for a cool solo spot, leading into a great version of 'The Wizard', and the last four tracks before the encore are all bonafide Heep classics that truly get the joint rockin'. 'Gypsy' and 'Look At Yourself', still two of Heep's very finest moments, are delivered with all the subtlety of a very large sledgehammer, and the prog-tinged 'July Morning' is as majestic as ever. After everyone's had a few beers, 'Lady In Black' is a fine way to get everyone singing along to close the set.


As I mentioned earlier, it's good that Heep always throw a couple of unexpected gems into the set, and so it was with the encore. The hard rocking 'Free 'n' Easy' goes back to '77's 'Innocent Victim' and sees the band invite some fans onto the stage with them for a blast of air guitar and a spot of good old headbanging. 'Salisbury's' 'Bird Of Prey' is one I haven't seen them do too often and was a highlight for me, before the classic 'Easy Livin' rounded things off in perfect fashion.


This was another great slice of Heep live. It's been well documented by now that Uriah Heep seem rejuvenated in recent years, and with albums like 'Wake The Sleeper' and 'Into The Wild' coupled with live shows of this standard, it's clear this band still have many more miles on the clock to go.