Uriah Heep Newcastle City Hall 19th Jan 1973

Uriah Heep Newcastle City Hall 19th Jan 1973
heepjan73tixSupport was from Nick Pickett, who was a folk singer on the Vertigo label.
They started out as the band the critics loved to hate. A reviewer for Rolling Stone magazine even promised to commit suicide “if this band makes it” (bet he didn’t 🙂 ). But those of us who were fans understood. We knew that Uriah Heep were one of the classic rock acts of the 70s. Easily up there with Zeppelin, Purple and Sabbath.
The classic Heep line-up existed between 1972 and 1975 and was Mick Box (guitar), David Byron (vocals), Ken Hensley (keyboards), Lee Kerslake (drums) and Gary Thain (bass).
One of my mates had their first album “..Very ‘Eavy …Very ‘Umble” and we would gather in his house listening to the raw primitive riff of Gypsy and the spooky twisting tale of Come Away Melinda (which was my favourite). “Play ‘Gypsy again’.” Onto the turntable it would go, volume on full, needle down, again and again and again. And at the local Mecca, when “Gypsy” came screaming out of the speakers, the dance floor would fill with people playing air guitar and shaking their long hair around and around. “When I was only seventeen, I fell in love with a gypsy queen.” There remains something basic and primeval about that song; so simple and yet so powerful. But there was so much more to Uriah Heep; the imagery of “Demons and Wizards” (“he was the wizard of a thousand kings”), the dark folklore narrative of “Lady in Black”, the thundering, rock’n’roll of “Easy Livin'”, the majestic “Sunrise”, and that classic mirror lp cover of “Look At Yourself”. Then there was “July Morning”, Uriah Heep’s own “Stairway to Heaven”, which used dynamics, orchestral arrangements and narrative to take us to a different world; I could visualise Dave Byron standing on a warm summer morning, the sun breaking through; simply classic.
heepjan73progI got to see Uriah Heep for the first time in January 1973 on the “Magician’s Birthday” tour. I went along a semi-interested fan and came away 100% a convert. The performance was so powerful, the music so loud, and the songs so great, in every way. Dave Byron was the perfect rock vocalist, possessing an operatic voice with an incredible range, and had tremendous stage presence, commanding the audience to join in and become part of the show. Mick Box was, and remains, the unsung guitar hero, long hair and a massive grin stretching from ear to ear. Ken Hensley would rock back and forth pulling at his Hammond, a long mane of hair swaying behind him, creating sounds that blended 60s R’n’B swirl with deep Bach chords. Gary Thain was the silent, solid bass man, and Lee Kerslake was constant at the back, crashing away on the drums. And the volume. Uriah Heep understood that rock had to be LOUD, that feeling the music was just as important as hearing it. When they played ‘Easy Livin'”; the volume went up a notch, the bass notes hit me hard right in the chest, and I honestly feared I would never be able to hear again (can I sue a band for the state of my hearing today ?) The other important, distinctive and vital element of Uriah Heep in concert was the screaming harmonies. They were simply stunning live. Ok, I get that it’s not cool to say so (and I guess it’s not cool to use the word “cool” but who cares), but to a teenage kid in the stalls of the City Hall in 1973 Uriah Heep were just as good as Purple or Zeppelin or Sabbath.
I came out of the City Hall that night a big fan of Uriah Heep. I went to school the next day and bored everyone about how great they were. Oh and my ears were ringing for days after, but that was part of the fun, it reminded me that I had experienced a proper rock gig.
I’ve seen Uriah Heep another 17 or so times since. I’ve lost faith in them now and then, particularly as the line-ups changed over the years, and I’ve missed some of their tours, but I’ve always returned to them. I’m going to spend the next few days writing about Uriah Heep live (don’t worry, I’ll combine some gigs and have already reviewed some recent shows, so it won’t take me 17 days) and I will try to remind myself what made (and still makes) them so great and mighty.
Set List in Jan 1973: Sunrise; Sweet Lorraine; Traveller In Time; Easy Livin’; July Morning; Gypsy; Tears In My Eyes; Circle Of Hands; Look At Yourself; The Magician’s Birthday; Love Machine; Rock ‘n’ Roll Medley.
The above setlist is from the Birmingham gig of the tour, which was recorded for the classic Uriah Heep Live double lp. I also think they played Bird of Prey at Newcastle. I particularly remember Dave Byron announcing it as “Here is an old one, probably the last time we will play this” (it wasn’t 🙂 ) The rock’n’roll medley typically contained songs like: Roll Over Beethoven; Blue Suede Shoes; Mean Woman Blues; Hound Dog; At The Hop; Whole Lotta Shakin’ Goin’ On. And we all sang along. Happy happy days.

3 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by Hockey on December 10, 2014 at 6:45 am

    Fantastic blog Peter! I would LOVE to have been at this gig, as a year or so later I treasured the brilliant double live LP from this tour which I rated alongside Made In Japan, IrishTour ’74, and many of those other live albums of the time, which my School mates and I would play to death. I only got to see Heep from 1977 onwards so missed out on the David Byron lineup. I went off them in the early 80’s when the lineup changed a lot, but I saw them again recently doing Wake The Sleeper and they were still a great live band. Happy days indeed! regards, Mike


    • Posted by vintagerock on December 10, 2014 at 2:21 pm

      Many thanks Mike I think Uriah Heep are a very under-rated band who in their day were one of our best live acts, and remain great to this day Cheers Peter


  2. Many thanks for sharing your memories Peter. That was an excellent write-up.

    You can find a couple of photos from the gig here:


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