Uriah Heep (München - Muffathalle - 11.12.03)
Written by: Ale¹ Podbre¾nik
Orchid orchestra plays live in Munich! Who's gonna take a ride with me? As usual for our "living in Slovenia rock and roll scene" location of this special town was for about some 450km from Ljubljana. Oh, by the way, Deep Purple's concert in Ljubljana week ago was sold out. And this would also happen if Heeps would be invited to rock the Slovenia, because real rock concerts are quite rare thing that happens every now and then in our country. I mean real rock concert with having on stage band of a generation that gave birth to rock and roll.
No one but Peter and me on the road again. I was quite aware this gonna cost us a fortune. Munich's parking pavement on Innerewiener Straße nearby Muffathalle was 17.50€, pavement for all tunnels through Alps costs altogether 33.00€. Oh to hell with money! Well, we were driving through stormy cloudy weather filled with high acid moisture and some heavy rain and snow, too. Meanwhile, we got very woozy. But as always that kind of a day was full of magic. As we left last tunnel just before reaching Salzburg, Blue Öyster Cult's classic Dancin' In The Ruins in our cassette player just faded away. As we reached the other side of Alps another Cultclassic Perfect Water broke this short silence. And we truly found ourselves in perfect water. On the other side of Alps air was fresh and clean, filled with smell from conifer forests that covers the land, sky suddenly opened blue and we greeted the sun that was shining bright on us again. What a symbolism! Dual weather conditions, familiar as evening with Uriah Heep and Blue Öyster Cult will be. The rest of travel was a piece of cake and we knocked directly into target, parked our car at around quarter past two in the afternoon and hit to the centre of Munich, to find Marien Platz where we bought the tickets. Day quickly turned to night and we were standing in the front door of Muffathalle, which was really nice place to be. With my age of Jesus I was actually among youngest, because majority that came to visit Heeps were aged well over forty.
Fireball Ministry was to open the show. If some might thought that they missed the right train, I must warned them they are absolutely wrong. Band born somewhere in California (USA) showed close connections with Black Sabbath of Ozzy era. Doom metal rock? You might call it as a doom, but if you ask them, I think they would partly disagree. They came to deliver some heavy loads by high kicking heavy metal rock, based on simple riffs. Simple boxed riffing, yet highly effective and I just couldn't stand still. Gutsy and convincible approach. Peter and I, positioned in a front row, hardly waiting for Mick & co. to appear, got a real nice view. A devilish blonde biker girl in front of us was murdering quite heavily her Gibson SG while her intense serious powerful riffing. She took me easily under her spell by her demonic charm. Twined by pal on her left who was waving high his Dean Flyin' V and at same vein took care for all lead vocals, both guitars delivered powerful voltage that was very well tuned. Fluid bridges not complicated and merely tasty double harmonised. What also brought some special colourful contrast in music were nice back female vocals. Now the rhythm line. Drummer was centre positioned on stage, because Fireball Ministry got not just a time, but also real on-stage space limitation. Guy was hitting his drum kit very strong. Powerful, a real body puncher. He surely got some short exercises from Bobby Rondinelli and Lee Kerslake. He had only one tom-tom drum, ‘cause second one was a "cow bell", he was using quite intense through entire gig. And this was fitted very well inside "dirty Yankees" music style. This is a kind of drum device I don't know right English expression for it. I named it because of a sound it produces. If you know that crazy jam rhythm's drive in Grand Funk Railroad song We Are An American Band, than this is it. Singer and lead guitarist was also wearing biker's image. He slightly reminded on Ozzy. His looks were hollowed as Ozzy's, and his singing too. Lead breaks were short and quick effective fills that raise dynamics of songs by not taking away even an inch of band's raw on stage power. A bass player was also a girl, and her image was again no different. She was dressed as a biker and very charming cutie, too. Jamming all the time along the band, her Fender bass guitar was almost as big as she was. Fireball Ministry warmed up the audience real well. Older part of audience surely got no reasons to complain, because youngsters Fireball Ministry took them directly into Black Sabbath early seventies era, yet on their special hellish loud and far aggressive way. Great tuning, great communication between band's members, nice contact to audience, serious, convincible and gutsy approach all the way. I liked also their modest stand. No kings and queens on stage. Just four simple musicians that came to deliver through their half an hour lasting show some good portion of rock and roll. Wish them all the best in future!
If Fireball Ministry was leading us through hell, Blue Öyster Cult took us through purgatory. I was dying for opportunity to see those legends that set, oh to many to count, standards for what was later to become heavy metal in all its varieties. I was really privileged and honoured to anticipate their gig. Blue Öyster Cult went straight to the core. They kicked off with instrumental Buck's Boogie. Buck was completely dressed in black including baseball cap and armoured with white guitar. And all clothes were two or three sizes to big for him. He was looking like a black smurf. It was real enjoyment watching Buck doin' his complex versatile solos with such easiness. Everything felt out to be done as a piece of cake. He was having a big time while making some jokes with guitar pick in his mouth. Well, these guys just don't give a damn or pay some special attention to audience. They are doing what they want to do. So, contact with the audience felt out to be cold. They were holding distance. Eric didn't smile nor for a single moment during concert. Only Allen and Danny were delivering some warmth to the people. So audience felt that and responded quite weakly. I was pleased to hear E.T.I. (Extra Terrestrial Intelligence). But what raised the climax in hall was surely Burning For You. I was shivering down the spine. It is kind of a hit that gathers everything. Genuine irreplaceable riff holds double effect. It is double victory. It genuinely captures band's fantastic feel for making true straight shivering riffs and is the same vein a guarantee for a commercial success. More recent song See You In Black ("Heaven Forbid", 1999) was followed by speciality of a band's set list Divine Winds ("Cultosaurus Erectus", 1980). More hands went in the air and more heads began to spin, when Oysters take on their first classic Cities On Flame With Rock And Roll. In Godzilla Buck and Eric were both doing lead vocals. And than in the middle of song three band's original members suddenly left the stage. Danny was having some fun with his bass guitar while trying to raise the audience on its feet. Than legendary drummer Bobby Rondinelli who was all the time very busy with toothpick in his mouth bombed the hall and I thought he will tear his drum kit. This solo was hellish loud, I thought it will blew Muffathalle's roof off. Band returned back with Godzilla's main riff and ended the song. Well time was closing in and it was time for Reaper to take some action. Audience was logically on its feet getting louder and showing some more life. Don't Fear The Reaper, pure magic. A song of Stairway To Heaven calibre. Evergreen of rock. This was the end of regular set.
Guys quickly came back, while audience was still pretty much on fire and delivered another party time with Dominance And Submission, where Eric asked the audience to scream word Submission and divided it into left and right part. So we got a little competition. Entire band's gig lasted exactly one hour. These guys are still very hot footed, they are playing as hell. But unfortunately overall expression was, they didn't deliver their maximum. Maybe they felt some heavy loads of being Uriah Heep's support. I am not quite sure, what is the main reason for more or less dead acting on stage. They won't hide they are faded to black. Rock in their hands is a true guerrilla of their unique unrepeatable musical expression. As a music and of course by live vibrations that captures always some clairvoyant apocalyptical feel. They know it all. But this is not enough. You must react, too!
Now we were slowly reaching to heaven. I was in Germany. Many people claim that Heeps "in live" are always something special when touring this country. They attacked us straight with Easy Livin'. With no left or right, but going straight ahead with crochet right between the eyes. Audience went mad. It was obvious that everybody came to see Uriah Heep. What a huge response, I was immediately started to shiver down the spine. What an energy! Well it would be interesting to ask Heep guys how they feel the power of the crowd on stage. I am sure that this power is one of their sources to keep on being Uriah Heep. Love will find love, will find love,... This is their basic axiom I suppose. This feeling was unbelievable. It is fact. This bright light when all five guys entered the stage. All carrying pure positive vibes, and audience was colliding with them immediately. The magic was here with us and we were taking off the ground. Uriah Heep were hitting me directly when decided to do Shadows Of Grief ("Look At Yourself", 1971). That shivering Mick's riffing and the way Lee was drumming here, an absolute highlight right in the beginning of the show and pure fantasy! This time guys didn't forget to include also some eighties stuff. In Cry Freedom from "Ragging Silence" (1987) Bernie was doing his vocals truly phenomenal. How he screamed high and powerful in closing section of a song. What a refrain! People were truly shaking to the bones! It is hard to expose Bernie's highlight, because he was singing with maximum power and with full approach through entire gig. Uriah Heep kept on raising the climax. They didn't stop after Cry Freedom. If song The Magicians's Birthday was among first reasons to visit band live in summer of ‘02, Pilgrim was surely its replacement on this very special night of band's current "European Tour 2003/04". Peter and I were shaking our heads, because we simply couldn't believed we will ever hear this song live in concert.
Guys were in great mood, all with smiles on their faces, really convincible. No shit, but this band always shocks by freedom it chooses. They are doing what they like and love to do.. And what I especially respect when having in mind Uriah Heep, they are rare band to fiind on planet Earth that switch their set lists so often. Only six songs remained the same when comparing this with set list of summer ‘02. And this makes them so big, because it is direct proof that they love to play their art. Now compare this with big names of Iron Maiden's calibre. Obsessed by black magic (read: blinded by their lust for money) they would sell their shit if possible. And making music with love lost its meaning for Iron Maiden long ago. And among bigger names in rock history they are not the only that laid their weapons down on a such way.
Uriah Heep are just to well experienced, to make another self-suicide. One of the hardest breaking moments that happened in their history was enough (early eighties). Looking through the eyes of presence, it was only good for the band. It meant apocalyptical moment for them, and new Uriah Heep rose from remnants of the old like Phoenix out of the ashes. They find all knowledge to built new stronghold of their own musical stand, younger acts can simply learn from Uriah Heep. First Mick gathered right people around him and band survived the test of revival. Next to follow was chemistry that grew between boys. They are not just a musicians placed in a certain band for a reason to play and make money. They are true friends that find perfect balance, perfect way for coexistence in band. And I don't know for a band that would held together eighteen years in the same line up. Even Yes are still learning while seeking perfect balance which would provide a symbiotic conditions for big egos to coexist. Uriah Heep learnt how to use and handle the power of this insight. And this makes them really one of the greatest acts. You can feel it when watching them live on stage. You can't miss those feelings, this light, positive energy, and this sincere devotion. It is easy to find the same language with Uriah Heep. Share that light of being light.
Okay, sorry I don't know, I switched myself off for a while, like some kind of religious fanatic. I am back on realistic ground now. Wise Man was calming down things a bit. But only for a band. I was again in seventh heaven, to hear something from Lawton's era. This was actually no calming down for Bernie. You have to be very brave to accept such a challenge and sing John Lawton's legacy. And Bernie did it phenomenal. But where I like Bernie at most is surely Stealin' and the way how he improvises this song. Passionate and soulful with great feel. Stealin' with Bernie on vocals is always far better than original studio version with David Byron on vocals. Simple, it always sounds more convincible. Band was really grooving. As a unit they proved to be hellish coherent especially in The Wizard, where they manifested unforgettable choir singing in bridge that starts with verse "…voices in our hearts,…". Mick's folk guitar in centre role provided sound of live acoustic steel and brought great contrast and special mood to this song. A rocking piece with fantastic chorus was to follow. Something from "Head First" (1983). This something was The Other Side Of Midnight with real rocking nature that delivered a new climax. A song that simply must not miss in set list is Gypsy. Heavy as only it can be thanks to Mick's razor vah-vah riffs and Phil's massive organ dashes, makes this song always something special. It's new dress and arrangement catches personality of recent Uriah Heep line up, band's magic and tight chemistry that works unbeatable. Every band has its own tale. Through evolution and growth magic is changing. And this band grows better and better through ages, like good old wine. Powerful moments lasted through Devil's Daughter, another song entirely written for Bernie's skin. As usual he sent a few dangerous looks towards chicks that were shaking in front row and verses in Devil's Daughter seemed just suitable for such vocalist's acting.
If Heeps got nastier with portion of Gypsy, Devil's Daughter and The Other Side Of Midnight, time got right to raise the boiling climax to the highest possible point. Lee's dictations of heartbeating rhythm via his bas drum pedal and Phil's grand organ tunes meant only one thing. Peter and I recognized it immediately. It was taken from our Heep's fave album of Byron's era "The Magician's Birthday" (1972), Sunrise. This was launch directly into heaven, far beyond all horizons. Masters of choral singing delivered completely different ambient. I was shivering down the spine as I didn't since 18th of June this year in Budapest while watching Yes live. Everything was set for grand finale. Phil hit that famous glorious "wedding" motive of masterpiece that closed the regular part of a band's show. Sunrise was (logically) followed by morning. And this very special morning was July Morning. Bernie set closer to the audience. I was thinking to take a shot with my camera, but he was sitting to close and I didn't want to disturb artist while his soulful singing and capturing David's magic back to life. This song always makes me want to cry, and this time it made no difference. It makes always the same impact on me. Awareness of man, he is always alone on his road and that he needs to find his own wizard his own sources of inner powers to reach his destined goals. Just a simple and sincere truth, that hits like a hammer blow, each and every time of song's performance. What a heavy Lee's thundering and Mick's wild vah vah guitar drives that marked the song! Phil contributed some variable spicy organ sounds that build massive sound wall. Magic reborn! Legends finished their main part. People were really delighted and sent some huge cheers and greetings to the band on stage.
Before the gig Peter and I were guessing which song they'll perform in encore. We agreed that these songs might be Bird Of Prey, Look At Yourself, Easy Livin' and Lady In Black. Well our approximation wasn't far from the truth. Uriah Heep stroke heavily with Bird Of Prey. Through fat and loud rhythm drive by Trevor and Lee and Mick's heavy sharp edged riffing, we were able to experience heavy detonating, much heavier and faster in comparison with original studio version. A special candy was waiting at the end. Bad Bad Man ("Raging Silence", 1987), another heavy rocking piece. Just before last goodbye, Bernie invited us to sing along Lady In Black. Also Lee came closer to the microphone while shaking tambourine in his hand and covering Bernie via his back vocals. Public cooperated with band in singing famous "oh-s" while carefully followed Bernie's singing instructions. This was surely among highlights of entire show.
I must not forget the spider from Mars, who looks on stage always so modest and silent, with his irreplaceable contribution. Brilliant bass player Trevor Bolder, he was demonstrating fantastic bass fingering session. At special sections inside certain songs he was fast as a shark, mood took him completely in while he was giving his best. Whenever he found some extra space for improvising he completely used it and effectively fulfilled whole band's live sound. His Fender bass guitar is more than just an instrument. It seems as Trevor integrated a part of guitar's spirit into his personality and opposite. His bass guitar got some Trevor's soul and spirit. For a moment it seemed as if bass player would broke away from his instrument and jumped out of his physical body.
Uriah Heep live is unforgettable experience. Gig wasn't only a manifest of "no mistake" routine, but we all got opportunity to feel strong vibrations, full of love and devotion to the things they are doing. Pure magic reborn! A legend never dies. Munich's gig was along with Yes, surely one of the best gig I've seen this year! Band felt crowd's strong support and this gave guys on stage some extra special wings to fly that evening. Thank you guys for everything, see you again as soon as possible.
Set list Blue Öyster Cult (München, 11.12.2003, Muffathalle):
1. Buck's Boogie
2. E.T.I. (Extra Terrestrial Intelligence)
3. Dance On Stilts
4. Burning For You
5. See You In Black
6. Divine Winds
7. Cities On Flame With Rock And Roll
8. Godzilla (feat. bass & drum solo)
9. Don't Fear The Reaper
10. Dominance And Submission
Set list Uriah Heep (München, 11.12.2003, Muffathalle):
1. Easy Livin'
2. Shadows Of Grief
3. Cry Freedom
5. Wise Man
7. The Wizard
8. The Other Side Of Midnight
10. Devil's Daughter
12. July Morning
13. Bird Of Prey
14. Bad Bad Man
15. Lady In Black