April 19th, 2019

Uriah Heep performance one not to miss

By Lethbridge Herald on December 7, 2018.

Al Beeber
Lethbridge Herald
A few days ago when I read Judas Priest was going to be in Calgary next year, I thought to myself “too bad they don’t come to Lethbridge.” It was wishful thinking because, let’s face it, Judas Priest is among the high priests of metal, a legendary band that certainly would never come to a smaller market like Lethbridge.
Well, look what happened — the Priest is booked for the Enmax Centre on June 10 with tickets going on sale today at 10 a.m. Come hell or high water, I’m going to be at that show because opening is Uriah Heep, my all-time favourite band.
To see Priest coming here was enough of a shock, but Uriah Heep is a band I’ve wanted to see since my early teens when I started buying every album I could get my hands on at Woolco or by mail through Columbia Record House. Yup, I’m that old.
I’m pretty sure it was classmate Rod Wendorff who introduced me to the band by lending me an eight-track of their 1973 live album when we were in junior high school back in Raymond. That double album not only featured Uriah Heep’s own songs, but blistering metal covers of such tunes as “Blue Suede Shoes.”
It was this recording that prompted me to seek out any and all Uriah Heep albums and in the mid ’70s, I pretty much had them all — “Salisbury,” “Look at Yourself,” “Demons and Wizards,” “The Magician’s Birthday,” “Sweet Freedom,” “Wonderworld” and “Return To Fantasy,” which for me was a dud. Music critics were much more friendly towards that last one but to me, the Heep scored its biggest successes earlier with the classic lineup of guitarist Mick Box, who still leads the band nearly 50 years later; keyboardist Ken Hensley; bassist Gary Thain; vocalist David Byron; and drummer Lee Kerslake, who is now the focus of a documentary called “Not On The Heep,” which tells the story of his effort to launch a solo career at the age of 71 despite having cancer and one year left to live.
The classic Heep lineup ended in 1975 with the departure of Gary Thain, who died far too young at the age of 27 in December of that year. Byron was fired from the band in 1976 and subsequently died at the age of 38 in 1985. Hensley, whose keyboard work to this day is remarkable, left the band in 1980 and still performs.
Since the lineup of its ’70s heyday came apart, Box has continued to lead the band which features Canadian Bernie Shaw on vocals since 1986, keyboardist Phil Lanzon, who also joined that year, along with drummer Russell Gilbrook and bassist Davey Rimmer.
To me, Box and company will be the stars of the show here. And to this day, I’m sure friends will say how sick they got hearing me play Uriah Heep in my assorted cars when we were bombing Raymond’s main street back in high school. But there was something about this band that hit me in a way few other bands did before or since.
They were among the greats of early British heavy metal, trailblazers who forged a path for others to follow. I am probably in the minority, though, who will be going to primarily see them.
Headliners Judas Priest has gone into the stratosphere with record sales and fan support in their long career. They’ve sold more than 50 million records since 1969 and to this day, are rock royalty. Sadly, the band has failed to be inducted into the rock ’n roll hall of fame, an honour they’ve certainly earned. They were on the ballot in 2017 but never made the cut and this year weren’t even nominated. Pity.
But whichever band makes a rock fan want to shell out money for tickets, southern Albertans are in for a massive treat next June.
Take a bow, Enmax Centre, for landing this show. It’s going to be legendary — like the bands themselves.
THE STAMPEDERS ARE COMING: Veteran Canadian rockers The Stampeders will also be in Lethbridge on June 10. Shantero Productions will be bringing the Alberta band to the Yates Centre that day. Tickets go on sale Monday. Anyone who remembers the 1970s will surely know this band whose music was a staple of Canadian rock radio. I saw them once at SAIT in Calgary  during an afternoon campus pub performance way back in 1979. Too bad Judas Priest and Uriah Heep are the same night.
Follow @albeebHerald on Twitter.

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