If you like progressive rock as a whole, the place to be at was the Jumeirah Creekside Hotel’s Secret Garden on Friday night, where a captivating venue came alive to the blistering sounds of Uriah Heep, one of the most popular hard rock bands of the early ‘70s.
There were hundreds of people at the show that were diehard Heep fans, like myself, and a feeling of anticipation engulfed the venue as founding member Mick Box and his band emerged on stage.
Wasting no time to fire up memories of Classic rock concerts, the band, fronted by lead singer Bernie Shaw, kicked into top gear with Gypsy, from their 1970s debut album, Very ‘eavy, Very ‘Umble.
It has been more than 25 years since I last saw Heep perform so I was overly excited to be at the Secret Garden to see Box and his cohorts take me on a long way down memory lane.
And I was not disappointed.
The 90-minute set featured most of the classics that have spanned the band’s extensive 40-year career including Look At Yourself, Stealin, The Magicina’s Birthday and Easy Living.
Box and Shaw were well supported by Phil Lanzon (keyboards), Davey Rimmer (bass) and Russell Gilbrook (drums) as they delivered a concert that felt like a party.
Shaw was solid vocally and was clearly having a lot of fun on stage with his antics and conversation with the fans.
“This has to be one of the most amazing venues that we’ve ever played at,” he screamed. “We love you Dubai!
“Let me tell you this is the 61st country that Heep has played at and we’re still counting…”
The Secret Garden is very laid-back compared to some of the more glamorous or popular venues in the emirate and the adventure that Heep took the happy crowd on was unmissable.
I love Heep classics as much as anyone you will come across who revelled in the progressive rock scene of the early 70s such as Yes, Jethro Tull, King Crimson and The Moody Blues, and enjoyed a set that was filled to the brim with songs and sounds that best represented this wonderfully avant-garde era in rock ‘n’ roll history.
Heep staples such as the saccharine-flavoured Look at Yourself, from the 1971 masterpiece with the same name; Sunrise, a hit single from their 1973 release, The Magician’s Birthday; and Stealin’, from the album Sweet Freedom, also realised the same year, were delivered with a unique freshness.
It is so inspiring to see classic rock acts perform new material when the temptation may be to rely on hit material and Heep is one band that dares to charm recent songs like they did with The Law from their 2014 album, which critics have said is similar to Black Sabbath’s 13 album because it remains true to the original Heep template created by the late great lead vocalist, David Byron.
One Minute and Between Two Worlds were delivered by Shaw with extreme passion before Box picked up his acoustic guitar as the band burst into the Classic Lady In Black, from the critically acclaimed 1971 release, Salisbury.
Jeep have performed this song more than a thousand times since it debuted during their 1971 concert at Volkshaus Zurich in Switzerland and it still sounded as fresh as a daisy.
I looked around the Secret Garden to see the packed house full of old school, and some new, Heep fans, truly enjoying themselves and the feeling was infectious.
After performing July Morning, the hit single from the bestselling Look At Yourself album, a song that was first performed at the Palace Theatre, Wescliff-on-Sea in England during the late 70s, the band left the stage only to return for the customary encore. And what an encore it was…
Easy Living, from 1973’s Demons And Wizards, was a song full of lush keyboards and virtuoso guitar playing by Box. Its not easy to see why Heep chose this gem to end their Dubai concert, just as they have done for most of their gigs over the past 40 years. It’s a dead ringer to bring the house down, one final time.
After the show I was fortune to hang out with Box for a little while, which helped me digest the biggest rock ‘n’ roll meal I’ve had in a long, long time.
As I was driving home, I listened to The Wizard on my car stereo, the only gem that Heep did not perform. As the song, which starts with a simple acoustic guitar builds to a wall of sound featuring a heavy church organ, I realised how fortunate I was to have this most wonderful job of mine, as a journalist.