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Uriah Heep - The Magician's Birthday Party

Review: 135
Date: 6 Jul 03


Rating: 4 Stars

Mick Box - Guitars
Bernie Shaw - Vocals
Trevor Boulder - Bass
Phil Lanson - Keyboards
Lee Kerslake - Drums

Guest Artists:
Thijs Van Leer - Flute
John Lawton - Vocals
Ken Hensley - Guitar and Keyboards

Tracks Listing:
Return to fantasy
Sweet Pretender
Between Two Worlds
Mistress of all Time
I'll Keep on trying
July morning
Sunrise. Paradise - The Spell
Circle of Hands
Easy livin'
The Magician's Birthday
Free 'n' Easy


This DVD goes to prove - come what may - that you cannot keep a good band down. In the past fourteen years, although with a steady lineup and consistent world wide touring, Uriah Heep have only released three new studio albums, which have actually been critically well received, but only did moderate sales, as opposed to six studio albums in their first three formative years, added to which was the groundbreaking double live album. But live the boys can still pack concert halls across the globe, with their full-on stage shows and enthusiastic performances.

The Magician's Birthday Party was recorded at the Shepherds Bush Empire in London, England on 7th December 2001 to celebrate thirty two years of the monster on this planet that Uriah Heep is. They went through five drummers, six bassists, four keyboard players, four lead vocalists, but only one lead guitarist, quite an achievement. (Making the "Spinal Tap" drum stool look secure.) To be fair, the current lineup of Uriah Heep has been together (with barely a hick up) now since 1988.

Uriah HeepThe event had been sold out weeks in advance by the loyal Heep fans, and the band itself has promised a special show. They delivered in no uncertain terms, giving a powerful performance that belied their mounting years. (Watching the DVD Concert section of the show one cannot help but make comparisons between the appearance of the band and their counter parts in the spoof band "Strange Fruit" from the movie 'Still Crazy', with the resemblance between drummer Lee Kerslake and his film double Timothy Spall, keyboard player Phil Lanzon and Stephen Rea, and especially lead vocalist Bernie Shaw and the superbly over the top Bill Nighy. It is quite hard to not expect to glance sideways and expect Billy Connelly to be part of the road crew.) The band gives a very energetic performance, playing songs from as far back as their third album "Look at Yourself" (1971). With the classic song "July Morning" Mick Box delivers a superb guitar solo to bring the song to a dramatic climax, whilst Bernie Shaw mirrors the exacting high falsetto vocals of sadly departed original Heep vocalist David Byron. Before that the band plays "Between two Worlds" from their last studio album, the wonderfully monickered "Sonic Origami". (1998).

Uriah Heep had also promised surprises during the show, and no die hard fan of the band could possibly have been disappointed by what they got. First up during "Between Two Worlds" Thijs Van Leer, formally of Dutch super group 'Focus', gets up on stage to play the flute parts and as a special treat gives a few of his customized yodels. Then after a couple more songs the crowd goes totally bananas as original keyboardist/slide guitarist/vocalist/and for a time chief songwriter. (For Heep;s ninth album "High and Mighty"1976 he wrote all the songs.) Ken Hensley gets up on stage to play with the band for the first time in twenty one years. The years roll back and Ken Hensley fits musically back into the band like a velvet glove, switching between vocals, keyboards, and some wonderful slide guitar, especially during the epic "Circle of Hands". Now as a six piece Rock band (with the edition of three beautiful back up singers, who are certainly easier on the eye than some of the aging Rock Stars on the stage) they bring the set proper to a rousing conclusion with a definitive version of "The Magician's Birthday", which gives each member of the band a solo opportunity. Encore time brings the whole entourage back on stage with the addition of Heep's vocalist for three studio albums and three years of live work, John Lawton (who had miraculously grown his hair back for the night), for two more rockers to send the crowd home into the cold London night deliriously happy. Of course you do not have to do that as you can now watch it at your leisure in the comfort of your home - thanks to the wonders of DVD.

The extras are worth the price of the DVD on their own with a filmed visit of the band to the U. S. A, Rock vault of other bands that have DVD on the Classic Rock Label, a bonus track in studio form, and a documentary of a Uriah Heep Fan Convention with the band in attendance.

When you look at the set list and notice which songs Uriah Heep could afford to leave out, you get an idea of how strong the Heep back catalogue is. How many other bands could play a two hour set at a celebration concert and still leave out such classics as 'Gypsy', 'Lady in Black' and 'The Wizard'. Most other bands would have to build their whole set round them. It is thirty two years on the road now for Uriah Heep, and if this DVD is anything to go by, there is plenty of life in the old Dog for a few more years to come.


Pawed by Mott The Dog
Remastered by Ella Crew


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