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MARK TAYLOR'S BIG CITY NIGHTS
SHEPHERD'S BUSH EMPIRE, LONDON
Photos by John Price for QEDG
On a cold, blustery evening Uriah Heep are close to winding up yet another hard touring year in support of their 23rd studio album, 'Into The Wild'. They've performed 125 gigs in 23 countries around the world.
It also brings the gigging year around almost full circle for me as I saw both of tonight's acts way back in January at the Rock And Blues Festival in Skegness at Butlins Holiday Camp of all places.
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Opening for the London show only are a band with plenty of pedigree. Snakecharmer are playing their first official gig, although I have previously seen them a couple of times under their previous guise of The Monsters Of British Rock.
For those of you old enough to remember Whitesnake before they got diluted in an ozone breaking layer of hair spray, Snakecharmer are a dream come true featuring original Whitesnake members Micky Moody on the slide guitar and the well travelled bassist Neil Murray. Joining forces with them are drummer Harry H James (Thunder and Magnum), Laurie Wisefield (ex Wishbone Ash), Adam Wakeman (last seen tinkling the ivories near the back with Ozzy Osbourne) and vocalist Chris Ousey (Virginia Wolf and Heartland).
Snakecharmer brought back the twin guitar based classic rock sound back to those early Whitesnake favourites. Ousey... er... oozes class with a soulful voice more similar to Paul Rodgers. You could even say he looks like a younger model of Rodgers with his tight fitting vest and close shaven stubble.
Snakecharmer played a set that showed that without the gloss Whitesnake haven't written any better tunes since... yes, you guessed it... 1987.
It was a dream set for older fans and a tuition for the youngsters. Whilst it was great to hear such gems as 'Ready An' Willing', 'Ain't No Love...', 'Here I Go Again' in their original format, I do feel the band missed a golden opportunity by not playing some new material.
Having heard two new tracks the week before which would surprise and impress many, Snakecharmer slithered off without showing what they're really about in 2011. Next year could well be the year of the Snake. Watch this space.
On the last tour in support of 'Wake The Sleeper' Uriah Heep took the brave move of playing the new album in it's entirety. This time round that album shamelessly doesn't get a look in and only four tracks from 'Into The Wild' get an airing and by no means the fans' favourites.
However the Heep show no signs of slowing up and are still a force to be reckoned with. New song 'I'm Ready' opens the proceedings before majestic versions of old favourites 'Return To Fantasy', 'Stealin'' and the haunting 'Rainbow Demon' draw us into the world of Heep.
'Money Talks' features a brain shaking drum solo from Russell Gilbrook who has to be one of the greatest finds in rock history. Gilbrook has a tattoo of Animal from the Muppet Show on his arm and it's easy to see why as he could easily use this as an ID if the police ever need to know his name.
'Nail On The Head' is the Metal version of the Gap Band's 'Oops Upside Your Head' but luckily no one dared to sit on the floor in a line like they did back in the discotheques in the eighties (ask your Auntie), although I was standing in line waiting to be served at the bar at the time.
The gig went into overdrive with pulsating versions of 'Gypsy', and a thunderous 'Look At Yourself' with plenty of wah-wah from Mick Box and I thought Gilbrook's arms might smash through the drum skins.
No Heep gig could be complete without 'July Morning' and the set ended with 'Lady In Black', a big smash for the boys in Germany with it's easy singalong chorus for our foreign friends.
The only track from the John Lawton years, 'Free N Easy', was the first encore which saw Mick Box and Bernie Shaw's children come on stage for a bit of headbanging, no doubt encouraged by yours truly who managed to get myself on stage for my fifteen seconds of fame. If only I had brought along my kazoo I could've tempted Mick Box to play 'The Magician's Birthday'.
With my head in a spin and plenty of back slapping from my drinking buddies, a riveting 'Bird Of Prey' followed, a song that no doubt influenced King Diamond with it's high operatic demonic vocals and it led us a to a neck breaking 'Easy Livin'... Oh yes, have I been forgiven?
Walking In The Shadow Of The Blues
Ready An' Willing
Ain't Gonna Cry No More
Slow An' Easy
Ain't No Love (In The Heart Of The City)
Here I Go Again
Fool For Your Loving
Return To Fantasy
Nail On The Head
Into The Wild
Look At Yourself
Lady In Black