The chap who is onstage doing the introductions might initially seem to be to be over-enthusiastic.
“Here is a band that is one of the big four of British rock,” he chirrups. “Right up there with Led Zep, Sabbath and Deep Purple.”
He then goes on to reel off some surprising facts: Uriah Heep have been number one in Germany three times for example, and perhaps most startling of the lot: they have sold 40 million copies of their records worldwide. Which makes them, as he says, a pretty big deal.
It also makes the public come out to watch. The Robin is pretty packed by the time the band hit the stage. To Heep’s eternal credit though, they don’t just spoonfeed the assembled throng the hits – and neither should they, when their last three albums have been quite as good as they have. Perhaps their recently announced slot at Download is evidence of a bright future too. And after “Against The Odds” kicks us off, a song from a relatively recent album in “Overload” follows.
Heep, rather like Purple, were never a heavy metal act in the conventional sense, rather more a hard rock act with prog influences. The Hammond Organ is evident throughout and by the time “Sunrise” with its stack harmonies and best of all the sprawling epic “Between Two Worlds” with its majestic solo has been played, it is clear that their musicianship is to the fore.
Before long it is back to the new stuff, with last album “Into The Wild’s” rabble rousing opener “Nail on the Head” getting an airing. Extremely catchy, it has Thunder-like qualities and is not out of place here.
There is a dip back all the way to their first album for “Gypsy,” which sees Mick Box – the only original member in the group – talk to the crowd for the first time, before the Marillion- esque “July Morning” and “Lady In Black” bring us to a close.
There is an encore of “Free N Easy,” during which the women of Bilston are invited to take the stage and perhaps their best known number “Easy Livin” brings things to a rather joyous close.
It would be easy to point to bands like as a mere nostalgia act. Yes, there is only one original member, but rather neglects the fact that like Motorhead, they have had a pretty stable line up for years and also that in ex Praying Mantis frontman Bernie Shaw, they have a singer who knows the ropes, hamming it up with “I hope there’s no curfew tonight as we will play for as long as they will let us” before the group plays exactly the same set as the rest of the tour.
With bass man Trevor Bolder missing the trek as he battles cancer, it might have been easy for this gig to not quite be top notch. It was anything but. Tonight, Uriah Heep, were quite heavy, very good, and for that we were very ‘umble.