URIAH HEEP IN ISRAEL
September 15-16, 2000
Well, I have to say that one year abstention from the concerts (for professional rock journalist) is something celibate-like. Yet, I'm not a monk and I can let myself sin but don't want to. And not to attend the URIAH HEEP show would be a real sin. Especially noticing my love for the band and our - mine and Mr Box's - quite friendly relations. We were in touch rather often prior to HEEP's arrival in Israel: there was an interview for my paper and then I was asked to make another interview, for radio... Mick is such a nice person to bear it all!
Firstly, we decided to meet at the press conference which was cancelled because our guests were too tired. And it was just the next day that I arrived in the "Renaissance" hotel towering on the seashore.
The quintet appeared at the Holy Land on Thursday, September 14. The reason was London's cold rain: HEEP's tour was finished so they wished not only to play in Israel but to hang out and have a good rest. To lay in the sunshine and to swim in the Mediterranean waves. To the date the band visited Israel just once, in 1983, having played here all week through. Mick Box, Lee Kerslake and Trevor Bolder had very kind memories on that visit but it was the first time here for Bernie Shaw and Phil Lanzon. As it was for the crew - assistants John, Jimbo and Peter and sound engineer lovely lady Charlotte (or just Charlie).
The first whom I met in the hotel was Mr Shaw, he just got out of the swimming pool and was heading to buy some postcards. The second was Mick himself. HEEP's boss looked at me, shone with a wide smile and gave me a bear -like hug. Some time passed and in the lobby was all the company sporting shorts and shirts; should I tell you, Lee was very impressive in this kind of clothes!
Drummer shared with me his impressions on their walk to the market and how he bought some presents for his mother-in-law. He just wished the band had not been interviewed in the moring but business is business, isn't it? Well, if I had to choose to be either a boring reporter or just a friend I - surely! - chose the latter. But I was looking at Mr Kerslake trying to understand what it was that seemed very strange to me. Yes, I got it: he was moustacheless! I don't even remember any picture of him looking like this. Once asked a very clever question about whereabouts of this part of his image Lee laughed a lot and croaked: "In the drain!" He told me that the previous evening when band attended the "Metal Hammer" party there was an autograph hunter who asked the Big Man to sign a photo and requested where on the picture was Lee. Kerslake was really stunned - and the reason was moustache!
...We got on the bus to go for soundcheck. Near the concert hall the band was greeted by the Israeli small but faithful fan club members with our friends Boris Shnitzer, Kiril Stankov and Moshe Lavi in the ranks. Soundcheck itself bore no surprizes - yes, the tour was over. Last time I saw URIAH HEEP was in Minsk, Belarus, in the end of 1997 (then I even didn't think of moving to Israel!), they were starting their "Wizards Of Rock" tour and on that soundcheck they rehearsed "Come Away Melinda" not played then on the gig but later introduced into the set.
Before the show guys just relaxed not even trying to spare the energy they were overcharged with. I talked a little to Phil and then started a conversation with Bernie who was warming his pipes with a shot of vodka. We agreed on how good Paul Rodgers and Tony Martin (Mr Shaw was very intrigued when I recommended him to listen to Tony's solo album "Back Where I Belong") are as singers, on Ronnie Dio's strengths and restrictions ("He's very good only for hard rock", assumed Bernie). Bernie told about his love for Jeff Beck and Joe Satriani and, er, "non-love" for "fat", as Mick impersonated him, Ingwie...
What can I say about the show? This HEEP's line up, the most stable in the band's history, never gives a flawed performance. Nineteen songs - seven off their latest outing "Sonic Origami", a few from its predecessor "Sea Of Light", the rest was classic tracks from 1970-1973. The audience savoured "Rain", "Sweet Freedom" and "Sunrise" that weren't played live for some 25 years. People caught the musicians' high spirit very well and guys themselves were having a lot of fun. After the show Charlie was delighted saying she hadn't witnessed that for long and asking Mick what he had played during his acoustic spot. Guitar hero shrugged and said he didn't know what obsession it was and why he'd started playing country and jazz.
We had a lot of fun after and at midnight I decided to have some rest. URIAH HEEP proceeded to the cafe so the next morning Lee appeared to be too heavy loaded for Journey to Jerusalem. As Trevor said, the bus wouldn't be too heavy. Er, true.
But the drummer's spirit was with us as on our way Jimbo tried to scream DURAN DURAN's "Wild Boys" that Kerslake sang last evening. We visited Jewish and Christian places of interest (the Muslim ones were closed yet not dangerous to be at at that time). On the hot day Trev and Mick were not so keen to replace shorts with trousers but we talked them into. They were just tourists having fun, not rock stars and that was great. We walked, we talked bathing in the sun and it was beautiful to be with a great band in the great city.
On the way back everyone was tired but happy. We bid farewell. Me, being a little devastated, headed for home, HEEP for the sea. And I'm sure we'll meet again. Thanks, guys!