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Uriah Heep - Magic Night (The Magicians Birthday Party 2003) (DVD) CD (album) cover

MAGIC NIGHT (THE MAGICIANS BIRTHDAY PARTY 2003) (DVD)

Uriah Heep

Heavy Prog


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Easy Livin
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Honorary Collaborator / Retired Admin
3 stars And the man of the match is...

"The Magician's Birthday party" has quickly developed into an annual event for Uriah Heep. It allows them for one night a year to do something a bit special by revisiting the vast Uriah Heep songbook, while being joined by special guests.

"Magic night" is the film of the 2003 concert. Guest wise, the line up is a bit disappointing. With such great names as Ian Anderson, Thjis Van Leer, and former member Ken Hensley having joined them in the past, the re-appearance of former vocalist John Lawton (who also appeared at the first Magician's Birthday party), and Heather Findlay of Mostly Autumn while welcome, probably left some fans slightly bemused.

The band however are in fine form. Given that they have now been together far longer than any other Heep line up, they are extremely tight and clearly enjoy being together. The harmonies are excellent, and Mick Box's trade mark guitar work is as unique as ever. The "Man of the Match" (MVP) award for this concert must however go to Phil Lanzon on keyboards. Over the years he has made the place Ken Hensley occupied so majestically, his own. Here he sometimes creates diverse layers of sound, sometimes he is the sound, but his contribution is always melodic and masterful. His playing is faithful to the original atmosphere of the song, while stamping his own character on the music of the band.

As a lifelong (well almost) fan of the band, it really is good to see them dusting down tracks which have not been heard live for some 30 years, if at all. "Shadows of grief" from "Look at yourself", and "Pilgrim" from "Sweet freedom" were both excellent tracks in their day. They gain a whole new lease of life here with Bernie Shaw singing them as if they had been composed by the current line up. Both fall into the prog metal sphere, but that does not adequately tell the story. "Shadows of grief" is a heavy piece with many time changes. It demands the full dexterity of the vocalist, while featuring some melodic instrumental breaks. "Pilgrim" is more anthemic, especially the latter part. David Byron used every trick in the book vocally on the original, and Shaw makes every effort to match (but never mimic) him.

There's a good diversity of old and newer tracks, some of which are of course long time favourites ("Easy Livin'", "The Wizard etc"). The band does not dwell on these though, and Heather Findlay's contribution to "Love in silence" from the more recent "Sea of light" adds an extra dimension to a beautiful piece.

Following on from the successful "Acoustically driven" concert, the band include an all too brief unplugged section, which incorporates "Firefly", "Heartless land" and "Free me". Lee Kerslake leaves the comfort of his drum stool here, to sit harmonising alongside Shaw, a sight worth seeing!

The DVD which includes 2 tracks not the CD.

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Send comments to Easy Livin (BETA) | Report this review (#107336)
Posted Saturday, January 13, 2007 | Review Permalink
SouthSideoftheSky
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Symphonic Team
4 stars Uriah Heep did a couple of good albums in the early 70's, but since then their studio output has been average or even mediocre. But since Bernie Shaw and Phil Lanzon joined the band in the mid 80's they have developed into a better live band than they ever were and this DVD is excellent proof. Almost all of the songs sound better here than they did in their original versions and it is not just that the concert is very well recorded and produced; this line up is actually a lot better and they bring new life into the older songs. In my opinion this is the ultimate Uriah Heep line up. Of special note are Bernie Shaw's distinctive vocals that fit Uriah Heep's music perfectly. In my opinion, Shaw sings these songs better than David Byron ever did. Trevor Bolder also deserves special mention. He is easily the best bass player Uriah Heep ever had; the bass is reasonably load and bottom here. They might not be virtuosos but there are hardly any mistakes on this show, everything flows perfectly.

The first five songs of the set are a real tour-de-force and will please the heavy prog fan. Easy Livin' is a great opener and a couple of rare album tracks follows; Shadows Of Grief and Pilgrim. This will certainly please the fans, no greatest hits here (not that Uriah Heep had that many hits anyway, but it is very brave of them to open the show with such relatively unknown songs). Bad Bad Man and Devil's Daughter follows without pause.

The tempo is then slowed down with the electric piano driven semi-ballad Wise Man. Great stuff! Another raging rocker follows before an intimate acoustic set consisting of Firefly, Heartless Land and the sing-a-longs Free Me and The Wizard.

It is something of a tradition on Uriah Heep concerts (at least the filmed ones) to have special guests. Here it is ex-member John Lawton who sings two songs with the band. In my opinion they could have chosen better songs for him to sing, but you can't have everything. Stealin' is a song I never liked; it is too conventional rock 'n' roll for my tastes.

After another couple of songs including the classic July Morning, another guest is introduced. Heather Findley from Mostly Autumn. She sings a great duet with Bernie on Love In Silence.

The show ends with the classic, folky sing a long Lady In Black.

If you are a fan of heavy prog, Uriah Heep is one of the essential bands you should know. If you don't know them already, this DVD is an excellent place to start.

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Send comments to SouthSideoftheSky (BETA) | Report this review (#177807)
Posted Tuesday, July 22, 2008 | Review Permalink

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