It’s a dilemma that’s unique to Uriah Heep. How on earth does a band with 24 studio albums under its belt settle on the perfect setlist?
“I think that’s the biggest problem that we have right now,” mused drummer Russell Gilbrook. “But of course it’s a nice problem to have. If we played all the songs that the fans wanted to hear every time we played a show then we’d be on stage for a week!
“When you’re restricted to 90 minutes or two hours there’s only so much you can do. We want to promote our new record, Outsider, because we’re very proud of that album and want to show it off.
“But of course we’d never dream of leaving out the likes of Easy Living and the other classics. So we work around that and fill in the blanks with some older songs that the band haven’t played in a while but the set list has to flow.
“We want the fans to enjoy their night and we want to take them on a rollercoaster ride of the old, the new and the rarely heard.”
That’s exactly what Newcastle’s Riverside crowd can expect when a band established in 1969 returns to Tyneside with founder member and guitarist Mick Box still stealing the show.
At 67, the Londoner should, by rights, be drawing on his pension and recalling the past. But Box is no ordinary musician. As 2014’s Outsider proves, his primary ambition is to shape the future.
“Musicians can become stale,” added Gilbrook. “But I just don’t see that with Mick. That’s the danger if, unlike Mick, you don’t love your job. If the job becomes tedious then it’s obvious to the fans.
“Perhaps the people who come to shows don’t always understand the technology or what goes on behind the scenes but they can see when a musician’s heart is no longer in it. That’s when you get a bad show.
“People do lose that spark but Mick isn’t one of those people. He’s been doing this for 45 years and I reckon his body would just pack in if he suddenly retired from rock and roll.
“It’s what keeps him alive – playing shows, meeting fans and making music. I’m just so pleased I’m enjoying the ride alongside him.”
The Heep have played some huge shows in the past – they played 10 consecutive nights to almost 200,000 fans at Moscow’s Olympic Stadium in 1987 and wowed the Download Festival masses as recently as 2013.
However, Box and co. are never more comfortable than when they’re belting out the classics in a tiny club and this week’s Riverside show promises to be a genuine treat for the North East’s rock community.
“The tour’s going great,” added Gilbrook. “We play five songs from Outsider and brought back The Hanging Tree – I love that song. It’s what I call a real mid-tempo shuffle song.
“It’s one of those dirty old rock and roll shuffles. Classic Heep. “We’re playing July Morning, Sunrise and all the other fan favourites. And we’ve brought Bird Of Prey back into the show. There’s a little bit of everything.”
Uriah Heep play Newcastle Riverside on Wednesday, April 29. Tickets from www.seetickets.com