at Rockefeller Music Hall, Oslo, Norway, April 20, 2004

Backstage With Ken Hensley

From 1969 up until 1980, Ken Hensley was an important part of the heavy rock/slightly prog-oriented outfit Uriah Heep. As a writer, keyboardist, guitar player, and backing vocalist, he was as many consider him to be: the brain in Uriah Heep. Through albums like Look At Yourself, Demons And Wizards, The Magician’s Birthday, and Sweet Freedom, they conquered the world by endless touring both in Europe and in the U.S.A. David Byron, Mick Box, Lee Kerslake, Gary Thain and Ken Hensley were the classic line-up, and sadly enough – since then both Thain and Byron have passed away. Mick Box and Lee Kerslake are still “Heepsters”; Mick has always been there, but Kerslake had a short-lived stint in Ozzy Osbourne’s band on the studio sessions for Blizzard Of Ozz and Diary Of A Madman.

Through the 80’s, Ken Hensley was “the helping man” for many bands. Two of the best known acts are W.A.S.P. and Cinderella. For W.A.S.P., he was a big part of the 1989-success of The Headless Children. This album also contains a Uriah Heep-cover, the Hensley-penned “Easy Livin'”. Now, 35 years after he debuted with Heep’s Very ‘eary, very ‘umble, he has a record deal with Universal Music’s Oslo-office. Why? I honestly don’t know, and The Last Dance which he released last year is also a poor outing. Luckily, since Mr. Hensley has a lot of rock history behind his name, there was a lot of nostalgia in the air at Rockefeller’s this evening.

Over 1/3 of the show was dedicated to Uriah Heep. Early in the set, the opening chords of “July Morning” swept over the 600-something crowd, and though different than the studio version, he managed to actually pulled it off. On the studio version, there are cascades of backing vocals – but this time; it was vocally stripped down, but still a powerful and mighty version of the old 15-minute piece. Later on, he struggled with his acoustic guitar (it sounded like a Black & Decker-saw) during “The Wizard”, but surprised the crowd with the 30 year-old solo-piece “When Evening Comes” from his solo debut: Proud Words From A Dusty Shelf.

The new songs, mainly “Give Me A Reason” and “Crying”, did better live than on the album — so not much of an anti-climax that one might have expected from performing new songs that don’t sound as familiar as the classics. His voice was unfortunately very poor on “The Last Dance”, but incredible enough, it all worked out better live!

As the evening went on without any more Heep-songs, we all knew Hensley was building up to a nostalgic ending of the evening … and we couldn’t have been more right! As the title track from his last album, The Last Dance, toned out, his highly competent band started jamming with Ken, who was behind his enormous Hammond organ. After a few minutes, we found ourselves 31 years back in time, to the opening chords of the classic Heep-song “Stealin'”. And as with “July Morning”, this too was a great version. As the bluesy, laidback version of the old favorite was coming to an end, the tempo picked up and slid into one of the greatest rock-anthems of all: “Easy Livin'”. What an ending to the main set!

For the encore, Ken and his men picked up “Lady In Black”. It’s not a personal favorite, but as a live-song in front of a loud crowd, it works pretty well with the sing-along vocals and all. A solid effort, but he couldn’t quite top-it-all like he did with “Stealin'” and “Easy Livin'” a few minutes before.

During the approximate 100 minutes we spent with an energetic and sympathetic “grand old man” of rock, the evening was all-in-all a great one. 35 years of rock history had been presented by a band that showed great joy in performing, and maybe Ken Hensley enjoyed it the most. If anything, we owe him a great deal of respect for just that.


Be the first to comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.


This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy Policy and Terms of Service apply.

The reCAPTCHA verification period has expired. Please reload the page.