at O2 Academy Newcastle, U.K., June 28, 2014

Guitarist Stuart Smith may a new name to many but he has been in the business long enough to possess an address book to envy with the ability to call on the likes of Glenn Hughes (Deep Purple), Howard Leese (Heart), Richie Sambora (Bon Jovi), Joe Lyn Turner (Rainbow) and David Paich (Toto) to work on his albums.

Heaven and Earth

In the past Heaven and Earth was more of a project for Smith with a plethora of guests showing up resulting in music of a high quality but a little fragmented when listened to as a full album. Their latest record Dig however, marks a change in approach with the recruitment of Joe Retta as sole vocalist and this certainly paid dividends resulting in a more focussed, cohesive release that received much critical acclaim when it hit the streets last year with a glorious Bluesey Hard Rock vibe drawn from the rich heritage of the likes of Deep Purple, Bad Company and prime time Rainbow.

With a line up completed by Bad Company bassist Lynn Sorensen, drummer Jackie Barnes, son and absolute spitting image of Aussie screamer Jimmy and Hammond organist Ty Baile whose credentials spread from Counting Crows to Peter Frampton and Tool, this was a band of the highest pedigree.

Heaven and EarthBankrolled by self-made millionaire Bruce Quarto, who was so impressed by the band he formed his own record label to support them, Heaven and Earth have embarked on their first ever nationwide tour which landed in Newcastle on Saturday night.

An enthusiastic crowd greeted the band as they hit the stage with their towering epic, Victorious. Retta’s powerful vocals and Smith’s eastern tinged fretwork being cut from the same cloth as Zeppelin’s Kashmir and Rainbow’s Stargazer this was the perfect way to open the show.

With a set list drawn primarily from the latest album Dig, Heaven and Earth were pure class from start to finish. The set was rich and varied with No Money, No Love with its big chorus and powerful, driving groove along with the sky scraping melody of Waiting For the End of the World being two of the standout cuts from the album that were even better live. Perhaps the highlight of the whole show however was the smouldering House of Blues. Talk about stunning. Joe Retta’s vocals were pure gold, passionate and imposing, evoking memories of Paul Rodgers at his very best. If that wasn’t enough, Smith’s soaring solo was the icing on an already very delicious cake. A modern classic in the making.

Heaven and Earth

Heaven and Earth dipped back into their first album, now nearing its 15th birthday for Heaven and Earth, the song and See That My Grave is kept Clean with Retta’s talent matching Joe Lyn Turner and Glenn Hughes who sang the originals note for note while their take on Deep Purple’s When A Blind Man Cries paid respect to the original while making it very much their own. Stuart Smith, a long-time friend of Purple’s Ritchie Blackmore, tapping into the spirit of his mentor with style.

As Rock & Roll Does brought the show to a storming end, Heaven and Earth may well have delivered one of the best shows of the year. A high profile tour with the likes of Deep Purple, Whitesnake or Uriah Heep would undoubtedly give them the exposure  that a band of this calibre deserves and take them to a much higher level but for now, those in the venue  witnessed a very special show in an intimate setting and such an opportunity won’t be available for long as the band are destined for much bigger venues.


  • Mick Burgess

    Mick is a reviewer and photographer here at Metal Express Radio, based in the North-East of England. He first fell in love with music after hearing Jeff Wayne's spectacular The War of the Worlds in the cold winter of 1978. Then in the summer of '79 he discovered a copy of Kiss Alive II amongst his sister’s record collection, which literally blew him away! He then quickly found Van Halen I and Rainbow's Down To Earth, and he was well on the way to being rescued from Top 40 radio hell!   Over the ensuing years, he's enjoyed the Classic Rock music of Rush, Blue Oyster Cult, and Deep Purple; the AOR of Journey and Foreigner; the Pomp of Styx and Kansas; the Progressive Metal of Dream Theater, Queensrÿche, and Symphony X; the Goth Metal of Nightwish, Within Temptation, and Epica, and a whole host of other great bands that are too numerous to mention. When he's not listening to music, he watches Sunderland lose more football (soccer) matches than they win, and occasionally, if he has to, he goes to work as a property lawyer.

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