Box News #277 – January 18, 2019

Mick talks about Kiev Ukraine and the night off, watching his beloved Spurs football team win, Davey’s birthday, Davey needing a doctor, our manager Ace flying in from Los Angeles, the Judas Priest tour news, the ‘National Palace of Arts’ venue, sound checks, hired equipment, Passport Photographs, Visa applications, the ‘Prime Hall in Minsk Belarus, our agent Leora over from the USA, Moscow, Davey back at the doctors, Spurs v Leicester, the Crocus City Hall venue in Moscow, the Kremlin, commemorative gold coins in a blue box, signing a guitar for a Russian dignitary, the German made train to St. Petersburg and the concert in the Palace of Culture Lensoveta.

Mick also discusses, flying back to London and then on to Manchester, English TV, 3 Pledgers, the Manchester 02 Ritz, driving to Glasgow and the SWG3 venue, flying back down to London for the Shepherds Bush Empire concert and inviting out Lee to come on to the stage and sing with us. Mick also talks about how crazy it gets playing London, meeting my family and the wonderful feeling, transferring my suitcases to a cab, the open bar for our guests at the end of the show, driving to Nottingham for the Rock City gig, we had another Pledger, having a lovely curry with the German Twins Claudia and Andrea, driving to Hull for the last show of the year, doing a record signing in the local Mall, meeting Trevors family, Peter Kenyon and his wife Tracey giving me personalized number plates, another Pledger 13 year old Toby Lee who I first met at Xmas in Cornwall with both of our families, Cliff Massey sitting behind my Engl speakers by the side of Russ watching him play all night, and the train back to London and being home for Xmas and New Years.

Well the night off in Kiev Ukraine was most welcome, and the band stayed in the hotel for dinner and had a much needed early night, and the crew went out to a Chicken Restaurant. I stayed in my room after dinner and watched the Spurs v Southampton football game, as we were 2 hours ahead of the UK and we won 3-1, which was super cool. A night off chilling with a cup of tea, and watching a Spurs win while on the road, it does not come better than that. ‘Appy days!

It was Davey’s birthday the next day on Thursday the 6th December, so birthday wishes were being sent back and forth by Text, Facebook and all of the media sites all morning. He did not make it down to breakfast as he had to see a doctor. The road burn was getting to him like the rest of us. Russ was the winner in that department thus far, but he does run 5 miles a night on stage to keep fit. Ha!

Ace our manager flew in from Los Angeles last night, so we met him for breakfast which was great. There is always lots of exciting news to catch up on, and just the Judas Priest USA/Canadian tour information alone was a buzz. It took Ace 19 hours to get to Kiev via London from Los Angeles, which is a long old journey in anyone’s book. He was staying with us right through the Ukraine, Belarus, Russia and the UK which was great.

To enter Belarus Minsk we needed to fill out forms and have 2 passport photographs to get through Passport Control, and guess who hadn’t got them? Well Bernie had to be picked up at 11am the next morning to be taken to a machine, so that he could attach them to his entry form. Apparently Angus had to go too. Passports and travel documents if you have been reading my blogs this year alone are not Bernie’s forte. Well the carrying of them or even getting them when needed, in any case.

We were playing the ‘National Palace of Arts’ in Kiev, and it was the first show of the tour on our flying equipment, coupled with hired equipment. We have had no need for sound checks recently with our own equipment each night, but we needed one for that night, big time. As usual in those territories it was an early show at 7.30pm, so all in all everything was feeling slightly out of whack from what we have been used to over the last 6 weeks. As usual though the mighty Heep and Crew overcame everything and we had a rockin’ show.

The venue was huge and the stage was massive. So much so that my guitar tech Rich Bennett’s work station with my guitars was in another post code. Well the audience loved every minute of the show and after a few minutes of getting used to the hired equipment and our own flying gear, we hit our stride and the place rocked. It was a seated affair but people rushed down to the front of the stage and once that happened it turned into a rock concert. It was a great night but we could not stay too long after as we had an early 6.20am departure the next day to fly to Minsk Belarus.

The flight was fine, but we had to wait 40 minutes for our visas to be processed after waiting a long time already to get through Passport Control. After this there was no time for the crew to go to the hotel and check in, as they had to go straight to the venue to start setting up the stage, which was in a venue called ‘The Prime Hall.’

The band managed to get a little catch up sleep, but I do not know how the crew do it, as they work right on through with no complaining, and everything when we arrived was perfect. Joe Lynne Turner had sent me a text to get some of his family in to the show, so I arranged for them to be put on the guest list. Joe actually lives in Minsk Belarus now with his lovely lady Maya. It was a super packed venue and you could feel they were up for a rockin’ night, the second we walked on to the stage. The atmosphere was electric and it was a standing audience, so they were having a great time, and so were we!

Leora our agent from the USA had flown in to do some business with the promoter on further shows for the mighty Heep, and it was great to see her. Our dinner was delivered to us after the show in the dressing room, as we had ordered it from menus before we went on stage to play, then we all went back to the hotel and at last the crew could check in.

The following day we did not leave until 11.30am, so that was a relief. We flew to Moscow Russia arriving at 4pm. Our hired backline and flying equipment was driven from Minsk to Moscow, so we only had our own personal suitcases to carry which was cool.

As usual the traffic in Moscow was horrendous. It always is in Moscow and there is no way around it, so it took 1hour 40 minutes for a 40 minute journey. We all checked into the hotel and Davey was still under par, so he went with the interpreter to see another doctor, while the rest of the band and Ace had dinner. The crew split up, as some went to the Kremlin and others just ate in the hotel. Angus had not been to the Kremlin before, so it was on his bucket list to have a picture taken there, and now he can tick that particular box!

The good thing about the hotel is that it was right next door to the ‘Crocus City Hall’ venue.

However, back in my room after dinner I watched the Spurs v Leicester football game on my iPad, and we won 2-0, so sitting there with my cup of tea, I was chilling to the max. After 7 weeks on the road those moments become very important indeed, even though it is only one foot off of the rock n’ roll roundabout so to speak. That is why family is so important, as it gives you focus and grounding in abundance.

Well the concert at the Crocus City Hall was amazing and one to remember. Firstly a Russian dignitary’s son came into the dressing room to present us with commemorative gold coins each in a blue box, and he had seen an old picture of me playing a Yamaha Guitar on the internet, so he bought one and had us all sign it for his father. That was very cool and he was super excited.

We have played this venue many times on our own and with Alice Cooper and indeed with the Reunion show, but this concert was a step above that, and the audience were magnificent. We may have been on hired equipment but there was magic in the air from the moment we walked on to the stage.

Luckily for us the hotel was virtually in the same building, though the venue was so large we had to drive around in a van to get to the hotel reception.

The following morning we had to catch a train to St. Petersburg leaving the hotel at 7.30am. It was the German made Rapid Train and boy what a difference that was from the trains we had taken in 1988, when we played a 5 week tour there right through Siberia and beyond. This train was fast, efficient, and they had a decent restaurant car plus the seats were very comfortable. Good old German engineering!

We were playing the Palace of Culture Lensoveta venue in St. Petersburg and I have to say that too was a memorable concert with the audience going crazy and just loving every part of the show. They were really appreciative and as in Moscow there were a lot of young people in the audience. The reaction to the new songs especially in this particular part of the world, where our classic songs mean so much, was a thrill I have to say. They were well into it and the young fans were all singing the words. Now that did the heart good for sure.

The following day we were flying back to England. It was an early start as we had to fly St Petersburg to London Heathrow with a long layover, and then a flight to Manchester for the first UK gig. We arrived at approximately 21.35pm and Vic was there to pick us up and take us to the hotel.

I have to say the bed was looking good and it was nice to turn on the TV and have all of the programs in in English. To be honest a quick flick through the channels and it was turned off pretty quickly as it was time for some much needed shut eye.

The following day at the sound check we had 3 Pledgers, Ian Ainsworth, Stuart Green and Richard Kenner. This was a lot of fun and then we had dinner and got ready for the first of the UK shows. This was at the Manchester 02 Ritz which was a nice venue. We did have a great time being back in England and lucky old Scampi, Jon and Vic could all go home to their own beds, as they all live in Manchester.

The show was brilliant and it was good to be back in the UK and play tracks from the new album, which everybody soaked up and loved as much as the classics. It was a great night and I wouldn’t mind playing there again.

The following day we drove up to Scotland as Glasgow was our next destination. We stayed in a hotel at the airport as we were flying down to London the next day. Now our original venue had burnt down, so we were moved over to the SWG3 venue which was a little smaller than we would have liked, but it was packed, and it had a great atmosphere. There were so many familiar faces down the front it was amazing. As I have said before at gigs we have incredible fans, and we must be one of the few bands that know the names of the front row at every venue worldwide. Now that really is something! Well Glasgow did us proud and we had a great time.

We caught a flight the next day down to London City Airport where once again our Vic picked us up and took us to the hotel. For the last week I had been receiving text’s and calls from Lee Kerslake, as I had invited him to come up on stage at Shepherds Bush Empire and join us for ‘Lady in Black.’ He had a film crew who were doing a documentary on him, and he was so happy to be doing this, as it was a wish of his to be on stage with Heep again. When we arrived at the venue Lee was in the dressing room and it was hugs all round and it was so good to see him.

London is always the most difficult shows to pull off as you are constantly hounded by your family and friends that always seem incapable of finding what to do once they are in the venue. The phone never stops ringing and then you have to do an interview and it is just general mayhem until you get on to the stage. Once the guitar is put over my shoulder and only then, there is peace and I can immerse myself into the show. There was so much going on pre show, that I did not even have time to eat.

I had to meet my family outside of the venue to give our cab driver some of my luggage to take back to my home, as from the last gig in Hull on this tour, we were coming back by train and I could not carry it all. Anyway operation meet the family and to transfer my suitcases went rather smoothly, and it was kind of Vic and Jon to help carry everything out to the waiting cab. Job done! As you can imagine it was lovely to see Sheila and Romeo and Sheila’s brother John too.

Well once on stage you could feel the buzz from the audience, the atmosphere was electric and once we hit the first riff off ‘Grazed by Heaven’ after Russ’s drum fill, we were out of the traps and up and running. After so many gigs behind us on this tour we were a well oiled machine and we had a great time. We could feed off the audience and then when I announced Lee, there was a huge roar as he walked out for a big hug and we started the song ‘Lady in Black.’ It was good to have him up there and he could not resist getting up on the drums with Russ, and to be honest his smile said it all. We came back for the encores and it really was a gig that you left on a high.

The bar upstairs was kept open for all of our friends and family and of course a lot of other people wiggled their way in, but it was good for me to catch up with Sheila, Romeo, some family and all of our friends. I have to say as I wasn’t drinking, there was not a lot of joined up talking going on, but it was a really cool way to end the night. We all said our goodbyes and we went back to our hotel.

We had a 3 hour drive to Nottingham the next day, which wasn’t too bad. We had a Pledger called Ian Murry at the sound check and for the evenings dinner we all went for a curry with the German twins Andrea and Claudia, who had bought that as part of the Pledge Package. It was a good chilled out dinner, though we all agreed to a man after the show that a curry is not the best food to have before a concert. I won’t take that any further.

The venue Rock City did indeed live up to its name and Rock it did, and it was a magic night. We had a great time and it really gave us a buzz to do more shows in the UK whenever we can. We met a few people after the show and then we went back to the hotel.

The last show of the year was in Trevor’s hometown in Hull Humberside and what a way to finish in his hometown. We had to get there a little early, as we did a record signing late afternoon before going to the gig for the sound check. We had a pledger guitarist called Toby Lee. Now years ago Sheila, Romeo, Iggy and I were staying in Cornwall for a Xmas holiday at the beautiful Watergate Hotel. Toby’s family were there too, and his dad Terry approached me and asked if I could have a picture taken with Toby, as he had just received his first guitar. Of course I did and I had an ‘Into the Wild’ T Shirt with me, which I gave to him and some guitar picks. Well Toby loved the blues and that was the direction he has taken, and he can really play well. Since then he has played with just about everyone in the Blues world from the UK and in the USA. He has great feel and good tone and he will definitely have a long career playing the guitar for sure. He is only 13 years old, and he has already achieved so much. Well he came on stage with the mighty Heep and we played ‘Easy Livin’ giving him a couple of bars freedom on the end to lay out on, and he was brilliant. Of course we then had pictures taken and we met again after the show for a short chat.

There were some other highlights in Hull too, as a good friend of Trevor’s, Peter Kenyon and his wife Tracey gave to me as a present some personalized car number plates. M80 XUH. Now how amazing is that, and I am most grateful to have them, and they now sit lovely on my Volvo Estate front and back.

It was also emotional to see Trevor’s wife Shelly and his sons Ashley and James at the gig along with a lot of their good friends. To say it was emotional in print is an understatement, but it really was good to see them again and have a much needed hug.

Russ and I had kept in contact with a drummer called Cliff Massey, who in fact auditioned for the Heep gig when Russ made the drum stool his. He came to the show and Russ let him sit behind my Engl speakers for the whole show, so that he could watch Russ play, which was really cool.

The concert was a sit down affair, but we soon had them on their feet and it was a good way to end the tour, which has at times felt like a whirlwind. Getting to the end was an incredible feat, and we met everyone after the concert and then headed to the hotel for a good nights sleep. However, we were all excited that we were going home, so very little sleep was had. For those living in London and our manager Ace who was going to London’s Heathrow to fly back to Los Angeles, we all caught a train.

Being home with your family is as good as it gets having been away for 8 weeks, but it was nice to know that we were safe in the knowledge that we had played 43 shows in 15 countries, and that now the ‘Living the Dream,’ tour had started to make an incredible impact, and there was a buzz about the mighty Heep that felt exciting, with everything moving forward in a truly positive way. The consistency of the band was of the highest caliber each night, even on hired gear, or being sick, and being just plain knackered, but each night that we took to that stage the audience gave us an adrenaline rush like no other, which we thank you for.

Many thanks go to our crew who as always made the stage a professional one that we could shine on each night: Ian ‘Scampi’ Bintliff, (Tour Manager & Lights) Brian West (Keyboards, Bass and Stage Manager), Angus Price, (Front of House Mixing) Richard Bennett, (Guitars & Drums) Aaron Buck, (Monitors) Jon Bintliff, (Stage Production) Vic Collier (Driver & Spotlight) Peter Weber, (Press) Mick Ridley, (Merch) and Graham ‘G’ Forster (Bus Driver)

More thanks go to Siren Artists Management: Ace Trump, Adam Parsons, and our Agents at APA USA Keith Naisbitt & Leora Mitzner.

The second leg of this tour will pick up again in Paris France on the 22nd of January at the La Cigale, so the mighty Heep’s Rock and Roll Circus will roll once again and long may it last.

‘Appy days!



4 Responses to “Box News #277 – January 18, 2019”

  1. Billy Moncrieff Says:

    Hi Mick ,
    Just like to wish you and all your family , the rest of the band and all the crew , a very happy and peaceful new year . The Glasgow show was great and it was brilliant to see the band back again after so long . It was so good to see the pic of Lee back on stage with you and the band again at the London gig , and the emotional trip back to Trevor’s home town also must have been really special . All the best of luck with the second stage of the tour , and looking forward to the next Glasgow show .

    Rock On …………………………………..Billy

  2. david learmonth Says:

    First : I hope Davey is much better! So many plane trips, different hotel rooms & time zones do knock people about.

    Second : sounds like an excellent tour!

    Third : I live in Thailand but manage to keep up with things mostly with You Tube. Watched an interview with Bob Daisley not long ago & he described Heep as one big family. Your treatment of Lee & the still close relationship with Trevor’s family certainly gives support to this + encouraging the young Toby Lee with his guitar playing. No ego’s, just decent people enjoying what they do & being exceptionally good at doing it!

    Best wishes
    David L

  3. Stuart Green Says:

    The mighty Heep bus keeps rockin’ along – Fantastic musicians and truly great guys – Thanks for making my wish come true – To play on stage with you guys was an absolute dream come true. I have a constant smile on my face thinking about it all the time. Thanks again and wishing you all the best for the up coming 2nd leg of the tour. Stuart Green – ‘Apply days 👍🎸.

  4. Glen Doucet (Canada) Says:

    What a way to start the new tour, I am thrilled beyond words that Lee was able to perform with the band again….that must have done wonders for him to be with his old mates again….I certainly hope he can enjoy what time he has left to the fullest, so glad the band played in Trevor’s hometown and you got to reconnect with his family…..all the best for the rest of the tour and i’m hoping that the tour with Judas Priest in the spring brings the band a little closer to the east coast of Canada….keep on rockin…

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