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The Sacred Heart tour was the biggest and most theatrically driven one that Dio had ever accomplished as a solo artist, spanning select cities from America all the way over to Japan. It was a time of consternation for Ronnie and his other band mates as Vivian Campbell left the band in the middle of the tour over what now appears to be insecurities about his own abilities. Some heralded this as the last part of Dio’s era as significant players in the metal world; but all agree that regardless to what came afterwards, it was definitely a high point for the whole genre of metal.
The set list of this concert includes all the expected classics from the last two LPs and the Black Sabbath and Rainbow material. I’m personally not a huge fan of the medley approach to the Rainbow material, and I often wish they would play the full song of “Heaven and Hell” rather than add that corky interlude about the two shapes telling Ronnie where he ought to be, but the performance on here is so spectacular that I don’t mind it at all.
The best performances on here are clearly the material from the Sacred Heart album, none of which seem to enjoy regular live play nowadays due to constant demands for the Holy Diver and Last in Line classics, in addition to the obvious necessity of including new material from the release they tour on. “King of Rock and Roll” is done masterfully and really gets the crowd jazzed up. “Rock and Roll Children” is probably my pick for Ronnie’s best vocal performance, which is fitting since it’s his favorite song from the Sacred Heart LP. But the best overall performance for the band goes to “Sacred Heart”. The theatrics on here are absolutely spellbinding: be it the brief storyteller prelude featuring Dio speaking of the magical realm beyond the rainbow bridge (reference to Bifrost no less), the state of the art for the time laser effects show, the hydraulics controlled Dragon and Knights, or all the extended play by the musicians in the midst of all of the things going on.
Above all, the one who really had something to prove on this tour was Craig Goldy, who had to step into the shoes of 3 album veteran and unlikely guitar hero Vivian Campbell (who has since become a guitar zero) and win over every fan that came to every concert. Not only does he accomplish this, but he eclipses Vivian in the live performance department with his more animated presence and technical ability. His attitude is the link that unites all of these elements into one astounding performance that establishes him as Dio’s greatest solo project collaborator (I still like Ronnie’s collaborations with Tony Iommi better), as he was a fan and admirer of Ronnie long before joining, much as Ronnie was before joining ranks with Ritchie Blackmore.
I own both the VHS and DVD versions of this concert and although I am partial to the DVD because of the elucidating interview with both Ronnie and Craig, I do still occasionally pop in the old VHS for nostalgia’s sake. If you like Dio, this is a must have, no question about it. If you can only own one concert on DVD featuring this band, this is the one to have.