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When reflecting upon the past, particularly after the passing of the subject of the recollection in question, each recorded moment becomes an invaluable keepsake. Whatever flaws may have endured with those moments of splendor become welcome marks of uniqueness, especially when they are minuscule, as they tend to be when dealing with a mainstay and veritable perfectionist of a craft. Dio's illustrious career, spanning many decades under various projects, was arguably the personification of perfection, not so much in the modern sense of flawlessness, but the archaic one where something is in a state of fulfillment. With rare exception, his music was an exercise in mastery that would captivate audiences the world over, but his true home was in the live setting, and towards the twilight of his time with us he embarked on yet another short-lived collaboration with his mates in Black Sabbath, though it came to be known officially by the name of Heaven And Hell due to the "official" version of the band still being an active player at the time.
The first official offering under the new moniker turned out to be a live offering, due in no small part to there already being an EP worth of new material recently released under the Sabbath name and creating a wave that supplanted the original lineup's slavish adherence to being an OzzFest promotional gimmick. True to this lineup's reputation, the presentation walks a fine line between exuberant pomp and humble gratuity that makes for a far more engaging live performance, especially in the video medium where the enthusiasm and execution of the performers count for a lot more than the familiarity of the songs themselves. On the song selection front, this sense of balance finds itself with an adequate representation of the Dio era's entire catalog, including two out of the three latest offerings, though the largest plurality of songs came out of the iconic Heaven And Hell album that kicked off Dio's time in the Sabbath fold. It's a doubly enthralling affair given how effortlessly the band transitions from the rocking smoothness and epic tenor of the early 80s material to the more industrialized and dark feel of the <i <Dehumanizer and current offerings.
Dio himself was often quoted as believing that a band is a collective effort, and it is arguable that this notion came through the most during his time in Sabbath, and the performance takes it to its logical conclusion. Every member of the outfit has their time in the spotlight with no real edge given to one over the other, though how and when this occurs varies a bit from one song to the next. Tony Iommi finds himself stealing part of the show at the onset of "Die Young", a song that tended to feature his talents in particular, and he takes the occasion to expand upon the introduction of the song and turns it into an extended solo slot for himself, banging out expressive, singing notes that focus a bit more on quality than quantity. Vinnie Appice takes a drum solo for himself towards the middle of the set that occasionally features some background keyboard work and samples, though he comes off as a tad more restrained when compared to how Simon Wright would handle drum solo slots with Dio's solo band. Geezer all but chimes in with flashy bass fills through just about every song, but the creeping, atmospheric work he brings to their rendition of "Sign Of The Southern Cross" is where he shines the brightest.
Naturally a performance is about more than just the individual achievements of each member and how they equal themselves out, as much of these songs are primarily rooted in a basic structure that caters both to impact and atmosphere, and the selection of songs heightens this to the point of seeing this band perfectly balance their doom and heavy metal personas. The choice of following the creepy "E5150" intro that was featured in the Heavy Metal film prominently with "After All (The Dead)" shifts the overall feel of the show to the darker side of things, and though there are many lighter and epic moments to be enjoyed between "Children Of The Sea", "Neon Knights" and "Lady Evil", they tend to be equaled out by combination of selections from Dehumanizer and the newer offering "Shadow Of The Wind" (which could have been from the same album). Nevertheless, the faster rocking moments have their turn, and surprisingly enough Dio gets so jazzed up at the onset of "The Mob Rules" that he ends up belting out a high A note right out of Iron Maiden's Number Of The Beast that I don't recall ever hearing out of him, at the ripe old age of 65 to boot.
Perhaps the best way basis of comparison between this glorious performance, where the band would come off as 20 years younger were it not for the video footage, would be to Dio's recent outing with his own band playing the Holy Diver album in its entirety, among some lesser known offerings. This follows the same basic scheme, but has a slight bit more enthusiasm behind it, perhaps in large part due to it occurring in a larger venue with a group of musicians that had not collaborated in a very long time. But no matter what past performance including members of this fold, this was a powerful performance unto itself, and one that would launch what would sadly be the last wave of original output with Dio at the helm. It's hard to get used to who was arguably the second king of rock n' roll being gone, but as sure as the setting sun in the western sky, he will not be soon forgotten.
Okay, when Tony Iommi and Geezer Butler announced they'd be working with Ronnie James Dio again and tour with the songs from that era, one could have expected it wouldn't be any less than good. But what the hell? When I hear 'Live At Radio City Music Hall', I hear a bunch of classic Metal heroes that have rejuvenated in every aspect. Every member simply hasn't sounded this good since the last time they played together.
And yes, I am surprised. Okay, Tony Iommi has recently smacked me in the face with the amazing 'Fused' (with my favorite singer Glenn Hughes). That album was the proof that this man still had a lot of meaning to the Metal world. And Ronnie James Dio is of course still a great singer, but he hasn't sounded this energetic and powerful in the last ten to fifteen years. Compare these recordings to the recent Dio-live albums. I'm not saying he was bad, not at all, but it's as if he has suddenly gotten twenty years younger. Or maybe even thirty.
The songs are delivered with a sense of hunger and an energy that isn't equalled by a lot of bands that are a lot younger. Dio is a more vital front man than Ozzy (though that is sort of a given) and when you have the DVD, you'll notice that especially Tony Iommi is visibly enjoying playing these songs again after all these years. The sound quality is nothing short of fantastic and that offers the heavily underrated Geezer Butler the space to really shine.
You can try, but there's no way to escape the goosebumps-level of this album. Whether it's the expected classics ('The Mob Rules', 'Heaven And Hell', 'Neon Knights', 'Children Of The Sea'), the surprising selection of songs ('Falling Off The Edge Of The World', 'Lonely Is The Word', 'Lady Evil', 'I') or the excellent new tracks ('The Devil Cried', 'Shadow Of The Wind'), everything sounds great, sound quality-wise, performance-wise and vocally. Of course, anyone probably has at least one complaint about the song selection - I myself would have loved to have heard more songs from 'Dehumanizer' ('Masters Of Insanity'!) - but the fact is that the songs that are there are nothing short of excellent.
Recently, announcements have been made that this isn't just a one-off thing and I really hope that'll stay that way. Because, let's face it, this lineup is simply one of the best things Metal ever had to offer and all the people involved still sound amazing. What else can you wish for as a fan of real Metal? I'd take this over any Manowar release any day. I wish them all the best and a lot of great releases in the future!
Who knew that after Ronnie left the band both in 1983 and again in 1992, that he would ever want to collaborate with Iommi and Geezer ever again? Or if he would ever want to collaborate with Vinny Appice again, as well? I sure didn't. But I'm glad we did, because this DVD is great!
I am sad that they were unable to squeeze "Ear in the Wall" into their live show for inclusion on this DVD, or in some other format (perhaps as menu music, or the music for one of the bonus features). But hey, this differs from the usual Black Sabbath DVD fare, as this actually does have some bonus features. Granted, they're fairly short, but they're very interesting to hear from Iommi's guitar tech and to hear about the origins of the little demon that dominates many shirts and sits on Geezer's bass.
The setlist was great, and nice and lengthy, nearly two hours long! The majority of the set was stuff from Heaven and Hell (6 out of 8 songs from that album), and then a few from The Mob Rules album, and then 3 off of Dehumanizer. I was sad they didn't include a few classics like "Turn Up The Night", "Time Machine", "TV Crimes" and such, but we still got a great helping of Sabbath that we never thought we would get to see live. And since the Live Evil film reels seem as though they may never see the light of day, we finally have Dio era Sabbath captured on DVD form in an official release!
The standout tracks here are "I", for it is the one song on here that has a riff unlike any other which Iommi lays down (it's almost thrashy), "Lady Evil" for it's amazing use of wah-pedal in its solo breaks, "The Sign of the Southern Cross" for Iommi managing to turn it into a doomy masterpiece, full of Ronnie's little vocal fills and great vocals, and Geezer's interesting use of a wah-pedal with his bass, and finally "Lonely Is The Word" for it's displaying of more of Iommi's ability to solo that we just haven't gotten to see much of in the past decade. And I like his use of a white SG as if this is a new chapter in his legacy.
The whole band is in great form, and appear to be having a great time. Iommi nails his old solos and somehow manages to never miss a note. Geezer has some really good bass fills. Ronnie sounds really good, though he is finally starting to show his age. His vocal range isn't quite as high as it used to be. But he still sounds great, and he makes it through the whole 2 hours without his voice cracking or giving out at all. And Mr. Dio manages to let out one of the most metal screams (at the start of Mob Rules) this side of Jon Oliva of Savatage.
There's a few places where the video footage is not quite aligned with what they are playing, such as a notable section in "I" when Iommi is playing the middle of the riff and the video shows him slide up to the end of the riff. Just little things like that. The drum solo is a little boring too. Other than that, the crowd does a great sing along with Heaven and Hell, and Iommi does a very nice extended solo both here, and as an intro to Die Young. It's nice to see Iommi let go and just unleash on the guitar, as he's been so reserved and had no place to really shine on the Black Sabbath The Last Supper Reunion DVD. Now he comes out and gets his own spotlight at the start of After All (The Dead), during the middle of Heaven and Hell, and at the start of Die Young. Then there's that crazy rockish riff at the start of Voodoo. Even Geezer gets a section to shine, during both Heaven and Hell and The Sign of the Southern Cross.
If you are a fan of Dio era Sabbath, then go pick up this DVD. The band still plays together as tight as ever, and you can definitely tell that on this DVD. And the video and audio quality is near perfect.