Eagle Rock Entertainment
Cast: Ronnie James Dio, Rudy Sarzo, Doug Aldrich, Simon Wright, Scott Warren
It is hard for heavy metal acts to survive the way the music industry has changed. While there has been a bit of a resurgence and a sense of comeback for bands like Iron Maiden and Judas Priest, but overall, the mega-acts of the 80s are more of a fond memory than recent success stories. Among those whose reputation still held up in the new century was Ronnie James Dio, the man with the instantly recognizable voice who put his vocal signature on bands like Rainbow, Black Sabbath and his own band, Dio.
In 2005 Dio was playing to a sold out crowd at the London Astoria, presenting his fans with the concept of playing his iconic album "Holy Diver" front to back in its entirety in front of a live audience for the first time. Bookended by tracks from other albums, the concert was an eagerly awaited treat for his fans.
Opening with "Tarot Woman," which is quickly followed by the Black Sabbath classic "The Sign Of The Southern Cross" and "One Night In The City," the show then turns to the Holy Diver album with bravado. One it is finished, the fans are being treated to Rainbow classics like "Man on the Silver Mountain" and "Long Live Rock and Roll" and the final track of the evening, "We Rock."
Now here is where it gets a little tricky for me. While the concert on display here is solid, I was not as fascinated by it as maybe I expected or should have. For some reason, certain things just didn't mesh for me. It all starts probably with the set list. I have never really liked "Holy Diver" all that much and never understood the hubbub surrounding it. To me, its follow-up, "The Last In Line" was always a vastly superior album and the pinnacle of Dio's career. With that in mind, the set list simply didn't appeal to me all that much as it included a good number of tracks I didn't care much for.
The other problem I had was the band. While they played Dio songs, for some reason they never really sounded like Dio… more like a copy of it. It certainly didn't help that guitarist Doug Aldrich was thrown at the gig at the last minute and had barely time to learn the songs – which is exceedingly evident in his soloing as he never even tries to play Vivian Campbell's standout licks. Since Campbell's guitar work was such an essential part of the band's sound however, the concert loses that immediate factor of credibility. While it is certainly not Aldrich's fault – he is a very talented guitarist indeed – for fans who know every note by heart this must be a bit of a disappointment.
I also though that Simon Wright, while delivering a solid drum line, is just no Vinny Appice. Again, Appice's handiwork was so distinctly his own, his play so in sync with Jimmy Bain's bass that they tended to create a groove machine. Sadly, this is not coming across in this line-up, despite Rudy Sarzo's best efforts and great showmanship.
And then there is Ronnie himself. I have seen Ronnie James Dio live during his heydays and have heard in person what he can do on stage, how his voice can fill a stadium, giving you the impression he would not even need a microphone to do it. Dio's voice is legendary and I am very sad to say that it failed him to a degree in this concert.
While shortcomings like these are easily overlooked and ignored or go unrecognized during actual live concerts, once you watch recordings like the one here, these limitations become quite obvious once you have the proper distance. Ronnie is not giving a bad performance by any stretch of the imagination but you can tell that he is not hitting the high notes as he used to and that his voice had lost some of its sparkle that had made it so magnetic. There are times when it sounds more like he's bellowing than his voice carrying the … magic.
Now, we all know that Ronnie passed away earlier this year and I am every bit as sad about his passing as anyone. Ronnie James Dio is a legend, one of the greatest vocalists of the heavy metal scene. This release is definitely a wonderful tribute to his work, his career and his musicianship, making its shortcomings forgettable by comparison. If you are a fan of the singer, if you are a fan of "Holy Diver," if you want to pay homage to a true Metal God, here is your chance to celebrate and remember.