Bring Back Dio
For those out of the know, Heaven And Hell are Black Sabbath post Ozzy with Ronnie James Dio on vocals (and Vinny Appice on drums). As Tony Iommi and Geezer Butler are still in Black Sabbath the band decided to call themselves Heaven And Hell after the first album they collaborated on. Before I go any further let's get one thing straight. Tony Iommi and Geezer Butler are metal gods, hell, they invented the music that I love and deserve every ounce of respect that gets thrown their way. Putting that to one side for a moment, as a reviewer I have to make an assessment of their performance. If I didn't, and refused to make any negative comments about any members of Black Sabbath, then I could just easily have written the review at home, gushing about how great everyone was. I don't do things like that.
'E5150' led straight into 'Mob Rules' and the lights came up to an impressive looking set. The gothic styled church complete with railings fit perfectly with the black clad image of the band. The sound mix was great (great for the M.E.N that is) and Ronnie James Dio appeared to a cheer as he bellowed out 'Close the city and tell the people that something's coming to call'. The outer rim of the arena had emptied and although only two thirds full the arena still had an atmosphere. It is at gigs such as these that you realise how good some songs actually are. 'The Sign Of The Southern Cross' is one such tune and often overlooked in nostalgia trips, but it was immense and really captured the imagination of the crowd and the aura of the evening.
Things were going well, Ronnie was in great voice, 'Children Of The Sea' was immense and the quality of the sound was good as Tony and Geezer chocked out the riffs. That was until 'Voodoo' arrived. A song that is a highlight from the 'Mob Rules' was drawn out to about ten minutes and the fervour that had been created at the beginning of the set was starting to wane. This yawn-a-thon was followed by an 80s drum solo (yes, these things still exist) and suddenly there was a mini exodus as people left to go to the bar or spend a penny. I must admit that the excitement was lost and the band never recovered that same level of animation from the crowd.
Ronnie James Dio however, tried his utmost to keep the crowd enthusiasm high, in fact if it wasn't for Ronnie the whole gig would have slumped into 'going through the motions'. Geezer wasn't particularly animated choosing to be rooted to the spot for most of the show, and Tony occasionally walked back and to only once wandering to the right hand side of the stage (which seemed enough for some fans). 'Die Young' was an unexpected high point as was 'Falling Off The Edge Of The World'. However it was 'Heaven And Hell' that really disappointed because it went on and on and on and on and on. It's a great song, and I've seen Dio extend its seven-minute running time to over ten but tonight they took the piss. The whole rhythm and dynamics of the song was lost in self-indulgent soloing and padding. It was relief when it was finally over and the lack of a huge cheer suggested the fans were just as relieved as I was.
Ronnie remained animated through the encores finishing on the classic 'Neon Knights,' whereas the others looked like they wanted to put their feet up and have a cup of tea. Tonight proved, to me at least, that Dio is a class above the others in attitude and professionalism. At times it felt like Dio and his new backing band rather than a classic line-up because Tony and Geezer just played rather than getting too involved. It was great to see this classic Sabbath line-up and the set was on the whole enjoyable. With Black Sabbath's 40th anniversary next year I hope that Dio leaves this party and gets back to his solo career, I'll even help him write his next album.