Quick set change and the mighty Dio-led Sabbath took the stage. They were fricking great. Exceeded all of my expectations. Dio was the stand out. His voice is still so powerful. It is clear that he has taken very good care of himself. Kevin and I had seen Dio play solo twice in the 80s (Holy Diver and Last In Line tours) and we agreed he sounded even better last night.
The guy also has the best attitude. He smiled all night, interacted with the front general admission layers of people. He took items fans had made for him, held them up and put them aside for later. He even tried to do a between song autograph but no one had a pen. Iommi came to rescue with a handful of picks. But you could just tell that Dio was having a blast singing these songs, with this band.
Tony Iommi was also a stand out. I had seen Sabbath at the last Ozzfest (more on that in a second), so I knew he was still at the top of his game as a player. But he really shines on the Dio-era songs. He ripped some of the most kick ass guitar solos – ranging from moody and dark to so blazingly fast I thought his prosthetic fingertips would burst into flame. Lots of smiles from Tony, too.
The guy who surprised me was Geezer Butler. I knew he was good, but I wasn’t sure if live he was sort of a slop hound. But he played the shit out of that bass. Fast and precise, melodic. Lots of cool wah-wah effects in Sign of the Southern Cross (funny, I always thought that was guitar on the album). The surprise of the night.
Drummer Vinny Appice was fine in the songs – really good, actually. But he wrecked it by doing the most Spinal Tap, bogus, crappy drum solo I have seen in years. Iommi must have needed a smoke break or something, because Appice had no business doing a drum solo. Boring, cliché and uninspired.
The set list was a dream. Sure, they skipped some Heaven and Hell and Mob Rules tunes in favor of new material or stuff from Dehumanizer, but I thought it worked overall. In fact, the three Dehumanizer tunes they did (After All, I, Computer God) were much, much better than their studio counterparts. It made me realize that the trouble with that album was the way it was produced – not the songwriting. These songs fit right in with the classic stuff.
They did two brand new songs that were recorded for the new Dio Years compilation. One (The Devil Cried) was very forgettable, but Shadow of The Wind was pretty killer – good vocal melody and very heavy riff.
Of course I am saving the best for last. They treated us to the classic Dio era Sabbath, doing Mob Rules, Lady Evil, Children of the Sea, Falling Off the Edge of the World, Sign of the Southern Cross, Voodoo, and the three standouts by far – Die Young, Heaven and Hell and a blistering encore of Neon Knights. Actually, I pretty much got my money’s worth with Children of the Sea. Epic.
The stage was gothic but not too Spinal Tap. No video screens thank God. I felt like this show would be so great in a little club. Just super heavy ass music played by talented hard rock legends.
Overall, it was very clear they were enjoying playing this music that they haven’t done in more than 15 or 20 years. Like I said, I had seen the Ozzy fronted Sabbath at the last Ozzfest and they just struggled. Ozzy lost his voice half way through, everyone was looking at the ground, and you just got the sense that they were so far past their prime it was kind of embarrassing. With Dio, it’s a whole different band. Tight, powerful, passionate, heavy, and really into what they are doing. I wish I could see them again, but I hear there is a DVD from this tour coming, so I will just have to get that instead!
Oh yeah, and Dio still says “Hell,” “Devil” and “Fire” the way only Dio can say “Hell,” “Devil” and “Fire.”
After All (The Dead)
The Mob Rules
Children of The Sea
The Sign of The Southern Cross
The Devil Cried
Vinny Appice Solo
Falling Off The Edge of The World
Shadow of The Wind
Heaven and Hell