When Ronnie James Dio succumbed to cancer in 2010, the loss was likely felt much deeper by heavy metal fans than the rest of the music listening world. This 1993 concert at London’s Hammersmith Apollo offers a reminder of what many have missed and presents to those who weren’t paying close attention a greater understanding of the HM icon.
Filmed on the last night of Dio’s European tour to promote “Strange Highways,” the show contains six numbers from that album including the title track and “Jesus Mary & the Holy Ghost,” which owes a small nod to King Crimson’s “20th Century Schizoid Man.”
There’s also a host of solo classics (“Holy Diver,” “The Last in Line” and “Rainbow in the Dark”) along with stops on the frontman’s career with Black Sabbath (“Heaven and Hell” and “The Mob Rules”) and Rainbow (“Man on the Silver Mountain”).
Despite the metal genre taking a major hit at that time due to the commercial rise of alternative rock, this concert displays that the headbangers who were around to support him before glam metal took over remain as faithful as ever. Watching and listening to Dio, you realize why. While small in physical stature, he was a charismatic presence onstage who combined a strong distinctive singing style with a genteel manner when he introduced songs that wove lyrical fantasies. And his onstage movements were done in an efficient yet mesmerizing manner that included his use of the Italian “moloich” – the pointing of the index and pinky fingers as a method to block the “evil eye” from cursing you or using it to put a hex on someone else, which later became misappropriated by the HM community as a symbol for the “devil horns”.
Since Dio comes from an older school of Heavy Metal, which based its material on melodic songwriting, there’s still something catchy and of interest for those who aren’t already a fan. Still, some of the musical excesses of the metal genre make an appearance in the form of unnecessary guitar and drum solos. Neither adds to how well Tracy G and Vinny Appice were already contributing to the night’s success. In fact those moments put the concert at a masturbatory standstill. At least Appice’s moment in the spotlight is a little more interesting due to G and bassist Jeff Pilson bookending the rhythmic exercise with a jamming element.
Besides the 90-minute concert document, there’s bonus material of “Hanging with the Band.”