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Music Review: Heaven & Hell – Live From Radio City Music Hall DVD

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I was a relative late comer to the Dio era of Black Sabbath. My first memorable encounter with that version of the band was during my initial screening of the fantastic animated movie Heavy Metal, circa 1981. Who can forget the scene where a giant green orb crashes into a mountain, transforming it into an erupting volcano that envelopes and eventually turns the stunned townspeople into a savage mob of monsters hell bent on destroying their neighboring city. This is all taking place while Sabbath's ominous "E5150" plays in the background and then eventually leads into the monstrous opening riff to "Mob Rules." It didn't take much more than that to make me a fan.

I was actually a huge fan of Dio's solo work first, having practically made his first two killer solo albums, Holy Diver and The Last In Line, the soundtrack to my last few years of high school. By the mid-1980's I was getting more into the hair-metal scene and had pretty much left the ultra heavy music of Black Sabbath behind. All of the recent Ozzy reunions certainly piqued my interest in the band again, but it wasn't until the new The Dio Years compilation, released earlier this year, that my interest in the Dio-led Sabbath was really awakened again.

To tell you the truth, I didn't really have the highest expectations for this tour and DVD. Although Dio's most recent concert DVD, Holy Diver Live, showcased an overall incredible performance, RJ's once mighty vocals were definitely not in top form. Belting out those metal anthems for more that 40 years must certainly take its toll. Dio is purportedly 65 years old, but I've come across varying accounts of his actual age. With Tony Iommi and Geezer Butler both pushing 60, who knows what kind of energy and enthusiasm these guys would have left in them for this reunion tour. Vinny Appice is the baby of the bunch at age 50, so I was not too worried about him.

All of my concerns were quickly laid to rest after watching this incredible DVD. Not only does Dio's voice sound better than I have heard it in over a decade, but masters Iommi, Butler, and Appice are still rocking harder that ever. Most of these live performances absolutely blow away the album versions. I'm still kicking myself in the ass for passing on this tour when it came through my neck of the woods last year.

The performance on this DVD was filmed live at New York City's famous Radio City Music Hall on March 30th, 2007. The concert starts off just as I would have expected, with the sinister strains of "E5150" filling the air just as the theater lights go completely dark. White strobe lights and dark blue spotlights soon begin to give you a glimpse of the massive stage production, which features two huge iron fences on each side of the drum riser that are being held up by two massive stone pillars on each end. The gates are protecting a cemetery full of guitar and bass amplifier headstones.

The only real stumble during the show was when "E5150" transitions into the slow and plodding "After All (The Dead)", from 1992's Dehuminizer album, instead of exploding into "Mob Rules" like everyone was expecting. It's not that "After All" is a bad song, it's just that it brought the momentum that "E5150" was building to a screeching halt. I just don't get that decision. They did make up for it soon enough by following with "Mob Rules," but oh how much more effective it would have been in the previous spot.

Next up, they launch into a couple of Heaven And Hell classics as the stage backdrop is now fully adorned with the brilliant Heaven And Hell album cover image. Dio introduces "Children Of The Sea" as "the very first song we ever wrote together", before they turn in an amazing performance of that one and "Lady Evil." Two other Dehuminizer tracks, "I" and "Computer God", and two brand new tracks, "The Devil Cried" and "Shadow Of The Wind", from the new The Dio Years compilation, are eventually trotted out, but the night would really belong to the Heaven And Hell and Mob Rules material.

The two new songs are easily two of the heaviest songs these guys have ever done – hell, the heaviest songs ANYBODY has ever done, as if to prove that they have no intention of mellowing out with age. Listen to the way Dio opens "The Devil Cried" with "One fine day…in HELLLLLL!, nearly spitting all over the crowd with that last ferocious word.

There were simply too many highlights here to mention individually, but the four Heaven And Hell tunes that they played in a row to close out the show were pretty damn mind blowing. After an intense "Die Young," they deliver a gloriously extended 15-minute long "Heaven And Hell" to close out the first set. Thinking that they couldn't possibly top that one, they return for a two-song encore set featuring "Lonely Is The Word" and "Neon Knights," which does exactly that.

The overall production quality of this DVD is excellent, but there were a couple of flaws with the Dolby Digital 5.1 surround audio track. First of all, the bass output from the LFE channel was not the greatest, and secondly, the center channel was not used all, except during the opening "E5150" scene. This may indicate a production glitch, although I have seen a few other concert DVDs with no center channel output on the surround track. I am not sure why this would be done purposely. The DD stereo track did not suffer either of these problems but was still inferior to the surround track.

The widescreen video presentation looked flawless to me, and the camera work was very good, although the angle changes came a little too fast as times. Extras include four short features; "Heaven And Hell Road Movie," "Hail The Gods Of Metal," "Meet The Mob," and "Radio City," which provides some excellent behind-the-scenes footage and interviews with the band, crew, and fans.

Heaven & Hell get big thanks from me for giving their long-time fans this awesome reunion tour and concert DVD. It is one thing to see Dio's excellent band break out some of these old Sabbath tunes in concert every now and then, but you will see here that it doesn't compare to the real deal. These guys are still the real deal. Don't miss this one Sabbath fans.

Set List
01. E5150/After All (The Dead)
02. The Mob Rules
03. Children Of The Sea
04. Lady Evil
05. I
06. The Sign Of The Southern Cross
07. Voodoo
08. The Devil Cried
09. Computer God
10. Falling Off The Edge Of The World
11. Shadow Of The Wind
12. Die Young
13. Heaven And Hell
14. Lonely Is The Word
15. Neon Knights

Performance 9/10
Production 9/10

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About Paul Roy

  • I’m glad that Sab’s Dio years are recognized for the good material that came from the group during that time. For a while I thought they might be forgotten.

    Now, what are the chances Dio can talk Richie Blackmore into a Rainbow reunion tour? Yeah, I figgered about that much.

  • Paul Roy

    How about when heaven and hell both freeze over.

  • Too funny! Actually, I caught some H&H on youtube last night – sounded great. But wasn’t Bill Ward on the first album?

  • Paul Roy

    Yeah, Bill was on the first album.

  • Any particular reason he’s not on this tour? I don’t follow the comings & goings of most of the extended Sab Clan anymore.

  • Paul Roy

    I know he missed some of the previous Sabbath reunion shows for various health reasons, namely a heart attack, so I am not sure if that was the case here.