Written by General Jabbo
The world of heavy metal lost one of its most towering figures in May of 2010 when Ronnie James Dio succumbed to stomach cancer. The previous summer, the recently reformed Dio version of Black Sabbath (now calling itself Heaven & Hell) toured to support their new album, The Devil You Know. The band played a blistering set at that summer's Wacken Festival in Germany and while no one knew it at the time, it was to be Dio's last filmed performance. That show is captured in Neon Nights.
Opening with "The Mob Rules" from the album of the same name, Heaven & Hell were in fine form, with Dio's voice showing remarkably little wear given the difficulty of the material to sing. A powerful "Children of the Sea" follows, with Dio informing the crowd that it was the first song they had ever written together and dedicating it to them.
The band's new material fit well in the set as they followed Dehumanizer's brutally heavy "I" and the riff-laden "Time Machine" with the equally heavy "Bible Black" and "Fear," which may feature the best riff on The Devil You Know. "Die Young" began with some excellent soloing from guitarist Tony Iommi while the band's namesake song, "Heaven and Hell," became a 17-minute jam that never bordered on boring.
The first verse of "Country Girl" was played as an intro to set-closer "Neon Knights," but a complete version would have been welcome. As the band's name change would indicate, the set list was all Dio-era material and while they played a nice cross-section of their four albums, a few more than the twelve songs played in their 90-minute set would have made a good concert even better.
The DVD includes 30th anniversary interviews with all four band members conducted by DJ Eddie Trunk as well as tributes to Dio from the surviving members of Heaven & Hell. Audio options include Dolby digital stereo, Dolby digital 5.1 and DTS Surround Sound.
Neon Nights showed a band that was still capable of delivering high-energy shows while "The Devil You Know" offered a glimpse of what Heaven & Hell could sound like in the new millennium. Sadly, the band will never get to chance to build on the momentum they had achieved in their brief reformation.