kyle cassidy (kylecassidy) wrote,
kyle cassidy
kylecassidy

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review: heaven and hell - live at radio city music hall

When the great conscious collective that is "Amazon recommends" spat out the revelation that Black Sabbath arguably in it's ultimate incarnation, fronted by Ronnie James Dio, had not only gotten back together, but pumped out a DVD recorded live at Radio City Music Hall I was clicking the pre-order button like I was having a seizure.

In this world of downloaded videos and ripped DVD's it's packaging is scant -- no 60 page full color booklets, no satanic jewelry, no ridiculous stickers -- just a one page insert identical to the DVD cover.

The DVD is sumptuiously fimed in HDV (I'm assuming there will be a blu-ray version soon if there isn't already) -- on my non HDV TV and player, the standard DVD is gorgeously crisp -- the sound well recorded with crisp highs, well isolated vocals and very punchy bass -- it's like a studio recording in many ways.

They start out with E5150, the intro track from the second Dio/Sabbath album "Mob Rules" -- this is expected and, I think the right thing to do, but then, as the intro ends, Tony Iomi walks out on stage and starts playing After All (the Dead) from Angry Machines -- what brain hemorrhage caused them to do this I have no idea -- since there are only three of you out there who even own a copy of Angry Machines (or is it Dehumanizer?), I'll tell you it's a sloooww song -- immediately they waste any anticipation they might have milked from the audience -- and when they do trundle into the passionate energy of Mob Rules the audience is appreciative but already sedate.

The two albums that Sabbath recorded with Dio gave Iomi an opportunity to really shine as a player in a way he hadn't really when Ozzy was in the band. Songs like Voodoo and turn up the light were out of Ozzy's range, and I suspect also that Tony wanted to show off and give the impression that Ozzy had been holding him back. Dio actually says as much in the special features, perhaps a bit annoyed that his star never rose as high -- but then we haven't laughed while TV cameras film Ronnie trying to open a jar of peaches on VH1 either. And Tony calls the Ozzy-era songs "routine" -- when you're a skilled craftsman playing the simple riff of Paranoid over and over for decades must get wearysome. In any event -- I've digressed more than Tristram Shandy -- powerful leads and frenetic rhythms make those two (Dio era) albums classics. As Dio says in the special features, "Every day is my chance to be perfect, I've never done it, but I have a goal."

Points off to Tony Iomi for switching guitars more than Brittny Fox -- it's not like he's using multiple tunings, or even different chords but watching him -- he really is the Elder Statesman of heavy metal and you can't begrudge him -- the sheer genius of his rhythm progressions again and again make us realize just how much this one man has changed popular music and how of his simple brilliance we've been gifted with these nearly forty years.

Did I say forty years? Indeed. All these guys are older than most of the world's governments but they've weathered well. They never were spring-loaded, especially when they were spending half their energy keeping Ozzy from falling off stage for the first ten years of their existence. About all the athletics Tony or Geezer do consists of walking around in a small circle every 20 minutes. Dio's performance was always "walk fast over here, throw the goat, and walk over there and do the same thing" -- it hasn't changed. But that's fine -- you can tell he loves his fans in a really rare and wonderful way. He's slapping hands between songs and pauses frequently to talk to the audience. Even if he's said "This is the third song Tony and Geezer and I ever wrote" sixty times in the last three months, you do feel like he's telling you some personal antidote.

Vinnie Appice is pounding the skins as he did in the Way Back days when Sabbath drummer Bill Ward went nuts and got carted off to some shady sanitarium in one of those quiet places in England. His drumming is larger and different than Ward's ever was, but he's a different type of player from a different age.

Scott Warren, Dio's old keyboard player rounds out the cast of characters but they hide him behind a curtain, like Cinderella did to Rick Creneti. For shame guys. Either don't use keyboards, or put the guy on the stage.

They've gotten a little more wrinkled, but thats about it. Dio's still got his voice and the rest of the guys still have their chops. I have a feeling that this is a lot like seeing them in 1983.

They're not Iron Maiden, who are still actively kicking ass and taking names, but they're ten years older than Iron Maiden, and heck, even when they were 30, that was never their game. Black Sabbath is, and always was, really, a crunchy, ponderous, Art Rock band, and with Dio out in front, they mark a special point in Black Sabbath's history.

The bonus features include a video tour diary -- one of my favorite parts is the set designer telling how after several months of laborious thought he had the epiphany to make the stage look like the interior of an old castle.


Two Thumbs up.


All this while I should have been writing an article for Videomaker. Maybe they'll settle for reprinting this.
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