Dio – Live in London: Hammersmith Apollo DVD (Eagle Vision)Thursday, 29th May 2014
The period of 1993 to roughly 1996 (and probably a tad further) couldn’t have been worse to the likes of Dio, Maiden, Priest, and anyone else associated with the proto-80’s metal guard. The regular, churning drumbeat that grunge wiped these bands out couldn’t be more readily apparent. So un-hip was Dio, or Maiden, that they were reduced to play mid-sized halls, sometimes even clubs, which in the context of how successful they were the previous decades, had to of been humbling. But you know how Ronnie James Dio operates – in a bubble. He probably didn’t care.
Live in London: Hammersmith Apollo catches the Dio band in concert in December of 1993 in support of the unsung Strange Highways album. Flanked by guitarist Tracy G, bassist Jeff Pilson (Dokken), long-time drummer Vinny Appice, and keyboardist Scott Warren, the band’s sound at the time was more bruising, less finesse when compared to the Vivian Campbell era. A lot of this has to do with G’s playing, who translated as a far more noisy guitarist than his predecessors, something that comes to the fore on “Don’t Talk to Strangers” and “Holy Diver.” He sticks with most of Campbell and Iommi’s guidelines, but his rails-off soloing on “Evilution” and “Hollywood Black” cement the fact that he was Dio’s most unconventional pick in the guitar slot.
But per the usual, RJD is the focus, stalking the stage, exalting in his renowned pure-class manner. By the 90’s, his voice had refined to the point where most of these tunes were effortless, still sung with the passion of those unbeatable 80s glory days. And hats off to him considering the climate of the time. Dio couldn’t have been more unhip, hanging around surely to the disgust of those who thought he and his contemporaries should have high-tailed it out of the music business. And that’s the charm of Live in London.