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Heaven & Hell - Neon Nights: Live In Europe

Label: Armoury
Format: CD/DVD
Released: 2010
Reviewed By: Mark Gromen
Rating: 8.5/ 10


Although always planned, here's the first of what will undoubtedly be many posthumous Ronnie James Dio live recordings, in this case the Wacken '09 show in Germany (personally witnessed live) in the form of a DVD and companion CD. Both booklets feature the same cursory historical data and single solo photo of each musico. Crudely edited, the audio portion is devoid of most Dio raps to the audience and Vinny Appice's 3 ½ minute drum solo is hacked from 'Time Machine' (Dio introduces him, noticeable blip and then re-acknowledged, at what would have been the end of his showcase slot), then a shortened, 60 seconds of 'Country Girl' goes missing (despite leading right into a set closing 'Neon Knights'), as well as the opening 'E5150' instrumental. Thankfully, all are intact on the 2 ½ hour video, alongside interviews with all four members. The hour of 30th anniversary interviews are equally split amongst the foursome and include many funny stories and Dio comments I'd not heard before. Sadly, the band (finally) appeared to be truly happy with life and each other. While not the last concert with Dio (that was a few weeks later, in Atlantic City, NJ, also personally in attendance), the setlist here is a culmination of the band's four albums, spanning three decades.

 

Onstage 85 minutes, when most men (grandfathers?) their age are long in bed, playing in the chilly outdoors, right up until midnight. This massive concert features the frail old-timer still using every inch of the stage, as the stoic Englishmen either side of him give the Elf, the Elvis to a metal generation, the spotlight. Not much in the way of effects, mood lighting, fog, a few illuminated orbs and Dio twirling the mic stand or throwing the horns into the camera. A video screen behind Appice shows the odd animation, mostly on the new songs. The crowd sings along to their 17+ minute signature track. You haven't seen anything until witnessing that crowd, shot from band's perspective, as when the stage is lit during the titular chorus!

Given Dio's gravelly speaking throat, it's amazing how well the singing pipes hold up, especially when many of the passages are close to a cappella. The haunting spoken intro to 'Falling Off The Edge Of The World' takes on even greater significance, given the frontman bravely facing his mortality and in light of what ultimately transpired: "I think about closing the door. Lately, I think of it more. I'm living well out of my time."

RIP Ronnie James!

 
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