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Dio - 'Live In London Hammersmith Apollo 1993' http://mail.rocktopia.co.uk/media/reviews/photos/thumbnail/200x200s/03/24/77/dio-live-in-london-1993-35-1416866325.jpg Hot

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It’s always nice to have something from one of his band’s tours.

With it being a staggering four years since we lost the great Ronnie James Dio, it’s nice to see the releases from the vaults are still coming. RJD was a superb live performer and it’s always nice to have something from one of his band’s tours – this one from the ‘Strange Highways’ outing of 1993.

‘… Highways’ was part of a musical change for Dio, which had originally started back in 1990 with ‘Lock Up The Wolves’. RJD had replaced his entire line up and recorded the album with eighteen year old guitarist Rowan Robertson, but the lineup was short lived as RJD returned to Black Sabbath to record and tour the ‘Dehumanizer’ album. Returning to his own band after Sabbath were done, RJD elected to rebuild one again, bringing back drummer Vinny Appice and adding bassist Jeff Pilson and guitarist Tracy G.

‘… Highways’ abandoned the original Dio sound and lyrical themes and attempted to keep pace with the rumblings of what was starting to become the Grunge revolution. As a result, I never liked ‘… Highways’ (and liked follow up ‘Angry Machines’ even less) and didn’t get back on board with Dio until 2000’s ‘Magica’ album. Therefore I was intrigued to see what I would make of the ‘… Highways’ tour.

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First of all, RJD is on top form vocally and the band is energetic. ‘Stand Up And Shout’ kicks things off before the title track of the tour is given an airing. I just couldn’t get into it and was delighted when ‘Don’t Talk To Strangers’ pepped things up. However, the droning ‘Evilution’ quickly looses the momentum, as does ‘Pain’ which contains a brutal guitar solo delivering exactly what the song title suggests. Guitarist Tracy G was the subject of much criticism at the time, and watching this concert, I can see why. He plays differently to Ritchie Blackmore, Tony Iommi, Viv Campbell and Craig Goldy – deliberately so, but it always invites comparisons which will be unfavourable. He messes with classics by throwing in some pointless harmonics on the fabulous riff of ‘The Mob Rules’ and I loathed his solos.

Portions of the show are good – the solid collection of ‘Children Of The Sea’, ‘Holy Diver’, ‘Heaven And Hell’ and ‘Man On The Silver Mountain’ generously represent RJD’s amazing back catalogue of work from his own band, Black Sabbath and Rainbow. The problem is every time a new song appears, I found it tedious and at odds with the rest of the material – and as there are six from the ‘…Highways’ album (plus a boring drum solo) there are big chunks of the show which didn’t appeal.

With hindsight, Pilson was a great addition on bass and I understand RJD was trying something different. You’ve got eleven great songs here – more if you are a fan of the ‘… Highways’ era. If, like me, you prefer the older Dio material, then I suspect you’ll suffer the same frustrations with this show that I experienced.

James Gaden

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