Dio Live in New York City

By Mick Stingley, Contributor
Thursday, January 2, 2003 @ 2:50 PM

Ronnie James Dio & Co. Filmed

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Every now and then, life is sweet, and, as an early Christmas present, I received one free ticket to see DIO live, and one pass to hang at the VIP stage and stick around for the after-show party. For a schmuck like me, this is as cool as it gets.

After the killer performance I witnessed, I attended the “meet n’ greet.” I went right up to Ronnie James Dio and said, “RJ, you are a musical force to be reckoned with, and when the book is closed on post-modern, late-Twentieth Century hard rock, you will figure prominently as a visionary of vocal style and a mastermind of imagery, who, though largely unsung during his time, will later be recognized as a genius. Yet, let it be said for all to hear, that You, sir, rock!” But, somehow, with all the activity and the pressure to be succinct amid the throng of people also waiting to meet HIM, it came out like this: “DUDE! YOU FUCKIN’ RAHK!” And then I made the “Devil Horns” with my hands and wet my pants.

Well, not exactly…

When the lights go down at Roseland, it is like the sky before a storm-front moves in. Hazy and purple and black with sparks of lightning on the horizon. DIO is a thunderstorm of rock, and before the night is through, we are going to get absolutely drenched.

Touring in support of his latest CD, Killing The Dragon, DIO, the band, cracks and rages across the wide stage with the title cut. Flanked by a giant silkscreen rendering of the CD cover, the electricity moves through the capacity crowd as the band (Doug Aldrich, guitar; Jimmy Bain, bass; Simon Wright, drums; Scott Warren – keyboards) give ground to the legendary singer we have all come to see- Ronnie James Dio. Yes, ladies, He IS short, but larger than life when the spotlights hit Him, black hair flowing back and truly giant when His voice roars across the room. The sound is amazing. Whatever technology DIO has brought with them on this tour ought to be packaged and sold to bands like heroin. Yet perhaps it is really the God-given near-operatic vocal ability of Himself.

I can barely reach into my pocket to grab a cigarette, much less light it as the crowd is so thick with rockers - people lucky enough to be in attendance who will be able to savor the memory as the show is being recorded for live DVD release next spring.

Dio wears one of those drape-y black velvet shirts with a silver cross on the front that looks like it was made by a Deadhead with a “Bedazzler,” but that is His thing, and so befitting the idea of what I had envisioned. He hasn‘t changed ONE bit since He rocked with Rainbow, Sabbath and ruled the mid-‘80s with Holy Diver and The Last In Line - and if you close your eyes when He wails the second song, “Egypt/Children Of The Sea,” you will forget what year it is. It doesn’t matter- it is all about His voice - a voice that is as warm and full and rich as it ever it was, and equals the big soulfulness of more acclaimed pop and R&B singers like Aretha Franklin, or even Tom Jones. While other rock singers struggle with time, Dio is a vocal powerhouse who has neither rusted nor faded, and, in fact, has only improved.

I work my way around to find a better spot to stand, and “Push” is called in, with thanks to “Tenacious D,” who appear in the video and have brought some newfound respect and attention to Him. A drum solo by Simon Wright follows this, and the camera cranes move in to fix on the crowd and on the masterful work of the man behind the kit, who pounds and rolls through to cheers.

When “Stand Up And Shout” comes in, I am thinking of my early days in high school when I used to try and recreate the DIO logo on my math books during my boring Algebra 1 class. Upside-down and backwards it reads, “DEVIL,” and I thought that was the coolest thing since girls got boobs. Oddly, at 34, I still feel the same way, and find myself shouting alongside a busty rocker chick…age may not have effected DIO, but it does effect other things. Ah, well.

Dio is all smiles and charges forward after explaining the reason for writing “Rock And Roll,” which He penned after 9-11. A wide video screen is revealed, and images of an American flag color the room. The song may be new, but has the immediate feel of something that you have known Dio to be singing for years.

This guy is a trip, and is taking the audience on a trip through time, returning to “Holy Diver” for “Don’t Talk To Strangers.” But it is the trip to Rainbow, as Jimmy Bain calls out, that makes the ride the best for me. The one song I really wanted hear tonight, (everyone goes to a concert wanting to hear that ONE song): “Man On The Silver Mountain,” is played- no, scratch that- “Man On The Silver Mountain” is fucking rocked out to the crowd. The thunderstorm that was forecast earlier is now upon us in with gale force. Dio moves offstage as Doug Aldrich, stage left, begins an incredible solo. The soon-to-be Whitesnake tour guitarist plays with dexterity and flourish. The electric screeches that eminate from his cabinets provide enough static shock to raise the mullets off the guys around me. The solo ends and “Long Live Rock And Roll” Comes in, and then ends with the final chorus of “Sliver Mountain.”

At this point, Dio opens up an umbrella – it IS Friday, The 13th – and He offers that we won’t have any bad luck, “as long as we’ve got each other!.” Dio announces a song from Magica, “Lord Of The Last Day,” Which makes me re-think not having picked that one up. “Fever Dream” gains more momentum live than I recall from the studio version.

The side stage at Roseland is as packed as the damn floor, and the luminaries that fill the area around me are as sublime as they are ridiculous when “Holy Diver” is announced with the chug-a-chug opening guitar. The giant rendering of the CD cover, with the priest floundering in the waters of Hell makes me wonder why Dio didn’t dedicate the song to America’s Catholic priests, or the Cardinal Bernard Law, of Boston, who resigned this week. It is quipped by others around me that it would have been fitting, but I think some things are better left unsaid. I could care less as I am transfixed on the busty chick in front of me, who knows all the words.

At this point, I think DIO starts up “Heaven And Hell,” but some drunk Brit guy who looks suspiciously like Steve Jones from The Sex Pistols asks to bum a smoke from me, and then starts yammering in my ear during the song. He is bitching about the price of cigarettes in NYC (8 bucks in some places), and going on about Rainbow and Graham Bonnet. I am pissed, and keep nodding, pointing out that I want to see DIO rip some old Sabbath, but this guy keeps talking. Why do people do this? Ugh. The crazies always find me – girls and guys… Well, I guess I will have to wait for the DVD. I move away and find another spot, in time for “The Last In Line.”

With no energy lost, DIO breaks into “Rainbow In The Dark.” That weird ‘caliope’ keyboard overlaid with guitar makes such a cool song…I find myself singing along and “throwing metal” (‘the devil horns’). The song that was once a staple at arenas between hard-rock acts and filled the air of so many outdoor concerts I have ever seen, bounces and rocks as the definite pinnacle of tonight’s show. Followed, as an encore, by “We Rock.”

No “Mob Rules” and no “Lock Up The Wolves,” but a setlist that blows through this club like a firestorm. This spring, you will be able to check it out on DVD; in the meantime check out His website- ronniejamesdio.com for updates.

Once the show is finished, I find myself, again, alone in the fluorescent light of the venue. While the union guys break down the stage (I counted 23 guys), the VIP area I am standing in is awash in excitement. We all know it will be a matter of time before Ronnie James Dio comes out.

I have a beer in one hand, and my notebook and a cigarette in the other, when Jimmy Bain walks by and asks how I enjoyed the show. The band has come out to say ‘Hello’, and after a brief conversation with others who seem to know everything about everyone, I am slightly perplexed as to how to answer. I hadn’t expected to meet anyone other than Dio, and now find myself shaking hands with the bass player from Rainbow and, for years, DIO.
“Dude…great show! Thanks for the music!”
(I long ago concluded that this was the best thing to say when at a loss for words…)
He shakes my hand and moves on…

After something like an hour, it is announced that THE MAN HIMSELF will be making an appearance – and we are to line up like drones for the autograph signing. I am livid as I actually had no idea I would have a pass waiting for me, and brought none of my CD cover inserts to be signed. But I would never look a gift horse in the mouth, and ready my notebook for the moment. After about an hour, the line moves to the point where I am only ONE person away from meeting this legendary vocalist and Metal God.

But time has its effects, and after the guy ahead of me has gotten EVERYTHING remotely related to DIO signed; RJD announces to his assistants that. “I have to have a piss!”… and then He runs off. I am assured that Dio will return, and after a few minutes, He does. When He returns, He walks right over to me, the ‘next in line’, if you will- and gives me a hug! “Thanks for waiting, mate!” (I find this especially peculiar as I always believed that Ronnie James Dio was from the Tri-State Area, and the slightly British accent threw me off…) I am speechless, but manage a “Thanks for the music!” before I collapse. I secure an autograph for myself and one for a Florida pal, And then I am off…anxiously awaiting the DVD and (hopefully) a possible summer tour…

The storm subsided now, I find myself walking out onto 52nd Street, ironically, into a full-blown thunderstorm. Soaked though I may be, it’s nothing compared to a DIO concert. Easily, without a doubt, the best gift a punk-ass metal-head like me could have.

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