Wednesday, January 22, 2003 @ 2:13 PM
Dio, King's X and Hammerfall L
- advertisement -
REVIEW BY: George Mihalovich
As I rushed in to the Odeon (I drove in from Pittsburgh, PA, literally ran into my hotel, changed clothes and headed straight for the venue), I checked my watch and heaved a sigh of relief -- I had arrived just minutes before the published start time of 8 PM. With three bands, this concert would need to be a bit more punctual than usual, but I assumed that I still had a few moments to check the place out. Much to my surprise, before I had even made it to the balcony, the show was underway at PRECISELY 8 PM! Quite a rarity in rock and roll these days -- Wouldn't you say so, Mr. Rose? When the lights came on, Hammerfall were decked out in their traditional metal pseudo-warrior garb and were off and running. It didn't take long before fists were flying to "Hearts of Fire" and "When the Hammer Comes Down." They did a nice job, but it seemed kind of ludicrous to me that they came all the way from Switzerland to play 5 songs a night; I mean, I am furious if my band travels an hour and our set is cut short! However, both the crowd and the Hammerfall seemed to enjoy themselves, so I just need to get over it.
Next was King's X, and as usual they turned in a sharp performance, cranking out their own signature brand of melodic, soulful, heavy and harmonized rock. For me, as always, a highlight of the set was "Dogman." The crowd was pretty responsive, and I think the open-minded fans appreciated their songs and musicianship, even if they were just a tad out of place considering the
"traditional metal" style of the other bands on the bill.
Now, before reading further, for the sake of honesty, I will admit my bias up front and state that I think Ronnie James Dio is a living legend, even though I have done my best to be reasonably objective about this show. So, if you don't agree, there probably isn't much reason for you to continue...
From the minute R.J.D and his comrades hit the stage and tore into "Killing the Dragon," it was obvious that the band was in top form. Everyone sounded great, and Doug Aldrich is without question a perfect match for Ronnie. I am looking forward to the next disc, which will hopefully be a deeper collaboration between the two. Nothing against anyone else that has been in his band over the years (they were all fine players and writers), but Aldrich covers Ronnie's catalog of material better than any guitarist he has ever had, bar none; he is a monster, plain and simple. Also, I can't neglect to mention Dio's perennial sideman Jimmy Bain, who is one of the most solid and underrated bassists in metal.
They pumped out all of the standards with style: “Holy Diver,” “Rainbow In The Dark,” “The Last In Line,” etc., along with a few tunes from the new disc, including "Rock and Roll" and "Push." "Fever Dreams" was a little unexpected, but actually came across really well and was the surprise of the evening. I was a little disappointed that they didn't do "Scream," (a real standout, in my opinion) and in the ever-present, obligatory "Man on the Silver Mountain/Long Live Rock and Roll medley." I mean, R.J.D can play pretty much anything and I will enjoy it, but for me this segment has worn a little thin. His repertoire is so deep that I wish that he would cease playing these particular songs every time out; I think he could represent the same cross-section of his career with some deeper cuts. It would be great to hear something like "The King of Rock and Roll," "Dream Evil" or even "Hey Angel," I'd even be happy with "Mob Rules" in place of "Heaven and Hell" or anything from the Rainbow albums besides the usual. In any case, the material was good if not overly familiar, and they closed out the night with the classic "We Rock."
Overall it was a fine evening of metal the way it was meant to be: loud, proud and in-your-face. Also, kudos to the crew; the sound was crystal-clear and the production for whole show was practically flawless. I reflected upon all of this as the fans slowly filed out of the venue, and after a great show like this, at least for a very brief moment it was hard to believe that hard rock and metal is currently struggling to stay alive...
As I talked with an acquaintance a few days after the concert, he mentioned to me that he thought Dio had some good material in the ‘70s with Rainbow and in the ‘80s as a solo artist, but what does he have to say that is "relevant" today? To me, this statement is missing the point: good music, regardless of type, style or genre, stands on its own. I'll take the high road and I won't bash any of today's hot artists, other than to say that pop culture is indeed a fickle beast, and it doesn't take a rocket scientist to know that it's not easy to get any kind of recognition, and it's even harder to stay around. It will be very interesting to see if any of today's hits will still be in regular rotation like "Rainbow In the Dark," or "The Last In Line" 20 years from now. This is not to say that I harbor illusions that Killing the Dragon will have the impact of Dio's previous ouput or be as popular in the metal marketplace as some of the newer bands. I will, however, argue that his latest album is strong and a worthy addition to his body of work. Regardless of what many of the critics have said to the contrary, he has incorporated some newer influences while remaining true to his style and himself throughout this album (and his entire career, for that matter). Sure, he isn't playing arenas anymore, but the man is 62 years old, and has barely lost a step as a vocalist or performer. It's quite an accomplishment to be able to tour the world and succeed on any level in the music business, and Dio has spent the better part of the last 30 years doing just that, writing and performing quality music. There aren't many artists who can make that claim.
Furthermore, in many other genres of music (jazz, for instance, and blues is an even a better example), it is perfectly acceptable for an established artist to release new material for as long as their fans want to hear it. I often wonder why metal artists are accused of being "washed up" and generally maligned for doing this very same thing? This music may have fallen out of popular favor, but it is as viable and it ever was, and many of its greats are still producing some fine work. Along with Dio, Halford with his recent solo project and Dickinson (with his own band and Maiden), also come to mind. I am not one of those who insists that "metal is coming back," but I do say to popular culture -- leave metal alone. These artists are as committed (or more so) to their craft as anyone else working in music today. Furthermore, not every hard rock/metal fan fits the stereotype of a beer-drinking idiot wearing a Motorhead t-shirt, despite the fact that the popular media has portrayed them as such ad nauseum. It's an insult to the majority of the audience.
Well, that's enough ranting one day. In closing, I say to R.J.D: Thanks for the music! I applaud the fact that you are still out in the trenches, showing us how it should it be done. It's great to have a legend still active and "relevant" in the scene that he helped to create.