Dio - Astoria 2004

Master of The Moon Tour
London - August 14
Capacity 2,000

A strangely early 18:00 door time heralded long gaps in the evening, particularly between support and main act, but a Dio set is always worth waiting for. Particularly when they play for such a long time.

Support band Viking Skull wandered on at about 19:00. Viking Skull are meant to be a bright new hope in hard rock, recently supporting people like Alice Cooper, and lining up their own headline tour in a few weeks time. Kerrang! and the rest of the modern rock world love them. They were merely OK. On record, their music is good but the vocals are pretty poor. Live, the vocals and the music were excellent. Their songs are just boring. The subject matter is more pointless than a mid-page story in the Daily Star, and every riff sounds the same. Well played, lively, but boring.

Before Ronnie James Dio even starts his set it's a guarantee that his voice will be immaculate. Unfortunately, the other guarantee is that he will ignore his entire catalogue of material between the mid-'80s and the current record. And tonight was no exception, on either count. Your typically classic Dio set appears to include about nine ever-present songs, that he plays everywhere, all the time, all drawn from pre-Dio bands and the first two Dio albums, two or three songs from the new album, and about six from other albums from the mid 80s and before, usually comprised of another four from his old bands Black Sabbath and Rainbow, and two less-oft played tracks from another Dio album. Both tracks always from the same album too.

Last time it was 1989's Dream Evil. This time, 1985's Sacred Heart. This was slightly different in that new album Master of The Moon is not out yet, so the band only played one new song. And that one song was stunning. The Eyes was possibly the heaviest thing I've heard from Dio (and following 2002's Killing The Dragon, that's going some). A song about being completely paranoid, Ronnie was clearly very much into the song, delivering, I think, his best vocal performance of the night.

The rest of the show was a tour through all the classic Dio songs (including Rainbow and Sabbath) you can think of, with a couple of surprises as the other old tracks are very often unknown. It's just certain they'll be old. The ever-present songs sounded excellent, as always. It was nice to hear the difference the guitar player made, actually. Gone now (to Whitesnake) is Doug Aldrich, guitar player on the last Dio world tour and album, and back in comes Craig Goldy, who has been in Dio no less that twice before. Also gone is long-time right-hand man and bass player Jimmy Bain, and in comes ex-Ozzy/Whitesnake man Rudy Sarzo. And both clearly enjoyed it. Probably because neither of them have gotten a gig for the last four years. Aldrich is a better fit on guiter, though. Goldy is a bit too slow and choppy. It's not that he can't play fast, because he can. It's just that he tends to slow down some of the classic riffs and make them more "chugging". This was particularly evident on Sabbath's Mob Rules and Rainbow's Man on The Silver Mountain. Aldrich was far more fluent; far more lively.

When the intro tape played (the intro to the title track from Killing the Dragon) the expectation was for the band to open with said track, as they did on the last tour. But instead, they opened with King of Rock And Roll from 1985's Sacred Heart, which really didn't work with that intro. From there into Sabbath favourite Sign of the Southern Cross, to defeaning cheers. Ronnie hasn't played that song for a long while. Unfortunatly, it didn't last long. After only the first three minutes or so of the song they moved into Rainbow's Stargazer. Next, the ever-present Stand Up and Shout, from 1983's debut Dio album Holy Diver didn't sound as lively and powerful as normal and the typical Simon Wright drum solo (he needs to stop doing those) and into the second classic Don't Talk To Strangers. Then the new one - show highlight.

Then it's old-time rock favourites til the end. Sabbath classic Mob Rules and the typical Rainbow medley of Man on The Silver Mountain and Long Live Rock & Roll, with an excellent guitar solo from Goldy in the middle. Following that Rock N' Roll Children, the second track from Sacred Heart, then the real shock of the night. Rainbow's Gates of Babylon, from Ronnie's last album with the band, has never been played live by Dio before. Even Rainbow didn't play it very much. If at all. A lot heavier than the original Rainbow version and it sounded excellent. Then that was it for the unknowns. Ever-present songs from here on out. With the only slight mystery being which track would close the set.

After Holy Diver, Sabbath's Heaven and Hell, The Last In Line and Rainbow in The Dark the band walk off. Interestingly, they'd come together at the front of the stage to wave and bow twice already. But both times they returned to their intruments and played another song. This time, they left the stage then returned to play We Rock. Which is the typical set closer, but following that and a second exit from the stage, a little more cheering brought them out again for Black Sabbath's Neon Knights.

An excellent two-hour set full of superb songs and excellent performances. Not that keyboard player Scott Warren was audible, mind you. Songs from post-1985 would have been nice, but maybe next time he'll pick a later album to play the extra two songs from.

“ typically classic ”

Setlist: King of Rock and Roll / Sign of the Southern Cross > Stargazer / Stand Up And Shout / Drum Solo / Don't Talk to Strangers / The Eyes / The Mob Rules / Man on The Silver Mountain / Guitar Solo / Long Live Rock N Roll > Man on The Silver Mountain / Rock And Roll Children / Gates of Babylon / Holy Diver / Heaven and Hell / The Last In Line / Rainbow In The Dark // We Rock // Neon Knights

Written by Andy Lye
More: 2004, Gigs, Heavy Metal, ,

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