Pop Life

Rotation: Heaven and Hell (CD); Live at Radio City Music Hall (DVD)

Look out!! With all due respect to the Police, Van Halen, and Genesis (okay, maybe not Genesis…), the only classic-rock reunion of the year that mattered, especially to serious headbangers, was that of Black Sabb…er, I mean Heaven and Hell. Don’t sue, Sharon Osbourne!

The Dio Years anthology, featuring three new tracks, and a hugely successful tour featuring Ronnie James Dio (vocals), Tony Iommi (guitar), Geezer Butler (bass) and Vinny Appice (drums) brought deserved and renewed attention to BS 3.0’s music, which rivaled – and at times surpassed – that of the original Fearsome Foursome.

With Dio, Sabbath veered toward a faster, harder-rocking edge. The former Ronald James Padavona was also adept with the pen, adding a distinct fantasy-fueled songwriting edge. Fifteen years after their last stint together, Black Sab… make that Heaven and Hell, taped an early 2007 show for this double CD and DVD release. It makes me sad; not in a goth/depressed way, but sad that this lineup’s time together was so brief!

As a concert souvenir, Live at Radio City Music Hall completely blows away their justly maligned Live Evil. The amazing 65-year-old Ronnie James Dio is a force of nature, with his patented howls and wails losing little off their top edge over the decades. Iommi and Butler seem reinvigorated after recent years playing behind that drug-addled, bumbling reality-TV star, and Appice is the joyous stick-thumper who just won the lottery. All four belie their ages onstage.

In fact, both Iommi and Butler note in the DVD extra interview that playing Sabbath songs from the Dio years gave them a much-needed re-invigoration after more than a decade of half-mast versions of “Paranoid” and “Iron Man” on Sabbath’s Ozzfest stints. Other extras include a short documentary and “Meet the Mob,” in which cameras encounter clearly ecstatic NY Sabbath fans. Think Heavy Metal Parking Lot: 25 Years Later.

Standout performances include “Children of the Sea,” “Die Young,” “The Mob Rules,” “Heaven and Hell,” “I” and new song “Shadow of the Wind.” And while Dio’s stage patter leaves much to be desired – killing any suspense by announcing song titles, and sometimes album origin and lyrics – before launching into each track, the castle/graveyard/stained-window set is effective. One glaring weakness on the DVD, though, is the sensory assault of the incessant and way-too-numerous camera cuts.

As the current and final leg of the Heaven and Hell tour winds down, a rumor persists that the original lineup is contemplating a new CD and world tour. However, many fans would prefer to see this Dio-led lineup continue on instead. Ozzy can stay in his mansion, drive his kids to rehab, and clean up dog shit. – Bob Ruggiero

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Bob Ruggiero has been writing about music, books, visual arts and entertainment for the Houston Press since 1997, with an emphasis on classic rock. He used to have an incredible and luxurious mullet in college as well. He is the author of the band biography Slippin’ Out of Darkness: The Story of WAR.
Contact: Bob Ruggiero