First official posthumous release after the death of Ronnie James earlier this year sees Niji Entertainment release this double live disc set from the universally famous ‘’Monsters Of Rock’’ festival at Castle Donington in England. Included is DIO’S first performance in the UK and on the Donington stage as the second act, slightly above DIAMOND HEAD in 1983 and then four years later as support to the rather silly Pop-Metal of BON JOVI in 1987.
That Ronnie James was working on this release prior to his death gives it even more added meaning.
I’ve actually got both these shows recorded on C90 cassette courtesy of the BBC’S ‘’Friday Rock Show’’ and whilst I may have stop playing tapes in favour of CDs and MP3’s those nights spent waiting patiently to catch the exact start and finish of live concerts recorded off the radio still hold a special place in my Metal heart. All those above a certain age have done it and this rudimentary way of getting your favourite bands live performance to playback on your Sony Walkman as you went about your business was, at the end of the day, priceless.
Anyway I digress; both sets are chock full of Heavy Metal flag bearers and thankfully and due to DIO’S studio output in the 1980’s the cross-representation of songs is not to over loaded.
The 1983 performance sparkles. Not only is Dio’s voice utterly resplendent, the addition of Vivian Campbell on guitar added a full and real heavy thud to the DIO sound. One album in and already Dio the man and DIO the band where firing on all cylinders. Cherry picking the great from the first solo album ‘’Holy Diver’’ the addition of RAINBOW’S ‘’Man On The Silver Mountain,’’ ‘’Startruck,’’ and the quite epic ‘’Stargazer’’ accompanied by a brace from his BLACK SABBATH days in ‘’Children Of The Sea’’ and surely the greatest Metal song ever, ‘’Heaven And Hell’’ belied DIO’s lowly position on the bill. This 1983 show really captures the rawness and overtly Heavy Metal feel to DIO and the wave that they band were riding on was just gathering momentum.
Four years later and DIO were at their creative peek before the 1990’s and some barren years. The 1987 show contained one change to personnel. Out was Campbell to seek success in a minor league team called DEF LEPPARD and in was super-shredder Craig Goldie. With the albums ‘’Last In Line’’ and ‘’Sacred Heart’’ to choose from and about to tour the latest album ‘’Dream Evil’’ there was much more for Ronnie James to choose from and he doesn’t deny the old classic a place whilst airing a few new songs. It might be a bit cluttered mid set and old and new vie for position but I will take an utterly devastating ‘’Neon Nights’’ and from his RAINBOW days a rambunctious rendition of ‘’Long Live Rock ‘n’ Roll’’ any day of the week.
The 80’s really where a special and creative time for DIO and this double live set encapsulates the sense of greatness that Ronnie James Dio and his band members would ultimately hold in the pantheon of Rock awesomeness. Few can argue with his songs and none can about his voice, ‘’ Dio At Donington UK Live: 1983 & 1987’’ is as fitting a testimony one could hope to find.
(Online December 13, 2010)