CD/DVD Review: Dio – Live in London: Hammersmith Apollo 1993

CD/DVD Review: Dio – Live in London: Hammersmith Apollo 1993
Eagle Rock Entertainment
All Access Rating: A-

Dio - Live In London: Hammersmith
Apollo 1993
Four years after the death of Ronnie James Dio left the heavy metal community in a state of profound mourning comes "Live in London: Hammersmith Apollo 1993," the first-ever video release of a professionally shot classic concert from, what was at the time, a newly reconfigured Dio touring the Strange Highways album.

Looked at by some as the start of a downward spiral for Dio and applauded by others as a much-needed change of lyrical scenery, Strange Highways was made with new parts, as the legendary singer and longtime collaborator Vinny Appice, having left Black Sabbath after Dehumanizer, revived Dio with former Dokken bassist Jeff Pilson, new guitar slinger Tracy G and Warrant keyboardist Scott Warren in tow.

Gone were the trappings of medieval fantasy that had fired his imagination in the beginning, as Dio started exploring matters of a more contemporary nature. Not everyone was onboard with the shift in emphasis, but at the Hammersmith Apollo on this December 12, 1993 evening, Dio made amends to those who accused him of heresy. Raining down fire and brimstone as only he can with his extraordinary vocal firepower, Dio led the band on a blazing march through his gloriously sinister past and a defiant charge into the band's then-current material, breathing fresh life into the churning title track, the dark and impossibly heavy "Hollywood Black" and a ferocious version of "Jesus, Mary & the Holy Ghost."

Without the distractions of mechanical dragons and castle ruins cluttering up the stage, Dio brawls with favorites from his Sabbath days, attacking "The Mob Rules," "Children of the Sea" and "Heaven and Hell" with vim and vigor. The heightened drama of "The Last in Line" soars, while the powerhouse anthems "We Rock" and "Stand Up and Shout" throws their fists in the air and race recklessly ahead. Mystical and melodic, "Don't Talk to Strangers" is both pretty and poisonous, while the gnarled hooks and animalistic growls of "Holy Diver" and "Rainbow in the Dark" raise the dead.

More than capable as a guitar shredder, Tracy G rips through hot-wired solos and wrenches tough, smoldering riffs from his instrument, as Pilson and Appice pound away rhythmically, their teamwork during Appice's drum solo causing seismic tremors. Edited to capture the breathtaking pace and excitement of a band playing with urgency, passion and energy, the crystal-clear "Live in London: Hammersmith Apollo 1993" boasts stellar camera work, shooting from a wide range of angles and with an innate sense of when to go close on Dio and his talented henchmen and when to pull back and gauge the crowd's reactions. Add a vintage "Hanging with the Band" featurette that provides an enjoyable glimpse into life backstage before and after the performance, and the package becomes even more vital.

Available on DVD, Blu-ray and as a two-CD set from Eagle Rock Entertainment, "Live in London: Hammersmith Apollo 1993" is also impressive sonically, a fitting tribute to an artist whose work will live on well after his passing.
– Peter Lindblad

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