By 1993, Ronnie James Dio had established himself as a powerhouse vocalist and performer. His stints with Rainbow and Black Sabbath (fresh off his 1992 short-lived reunion that produced Dehumanizer) and of course his track record with his own band, Dio, had cemented his reputation as one of the premiere heavy metal acts.
Never one to rest on his laurels, Ronnie James Dio elected to take his band in a bold new direction. Abandoning the horror- and fantasy-themed songs that had been so effective, Dio elected to explore darker, grittier themes taken from real-life events. This exploration also led Dio and his band to make the music complement the lyrics. In 1993, Dio unleashed Strange Highways, which would be followed by Angry Machines in 1996. Both these albums reflected this new approach, which would prove not as successful as Dio’s previous work, leading him to once again embrace fantasy themes with 2000’s Magica.
With the release of Strange Highways, Dio went on tour. It is this tour that is captured in the DVD Live in London Hammersmith Apollo 1993. Filmed on December 12, 1993, this performance at London’s Hammersmith Apollo does not disappoint. As always, Ronnie James Dio holds nothing back, infusing every song with his powerful voice and presence. Although this performance showcases new material (at that time), Dio understood well his audience, and thus he performs a variety of classics, from the rip-roaring “Stand up and Shout” and “The Mob Rules” to signature pieces such as “Heaven and Hell,” “The Last in Line,” “Children of the Sea,” “Man on the Silver Mountain,” and of course “Rainbow in the Dark.”
Longtime drummer Vinnie Appice keeps the pace tight. Appice is a hurricane in action, pulling back to let the bass of Jeff Pilson (Dokken [http://dokkencentral.com/]) reverberate during some of the quieter moments. Newcomer Tracy G pushes the older Sabbath, Rainbow, and Dio compositions in a fresher direction, using distortion and flair in his riffs and hooks to create a distinct sound. Now, some found Tracy G’s approach not to their liking, but there’s no denying the guy has the chops, particularly when playing newer material, such as “Evilution,” “Strange Highways,” “Jesus, Mary & the Holy Ghost,” and “Hollywood Black.” Last but not least is keyboardist Scott Warren, whose stings and washes complement Tracy G’s progressive acrobatics.
Fans of Ronnie James Dio will naturally add Live in London Hammersmith Apollo 1993 to their collection. This never-before-released footage presents signature Dio compositions with fresh energy and guitar licks, making is essential listening for both new and longstanding fans of this metal juggernaut. Walk the strange highway in search of the rainbow in the dark.