Originally recorded and released in 1986 in a truncated format, Dio’s DVD Finding the Sacred Heart chronicles the band’s performance in Philadelphia in 1986, months after the release of Dio’s third full-length studio CD, Sacred Heart. This tour was one of several pinnacle moments for the mighty Ronnie James Dio, a man who had fronted monsters such as Rainbow and Black Sabbath and had established himself as one of the strongest heavy metal vocalists ever.
As the tour roared across the United States, the band received a terrible blow. Founding Dio guitarist Vivian Campbell elected to leave the band during the tour. It was a terrible moment, one that many longstanding fans of Dio have yet to forgive. But the band did not fall apart. Rather, guitarist Craig Goldy stepped forward and brought his own signature chops into the fray while retaining the essence of the Dio sound.
The DVD of Finding the Sacred Heart captures one of the most stunning spectacles of heavy metal ever successfully executed. Filled with stunning lasers (including a laser sword), a towering hydraulic-powered dragon, knights in shining armor, and ear-busting pyrotechnics, the performance at Philly would leave attendees spellbound. The initial DVD release was okay for its time, but the new 2013 Blue-ray edition is a stunner, with the original film restored to its original length and the sound remastered. Both veteran and new fans of all things metal will not be disappointed, particularly because the mighty Dio is no longer around to guide the metal hordes.
Dio’s set list is supreme. There are of course samples from all his Dio releases at the time, from “Don’t Talk to Strangers” and “Rainbow in the Dark” to “We Rock” and “Hungry for Heaven.” Dio also weaves some impressive compilations, namely “The Last in Line”/“Children of the Sea”/“Holy Diver” and “Rock ‘n’ Roll Children”/“Long Live Rock ‘n’ Roll”/“Man on the Silver Mountain,” both of which tap into Ronnie’s iconic past with Black Sabbath and Rainbow. Further mining classics, Dio perform showstoppers such as “Heaven and Hell” and “Stand up and Shout.”
As a band, Dio is clearly at the apex of their collective powers. Goldy does not have the strongest of chops here (that would come later), but he holds his own, busting out some solid solos. Jimmy Bain pushes his bass to the limit, working well with drummer Vinny Appice, whose percussive power is quite impressive. Keyboardist Claude Schnell is restrained but remains effective as well. And of course there is vocalist Ronnie James Dio, whose powerful lungs, dynamic range, of overwhelming stage presence will leave no one disappointed.
The signature signs of the 1980s are present, with extended drum, keyboard, and guitar solos given out freely, as well as set pieces involving the dragon. Dio indulges the raucous crowd with two encores, the first showcasing “Rainbow in the Dark” and the second leaving them insane with “We Rock.” Always a showman, Ronnie James Dio alters melody lines and lyrics at will, giving some of the songs a freshness that can only be experienced live.
Fans of metal and of Dio would do well to acquire Finding the Sacred Heart. This killer DVD is the closest thing to being at one of this band’s killer performances. I was lucky enough to experience Ronnie James Dio live both during his run with Black Sabbath and with Dio. For me, this DVD enables me to relive those performances, which I happily will carry with me for the rest of my days.
The DVD comes with several extras, such as a couple of interviews, a short feature, a video of “Rock ‘n’ Roll Children,” and backstage footage.