Judge Bill Gibron is also a rainbow in the dark.
Rock 'n' roll royalty on display.
With his death from stomach cancer at age 67, the world of heavy metal lost a true maverick in Ronnie James Dio. Throughout the course of his 50 some years in show business, he was instrumental in keeping bands like Rainbow and Black Sabbath viable, while using his amazing voice and songwriting skill to forward his own projects like Heaven and Hell and Dio into the power chord mythos. He wasn't a consummate showman. He was diminutive, with a wild mop of curly hair and an impish, elf-like persona. But he had a voice that soared above the sonic roar of his various bands, chops on par with the late Bon Scott, Bruce Dickinson, and Rob Halford.
He's on the Mt. Rushmore of Rock, and deserves to be. He's also left a gap in the overall classism of the medium. So any chance we get to see him now, some four years after he left us, should be celebrated. Yes, this concert from Eagle Rock Entertainment is presented in a 1.33:1 full frame image. Yes, the song selection sticks unwelcoming close to his then current release Strange Highways. Sure, it would be nice for more golden oldies from the man and his career. With such a huge cannon to choose from however, any attempt at a solid inclusive set list would be a struggle.
Starting off with "Stand Up and Shout" (off of his classic, Holy Diver) and running through six of Highway's 11 tracks, this show is sensational. It's stripped down and simplistic. Dio himself doesn't muck about with BS stage banter or fancy light shows. He offers up three amazing backing musicians-longtime drummer pal Vinny Appice, bassist Jeff Pilson and guitarist Tracy G-and runs through the material with minimal effort. Even when the songs take a decidedly prog turn (as with something like "Evilution" or "Man on the Silver Mountain"), this combo kicks ass. Naturally, Dio himself is the deciding factor. He finds ways to work his amazing vocals around the sometimes arcane lyrics, lending traditions and cliches a new lease on life. Some hoping for more Sabbath and Rainbow will be disappointed. Others will simply enjoy a man making the kind of joyful noise that a certain Dark Lord appreciates more than his white robed counterpart.
Even more impressive is the man's stamina. Granted, Dio was only 50 when this was filmed, but rock 'n' roll is a young person's game. Many an immature novice could learn a thing or two about his polish and professionalism. It's also interesting to watch him in close-up. Occasionally, the camera focuses on his face and you can see him, scanning the crowd, making sure that everyone is having a good time (and playing particularly to those he fears he's lost). It's a very paternal approach to performing and fits in with his Italian heritage. It also argues for why Ronnie James Dio remains, to this day, one of the best loved, most appreciated, and still vital entertainers in his genre. He never took anything other than his music seriously. Thanks to such self-deprecation, and artistic dedication, he's become more than a voice and the hand signs he "supposedly" invented. Instead, he's a rock institution, and Dio: Live in London, Hammersmith Apollo 1993 (Blu-ray) is proof of this.
Now comes the concerning news, especially for those who enjoy everything on Blu-ray offered up in reference quality tech specs—this is not an anamorphic transfer, no matter what the back cover states. The image itself may be a 1080i/1.78:1 presentation, but the picture only fills up the mid section of the screen. It looks great-no flaring or bleeding, artifacts or age issues-but it is not a by now standard flat screen situation. On the other hand, the sound has been remixed to take advantage of the DTS-HD option and the multichannel offering has a real heft. When Appice is pounding on the drums or Ronnie is reaching for those high notes, the speakers strain to keep up with the sonics. Even the stereo presentation is excellent. As for added content, there's 20 minutes of behind the scenes footage including interviews, sound checks, and other backstage shenanigans. It gives the fan a chance to see their favorite during down time, and it's a lot of fun.
If he was still alive today, one imagines a 71 year old Ronnie James Dio still grinding out the concerts, touring endlessly to give his multitude of fans exactly what they want. He was tireless in his desire to entertain. As with all aspects of his career, this concert highlights his passion and personality.
Not guilty. A great showcase for a great man.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: Eagle Rock Entertainment
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