Judge Dan Mancini typed this entire review with his left hand while throwing up devil horns with his right.
Ride the tiger!
The passing of Ronnie James Dio on May 16, 2010 marked the end of an era for heavy metal music. If it's possible for one man to epitomize the style and substance of metal, Ronnie James Dio was that man—his angular features, curly locks, penchant for wearing black leather pants, and bombastic vocal style were 100 percent unadulterated metal. The man almost single-handedly made devil horns the not-so-secret hand signal of metal heads all over the planet. What's more metal than that? Dio began his career in the late '60s, fronting the blues-rock outfit Elf before teaming with Deep Purple guitarist Ritchie Blackmore in the proto-metal band Rainbow in the mid-'70s. He then replaced Ozzy Osbourne in Black Sabbath in the late '70s and early '80s, before launching his own band, Dio. His recorded output includes top-shelf metal classics like Rainbow's Rising (1976), Sabbath's Heaven and Hell (1980), and the record that is the focus of this Blu-ray release: Dio's Holy Diver from 1983.
Released to celebrate Dio's life (or cash in on his death, depending on your level of cynicism), Dio: Holy Diver Live captures a rare performance of the titular album in its entirety at the relatively cozy Astoria Theater in London on October 22, 2005. The performance opens with a rocking rendition of "Tarot Woman" from Rainbow's Rising, segues into the Black Sabbath classic "The Sign of the Southern Cross" from Mob Rules, and then "One Night in the City" from Dio's The Last in Line. The performance of Holy Diver in its full glory is preceded by a video introduction so full of pretension and hokey '80s video effects that it comes across as Spinal Tap style self-parody. Rest assured, though, that the musical performance is rock solid. The show concludes with another pair of Rainbow and Sabbath tunes: "Gates of Babylon" and "Heaven and Hell." The three-song encore consists of two more Rainbow songs ("Man on the Silver Mountain" and "Long Live Rock and Roll"), along with the Dio number "We Rock."
Dio circa 2005 consisted of drummer Simon Wright (AC/DC), guitarist Doug Aldrich (Whitesnake), bassist Rudy Sarzo (Quiet Riot), and keyboardist Scott Warren (Warrant). It's a solid outfit that works its way competently and energetically through the music, while relegating themselves to being a musical framework for showcasing Ronnie James Dio's pipes. And what pipes Dio has. Sixty-two years old when the performance took place, one would expect Ronnie James to have lost something of his vocal range or power. He had not. Anchored in a wide-legged stance and gesticulating like a diminutive necromancer, Dio looks and sounds supremely confident throughout the performance. Played to an audience of around 2,000 hard rock fans, the show is light on the flashy stage conventions of heavy metal such as pyrotechnics, laser lights, and rear projection videos. But that only means that Dio is required to carry the show and command attention with his voice and stage presence. He does so effortlessly.
The Blu-ray presents the concert in a decent 1080i/1.78:1 transfer. Shot on high definition, the show sports reasonable detail (not the best I've ever seen, but not bad) with a minimal of digital artifacts. The frequently used red gel lighting is often overblown, leading to some bleeding and general softness, but that's a typical problem caused by the extreme lighting conditions at concert events. As a theatrical venue, the Astoria is a fine place to record a musical performance. The two audio options on the Blu-ray—a DTS-HD master audio surround track and a linear PCM stereo track—are unostentatious but crisp and well imaged. Bass is beefy without being muddy, midrange is punchy, and treble never succumbs to distortion. Most important, Dio's voice is never lost in the mix of instrumentation.
The only supplement is a handful of brief interviews with some of the members of the band. The interviews are subtitled in English, French, Dutch, and Spanish, though the main concert is not.
If you're into Ronnie James, Dio: Holy Diver Live (Blu-Ray) will leave you with little gripe about. The singer is in top form, and the complete performance of his most famous record is a rare treat. The Blu-ray isn't state-of-the-art, but its audio/video presentation trumps anything that standard definition can deliver.
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