The only good thing that came from Ronnie Dio’s death is the number of reissues and live albums we’ve gotten since. One of the more overlooked eras of Dio was the “Tracy G” era, Strange Highways and Angry Machines. Dio had just reunited in the middle of the grunge movement. Tracy G (ex-WWIII) was not to everybody’s taste. While he could indeed shred, he also utilized shrill noise and harmonics in his guitar work which isn’t everybody’s cup of tea. He could, however, lend Dio a heavier edge necessary in 1993. Add in bassist Jeff Pilson from Dokken and veteran drummer Vinnie Appice and you have one hell of a lineup.
Dio assembled a setlist with his best material, but ignoring a couple albums. Lock Up the Wolves and Dream Evil were considered disappointments when they were new. Even Sacred Heart is skipped over on this live album, in favour of old classics and a healthy serving of new songs. Sabbath and Rainbow only get a song a piece.
The sound is bloody perfect, as if they meant to release a double live album all along. Having Pilson on bass lends a heavy, low grumble and immaculate backing vocals. Tracy G might be an acquired taste on guitar but there’s no question he could do the job. He gets an extended solo on “Pain” that displays shredding, noise and musicality. Vinnie Appice gets a long solo too, as part of a “Heaven and Hell” / “Man on the Silver Mountain” medley. Eventually the band returns and they pound out a machine gun riff with monstrous Pilson bass licks. Incidentally, it’s Jeff Pilson that captures that old Black Sabbath/Geezer Butler groove better than any other bassist Dio has had.
This is a phenomenal live album. Sure, you can buy live Dio with better known lineups and songs. You can get live stuff with Vivian Campbell or Craig Goldy. This setlist is considerably different from those, and the sound is heavy as hell!