Dio - 'Live at Donington UK 1983 & 1987' (Niji Entertainment Group Inc) Print E-mail
CD Reviews
Written by Johnny H   
Monday, 08 November 2010 05:00

Dio_LiveWhen the Heavy Metal world lost the legendary frontman Robbie James Dio to cancer in May of this year, I like many others was stunned by the sudden nature of his passing.  It seemed like only a few months earlier that I had been moaning on about RJD's slightly flat vocal performance when I'd seen Heaven &Hell on what eventually would turn out to be their last UK Tour, and then suddenly his great talent was lost forever.  Or maybe not as the case may be, with this first official Dio approved release from the Niji Entertainment Group. 


That's because in the months leading up to his passing Ronnie was working as Executive Producer on this double disc Donington project, and was very much looking forward to it's release. As such it makes the whole package (the discs come housed in a gatefold sleeve complete with lavish sleeve notes and replica backstage passes) all the more personal a tribute to the man's musical legacy.  Bringing together the BBC recordings from the band's 1983 and 1987 performance at the then named Monsters of Rock Festival; this set charts the rise of Dio's solo years from 'Holy Diver' to 'Dream Evil' and from theatres to arenas worldwide.


Of the two discs it is the 1983 set that immediately had my head buzzing, as it was not only my first Monsters of Rock Festival but also Dio were the first band I actually got to see at the legendary venue (our bus taking nearly 7 hours to get from South Wales to the Midlands meaning we actually missed Diamond Head...Yeah I know) and while we are talking firsts here let's not forget this was also Dio the band's first live performance anywhere in the world.


For most UK rock fans the summer of 1983 had pretty much been sound tracked by two albums, Def Leppard's 'Pyromania' and Dio's 'Holy Diver' so you can imagine the excitement that was buzzing around the windy racetrack that day.  Twenty Sven years on all I could remember of the band's performance (before listening to this set) was being gob smacked by the impeccable vocal performance of Ronnie and the aggressive guitar work of Vivian Campbell, so I'm glad to say my memory served me well...very well indeed in fact, as the twelve track set is every bit as fantastic as it was the first time around.  Cherry picking some of choicest cuts from Dio's previous bands via stunners like  'Heaven And Hell' and 'Stargazer' and mixing them up with the standout cuts from the band's debut album like 'Rainbow In The Dark' and set opener' Stand Up And Shout' this was a set that could never fail to deliver, even if Vinnie Appice did feel the need to slot in yet another of his drum solos mid way through.  In hindsight Dio were perhaps not the best band of the day in 1983 (Whitesnake and Twisted Sister would take some beating that year), but in 1987 it was a whole different story.


By 1987 I think we'd managed to shave about an hour and a half off our journey time to Castle Donington, meaning that we not only managed to see all the bands on the line up but also stand in the pissing rain for that little bit longer (oh the irony).  Also in the four short years since Dio's last appearance at Monsters of Rock the UK rock music scene had split into the two camps of Thrash and Hair Metal, and if you ever needed proof of that, one quick look at 1987's MOR line up is all it will take.  What I do remember quite clearly from that year (apart from Bon Jovi's hilariously misspelt banner) was just how easily Dio playing as special guests went and stole the show from under the others noses, just by being.... Dio.


So whilst Bon Jovi pouted and forgot how to sing, and Metallica frowned and forgot to turn up, Ronnie and his band (by now with Craig Goldy on guitar) simply rolled up and pulled out the classics like 'Neon Knights' and 'Long Live Rock N Roll' along with newer tracks like 'Naked In The Rain' and literally went down a storm. Incidentally this show stealing ability was something I would witness Dio repeat quite some years later when a much different version of the band supported Alice Cooper on a UK Tour, but exactly as they did in 1987 the band simply cranked out the classics and let the music do the rest.


The world is undoubtedly a quieter place without the legendary voice and personality of Ronnie James Dio, but this 2CD set is a fitting reminder of just how important a part he played in making the Heavy Metal world what it is today, most importantly his music's timeless quality has the ability to live on forever, in fact long after all the fools have sailed away.