Heaven & Hell Fulfills their Destiny in Chicago: Fantastic set by Dio-led group overcomes weather, opening act.
There is something fitting that the day of Heaven and Hell’s show in Chicago the sky darkened with brooding clouds in the middle of the afternoon. It finally opened as an avalanche of rain on the innocent countryside toward sundown time. The onslaught ended, however, about a quarter hour before the show began, as if the Metal Gods had convinced Zeus himself to end the torrent.
Coheed and Cambria took the stage promptly at 7:00 PM and played 50 minutes with no encore. Their songs were executed well, but the show as a whole didn’t have much take on the crowd. The easy highlight was the cover of Iron Maiden’s “The Trooper” - It is never a good sign when the most popular song played is a cover. A few folks were fans, most politely listened. Even though this was Coheed & Cambria’s second concert in Chicago in two weeks, they played at the Lollapalooza Festival as well, they did not seem to have a well received second act in the city.
By the time Heaven and Hell took the stage at 8:20 PM, the pavilion was only half full and the band would not get many more followers once the set started, despite the show being practically sold out. Even though capacity was washed-out by the midday rain, the true believers were rewarded for their faith. The band ripped into “Mob Rules” and the flock went predictably frothy. “Children of the Sea” was a tour de force. The brooding guitar melody and Dio’s falsetto rose eerily into the night; on one side of the séance was the Chicago skyline at dusk, on the other Lake Michigan slowly sank into inky sleep, and above tombstone gray clouds drifted slowly by, covering the stars and sky to the earthbound dreamers.
Dio was effusive and charismatic, dressed in leather pants and a loose black shirt with sequined web-style creases. He chatted with the crown between every song, providing rambling but friendly commentary on the recording of band’s albums, the state of the world, the songs’ lyrical content, and the weather. He genuinely thanked the crowd for coming despite the weather at every turn.
The rest of Heaven and Hell also seemed quite comfortable. Geezer Butler and Tony Iommi were dressed in their traditional all black with leather overcoats, while Vinny Appice’s tree-trunk arms flailed from the sides of a sleeveless shirt, buried in his tremendous drum kit. Dio and Iommi smiled and joked to each other all night, while Appice got the crowd enthusiastically involved in a call-and-response section during his solo.
The band’s sound is based on heavy blues and hard rock, not the extreme metal of modern times. Even so, when played live the music is as heavy and crushing as any modern metal band. “I” and “Falling Off the Edge of the World” were monoliths built at the height of their power, while “Bible Black” and “Time Machine” rolled crushing riffs across the Lake Michigan shallows. As the band played song after song, the crowd got more and more animated. There was an initial degree of unfamiliarity, as many fans commented they were not familiar with much, or any, of the Dio-fronted Black Sabbath catalog. But as the band ground out each brutal song, even the new converts became convinced. By the time Iommi took his extended solo toward the end of the set, the disciples were cheering constantly.
The triptych to finish the show was one of the most powerful three song collections ever played live. “Die Young,” “Heaven and Hell” and the encore of “Neon Knights” blew away even the most seasoned fans or long-term worshippers. Iommi’s solo in “Heaven and Hell” was another long draw and it extended the song’s slow crescendo out even further than normal, so that by the time Dio blasted through the final chorus the crowd was ready to storm the castle, crusading to save any non-believers. By the time “Neon Knights” has ended and the band departed, it took a while for the crowd to disperse, still in awe of the triumph they had just witnessed.
Side note: Your correspondent was lucky enough to encounter Ronnie James Dio the morning of the concert. Both were eating lunch in the food court of Chicago’s Water Tower, a large downtown mall. While Dio was not in much of a situation to greet well-wishers at that particular moment, it was amusing to overhear the cashier thank “Mr. Dio” for coming, and she hoped he would come again soon. Your correspondent can also confirm that the rumors of Dio’s diminutive state are true, if not even under-stated. He is an impressively small man, making his vocal exploits even more amazing.
Coheed & Cambria
1. No World For Tomorrow
2. Gravemakers & Gunslingers
3. In Keeping Secrets of Silent Earth: 3
4. Ten Speed (Of God's Blood and Burial)
5. The End Complete III / The Trooper Medley
6. Al the Killer
7. Welcome Home
8. The Final Cut
Heaven & Hell
1. Mob Rules
2. Children of the Sea
4. Bible Black
5. Time Machine
6. Drum Solo
8. Falling Off the Edge of the World
9. Follow the Tears
10. Guitar Solo
11. Die Young
12. Heaven and Hell
13. Neon Knights (encore)
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