December 12, 1993: Mariah Carey, Janet Jackson, and Whitney Houston were owning the American airwaves, but over in London’s Hammersmith Apollo, a different soaring voice — one that veered more toward doom than bubblegum — was showing how it’s really done. Dio: Live in London Hammersmith Apollo 1993 (Eagle Rock Entertainment) captures Ronnie James Dio (with band: drummer Vinny Appice, bassist Jeff Pilson, guitarist Tracy G, and keyboard player Scott Warren … yep, instrumental solos abound) at his peak-wizard powers.
The setlist is, naturally, packed with jams that were new at the time (the tour was in support of the band’s Strange Highways album), as well as plenty of songs spanning Dio’s career as solo artist and frontman of various bands: “Holy Diver,” “Stand Up and Shout,” “Heaven and Hell,” “Rainbow in the Dark,” “Man on the Silver Mountain,” “We Rock” and “The Mob Rules” (“of course, that one from the Sabs,” he points out).
The set is stripped-down — aside from the amps (SO MANY AMPS … eight Marshall stacks), it’s just dudes in black wielding instruments (and flowing hair), and youuuuu know who holding it down center-stage, wearing a subdued cross necklace but occasionally flashing the devil-horns hand gesture he’s credited with inventing, or at least introducing into heavy-metal culture.
The DVD insert contains a short essay sharing band members’ memories of Dio, who died in 2010 (Warren recalls they had the same favorite meal: curry), and of the 1993 gig (moments before they took the stage, Warren says, “You could hear a pin drop, except for Ronnie’s occasional gentle throat clear, and the clicking of his cough drop”).
DVD extras include the 20-minute featurette “Hangin’ With the Band,” a backstage glimpse at Dio (yes! chomping a cough drop!) and company as they load in from a tour bus parked on the rainy London street outside the venue, go through sound check, prep backstage, unwind post-concert, etc. It’s a pretty PG-rated affair — no debauchery (just beer and Gatorade), no Spinal Tap-style revelations, and certainly no Satanic rituals (though a hair dryer does get sacrificed, in honor of the tour ending). It’s just a bunch of self-described “mellow” guys who are super-stoked to be playing music together.
“I look forward to playing with this band every night,” Dio enthuses as he’s getting stage make-up applied (foundation, mascara, and just a swipe of eyeliner). “After doing it for 3,000 years, as I have, it’s kind of special to be able to still enjoy it as much. More, really.”