THE ARCHIVE: Live Review – Heaven & Hell / Black Sabbath

The status of ‘Rock ‘n’ Roll Royalty’ is conferred, these days, on any band that has managed to maintain the interest of their record label for more than six months. I heard the term applied to McFly recently, honest to God.

Ronnie James Dio is a vocalist with the blue blood of hard rock nobility coursing through his veins. Once memorably referred to as ‘that f**king four-foot yank’ by Ozzy Osbourne, the man he replaced in Black Sabbath, he had already made three era-defining albums with Ritchie Blackmore’s Rainbow when he joined Birmingham’s most celebrated satanic baby-eaters, and was about to produce another, Heaven & Hell.

This Sabbath line-up (re-branded for contractual reasons) has been touring the world’s arenas for months performing a set drawn exclusively from the three post-Ozzy albums they made together.

All that goat blood and human sacrifice has clearly worked wonders – the band may now qualify for their bus passes (Dio really does), but from a few rows back this could have been the Sabbath of 25 years ago, when the vinyl pressings of H&H were first flying out of the shops.

In truth, hard rock is a conservative church – the assembled greasers of all ages and every level of fiscal solvency, social rank and sobriety, knew exactly what they wanted: all the hits, the drum solos, the lightshow and the backdrops delivered with nary a hint of irony. This kind of audience – more like a host of orcs than an audience, actually – is not the Scissor Sisters’ natural constituency.

The band, wholly predictably, produced the goods in spades; not only looking but sounding exactly like their younger selves. Favouring darkly melodic material from the Heaven & Hell and The Mob Rules albums over the more conventionally metallic (and less good) Dehumanizer title, the show could, by a sterner critic than I, be described as a touch formulaic.

But bugger that sterner critic, it’s a good formula and I like it. So did the attendant black-clad faithful.

Richard Hodkinson

Photo: londontourpix

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