Concert Review: Heaven and Hell

On opening night in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada, 9,000 fans assembled to pay homage to the heavy metal living legends of Heaven and Hell as they kick off their world tour.

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If you?ve never heard of them, Heaven and Hell is the reunion of Ronnie James Dio, Tony Iommi, Geezer Butler and Vinny Appice, who previously toured the world and recorded under their more familiar name, Black Sabbath, in the post-Ozzy, early ?80s and again in the early ?90s.

After the familiar instrumental ?E5150,? a large, dark curtain dropped to reveal Black Sabbath, or Heaven and Hell, perched upon a magnificent, larger-than-life, medieval castle stage set.

Amid giant, brick pillars and flickering torches, the band lurched into the slow, but crushingly heavy, ?After All.? The downtrodden number from Dehumanizer seemed like an odd choice to greet its throng of followers, but Heaven And Hell quickly followed that with an instantly recognizable, and altogether rip-roaring, version of ?The Mob Rules.”

While it had been 15 years since this lineup played together, they were extremely tight, even on the songs they hadn?t touched in decades. Guitar icon Tony Iommi unleashed riff after monstrous riff through his Gibson SG, alongside his longtime Sabbath cohort and partner in crime, Geezer Butler. They broke character and smiled to each other from across the vast stage before Geezer hit those initial, grumbling bass notes for ?Lady Evil,? played this night for the first time in 26 years, the first of many such uncommonly played anthems to appear.

Vinny Appice, who was second choice for this tour (behind original Sabbs drummer Bill Ward), was really the unsung hero here. Appice hit with a heavy hand, yet still found time to add little nuances, like extra rolls to ?Neon Knights,? (originally recorded by Ward), as well as inject additional fills to even his own drum work on ?Computer God.?

Of course, the center spotlight in the castle?s court was reserved for Ronnie James Dio, who stands miles taller than his 5-foot, 4-inch frame. While vocalists from his same class can, unfortunately, no longer replicate their own material (Osbourne, Gillan, Halford), Dio?s voice was as clear and strong as ever.

From the pure majesty of ?Neon Knights? to the quiet subtleties during the midsection of ?Die Young,? the pint-sized performer?s voice was infallible.

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