DIO / Evil Or Divine a very special a thing of magic

6 February 2021

With a remastered sound, revamped cover artwork and additional goodies added to the CD and vinyl versions, this is a posthumous re-issue of Dio’s 2002 live album ‘Evil or Divine’.

Dio – Evil or Divine, Live in New York City

Recorded 13 December 2002 – Roseland Ballroom, New York

Release Date: 12 February 2021

Words: Mark Rotherham

If, like me, you already bought the original version, you might be tempted to add this to your collection with the added drum solo and bonus track, ‘Lord of the Last Day’. However, this is probably not aimed at existing fans, but keeping Ronnie James Dio’s name out there and maybe attracting some new listeners.

And why not? Because let’s face it, the man was an absolute legend. And I could write pages about his voice, his singing, his talent and uniqueness, but hey, tell us something we do not already know, right?

So let’s get on with the music.

This album was recorded during the band’s ‘Killing The Dragon’ tour, which meant it was no major surprise that ‘Killing The Dragon’ was also the opening track. However, it was bit of a move away from tradition, as most Dio live sets started with ‘Stand up and Shout’. But it is a good, solid track, with the atmospheric keyboard opening giving way to Doug Aldrich’s chugging guitar riff and the immense vocal power of the man himself.

Photo of Ronnie James Dio

This tour, and this period in time was a real renaissance for the band, as ‘Magica’ and ‘Killing The Dragon’ marked a return to the powerful, mystical Heavy Metal that Dio, the band and singer, were always known for, having lost their way slightly during the Strange Highways/Angry Machines era.

And what a start, with Dio’s singing a perfect foil to Aldrich’s screaming solos, which match anything that Blackmore did and that’s saying something (Sorry, Yngwie).

Egypt, a rare opener

What follows the title track opener is a rare treat for Dio concerts, ‘Egypt (The Chains are on)’, although why this was only occasionally part of the live set eludes me (by my reckoning, last heard on the 1990 ‘Lock up the Wolves’ tour).

The band really rise to the occasion with this song, matching the majesty of the recorded version as the song powers along, and then halfway through we are treated to ‘Children of the Sea’. As the audience make themselves and their appreciation heard, I wonder to myself which Ronnie Dio era I liked best, and the answer has to be his own band, simply because you do not have to choose. A Dio concert is a sublime blend of Rainbow, Sabbath and Dio all wrapped into one.

And it simply does not get any better than that.

After the musical history lesson in eighties super-Metal, it is back up to date with ‘Push’, an addictively catchy song from the then current album. It would be so easy to say that Dio were just about the singer and nothing else, but that would be wrong. All points come together, and no more so than on this song, which is delivered with as much energy as if the band were in their twenties as opposed to…well, not.

Straight after a razor-wire solo, Simon Wright’s super-tight drumming really makes itself heard. Never mind being there, I’m freaking out all round my living room listening to this.

Vinyl set of Evil Or Divine, from Ronnie James DIO

The first bonus track is next, and it’s Simon Wright’s drum solo. Now, Ronnie James Dio was nothing if not a traditional Rock musician and the drum solo being a part of live Rock tradition, you know there is going to be one at a Dio concert. Personally, meh, I’m not a huge fan of them, but there is no denying the energy with which Simon Wright really went at it on this album.

And he had some big shoes to fill, taking over the engine room from Vinnie Appice, but he definitely did the job and then some. The crowd followed him enthusiastically and towards the end, he gets a bit of orchestral keyboard support which definitely adds some dimension. Then Ronnie roars out Simon’s name and it’s on to the next song, ‘Stand up and Shout’.

This was the first Dio song that any of us ever heard, the first track on the band’s first album, and it is peerless Heavy Metal that has stood untarnished since 1983. Nobody, nobody with just a smidgen of Metal in their souls can remain unmoved by this song and on this live version, it retains all of its strength and immediacy.

Even though Ronnie Dio and Jimmy Bain are the only original band members from the time this was recorded, the fluency remains. The audience duly stood up and shouted when prompted and Doug Aldrich owned the solo as though it was his song.

Rock And Roll

Next up is ‘Rock and Roll’, the third song from ‘Killing the Dragon’, a much slower song than the one before, but still oozing menace, while the audience joins in for the chorus as though it had been part of the live set for years.

“Here’s one you may remember from Holy Diver,” says Ronnie and cheers wash over the stage, as ‘Don’t Talk to Strangers’ is announced to cheers of expectation. This song is an absolute classic, with a slow start that morphs into the most corrosive Metal you have ever heard in your life. There is something absolutely magical about this song, it’s tenderness and aggression, pure and defiled, diamond and coal all mixed together in one undefinable package of pure Metal.

And that solo, oh that solo. Sure, Viv Campbell spawned it, but Doug Aldrich made it his on this night. It is moments like this that you realise you are in the presence of true greatness. And yes, it is the voice, it is the singer, but it is nothing without the band, and let’s never forget that.

“Thank you,” says Ronnie, at the end of the song. “Thank you, Dio,” says the rest of the entire world.

‘If Don’t Talk to Strangers’ was a trip back in time, ‘The Man on the Silver Mountain’ goes even further back, and what a trip it is. None of this will come as any surprise to a single Dio fan out there. To anyone else, are you in for a treat if you are listening to this for the first time. This is one hundred per cent entertainment, and no one is leaving the place short-changed.

As with many live Dio songs, it morphs effortlessly into another, but this time, we are transported into Doug Aldrich’s quirky and changeable guitar solo. As with the drums, this is a Dio concert, and you know it is coming, so soak it up and enjoy. How many times in your life do you get Doug Aldrich doing his thing in your speakers? I’m just loving that mid-range distortion.

The guitar solo powers on, then gets joined in by bass and drums, really adding some meat to these bones. Lots of soaring notes and tones, this is amazing stuff.

And what comes after ‘Man on the Silver Mountain’? You know it, you love it. That’s right, it’s ‘Long Live Rock ‘n’ Roll’, “banners held high with a curse and a cry.”

And you ask yourself, can this get any better? It will, it can, because we are only half way through. Here comes the crowd join-in, singing “Long Live Rock ‘n’ Roll,” and you just know you do not want to be anywhere else. After that, we are back to ‘The Man on the Silver Mountain’ for the song/medley’s finale.

Now, I’ve been to Metal concerts. I have been to a lot of Metal concerts. And thanks to this job, I have heard a few more Metal concerts. But no one, and I mean absolutely no one, can join songs together as seamlessly as Ronnie Dio did. If you have seen or heard the magic just once or a hundred times, then count yourself fortunate you were there.

Magica

Next up is the second bonus track and first from the ‘Magica’ album, ‘Lord of the Last Day’, a slow, slow song that really shows off Ronnie’s booming vocals, sandwiched between screaming guitar licks and all held together by a super-tight rhythm section. Even Jimmy Bain gets in on the act with a few cheeky bass lines.

‘Lord of the Last Dance’ is followed up by ‘Fever Dreams’, second song on this set from the ‘Magica’ album, with a super-stonking riff that’s more addictive than anything you can get legally. And then we are into a trip back in time, beginning with ‘Holy Diver’, title track of Dio’s first album.

It is impossible to overstate the sheer strength of these songs, even with this well-produced live album. Ask anyone who saw Dio live, and when songs like this come trundling over your synapses, you can not help but feel their awesome power. This song was over twenty years old when this live album was recorded, but it is still as fresh and immediate as it ever was, while Doug Aldrich does an almost note for note recreation of Vivian Campbell’s original solo.

And then, possibly the most doom-laden riff ever, it’s ‘Heaven and Hell’, and you know why Ronnie James Dio was probably the only vocalist in the world who could ever have filled the double O’s shoes in Sabbath, but that is a whole ‘nother discussion for a whole ‘nother time.

Just sit back, turn up the volume and exult.

Once again Doug Aldrich comes up absolute trumps here, utterly nailing the Iommi lines and solos. Immense stuff. Everything you would expect from a Dio concert is here, including the longer, deeper, ‘live’ version of ‘Heaven and Hell’. If you’ve seen it, heard it, you’ll know what I mean, and it’s right here on this album.

“We are the strongest people on earth, we are the last in line,” says Ronnie, and you know what is coming next. This, the title track of Dio’s second album, is just utterly monstrous. The slow acoustic-like intro lulls the unwary, before the super-high octane riffs explode somewhere between your eyes.

“Thank you so much,” roars Ronnie, at the song’s end, before introducing the band and then shouting out, “and we are….Dio!” I so remember hearing that at many a UK venue.

But still not to be outdone, first and second Dio albums compete. ‘The Last in Line’ is followed by ‘Rainbow in the Dark’, instantly recognisable and massively autobiographical, the song retains its magic after all these years and will not fail to move you.

But what song finishes a Dio concert? What song always finishes a Dio concert? Or at least, has done since their second album. It’s ‘We Rock’, and an absolute seminal slice of pure Heavy Metal genius. How many Metal songs with rock in the title sound cheesy? Pretty much every one except this one, which oozes menace, malevolence, and just a small light of hope.

But hey, wasn’t that just Ronnie all over?

This song is the ideal high speed, intense final song to any Metal concert, and Doug Aldrich again hits the solo right, with just a few of his own licks thrown in. The crowd join in for the chorus and the concert, and the album reaches an explosive finale.

I do not think there could ever be such a thing as a routine Dio concert, whether it is a stadium, a festival, or venue of any size.

A Dio concert was always very special a thing of magic, and this live album tells you exactly why.

Line Up:
Vocals:  Ronnie James Dio
Guitar:  Doug Aldrich
Bass:  Jimmy Bain
Drums:  Simon Wright
Keyboards:  Scott Warren

Tracklist:
1. Killing The Dragon
2. Egypt (The Chains Are On)/Children of the Sea
3. Push
4. Drum Solo – Simon Wright
5. Stand Up And Shout
6. Rock and Roll
7. Don’t Talk To Strangers
8. Man On The Silver Mountain, Guitar Solo – Doug Aldrich, Long Live Live Rock ‘N’ Roll
9. Lord Of The Last Day
10. Fever Dreams
11. Holy Diver
12. Heaven And Hell
13. The Last In Line
14. Rainbow In The Dark
15. We Rock

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