It’s only right that on his birthday, this star-studded tribute show is held to raise funds for cancer research in the name of Ronnie James Dio. Put together by Wendy Dio, the event highlights her late husband’s stellar career from Rainbow through to his time with Sabbath and onto his own self-titled outfit, bringing together a mix of performances and interviews with Ronnie’s famous fans and friends.
Words: Paul Monkhouse
Hosted by Matt Pinfield and the ever-reliable and knowledgeable Eddie Trunk, this two-hour blast of some of the finest rock music of the past fifty years celebrated the man considered by many to be the finest vocalist of this or any other genre.
Kicking off with Dio Disciples, fronted by Oni Logan, the band tore into Children Of The Sea, the Black Sabbath classic played with fire, especially with the six string wizardry of Rowan Robertson showing exactly why RJD employed the Cambridge seventeen year old to replace the departing Craig Goldie in 1989.
Following this was family band Liliac tackling Last In Line, singer Melody renowned for her powerful and rough-edged vocals, but her delivery here was very overly mannered, adding unnecessary flourishes and distracting from the song itself.
Tim “Ripper” Owens joined Dio Disciples for a run-through of Mob Rules, the singer, like others to come, strangely superimposed on the band, having recorded his piece elsewhere. Fortunately, Anthrax frontman Joey Belladonna was able to make it for the next section, his rendition of Heaven And Hell highlighting his range and its suitability to the material.
Replete with a big white beard and subtle disco lights, Metal God Rob Halford joined the party from what looked like his living room, his distinctive style nailing a sizzling Man On A Silver Mountain. The same song was repeated straight afterwards in some sort of strange programming, this time with Belladonna flexing his pipes, giving a chance for those watching to compare the two vocalists interpretation.
Much feted by RJD himself, Lzzy Hale was another superimposed figure fronting the Disciples, but her ferocious and jaw-dropping take on Straight Through The Heart was one of the clear highlights of the event.
Tenacious D gave a fun but heartfelt Heaven And Hell/Holy Diver acoustic medley, Gass and Black tipping a respectful hat to an artist they knew as a friend. Belladonna followed it up with his rendition of the titular track of Dio’s solo debut. There was time for another superimposed performance, this time by actress/singer Lena Hall of Rainbow In The Dark, the award-winning Broadway star joined by the Disciples featuring the quicksilver fretwork of Jasmine Star, another ridiculously talented guitar-slinging teen following in the footsteps of Robertson.
Another highlight saw a stunning acoustic version of Heaven And Hell with Great White/XYZ vocalist Terry Ilous at the helm and the playing of Luis Villegas and Andres Vadim equally as impressive as anyone who’d come before. Mixing rock, soul and flamenco, the seated performance was a unique twist on the material and a nice foot of the gas.
Following a drum battle by Carmine and Vinnie Appice, both with their own links to Sabbath vocalists, The Last Vegas frontman Chad Cherry tackled Time Machine from Sabbath reunion album Dehumanizer before Ricky Warwick added his own stamp on a compelling solo acoustic rendition of Thin Lizzy’s Southbound.
Belladonna returned for the final, impressive run of Neon Knights and Long Live Rock ‘N’ Roll before “Ripper” Owens and Oni Logan joined forces on the closing We Rock, bringing the evening to a propulsive and adrenaline-soaked climax.
Interspersed throughout the music, interviews with some of the performers, along with Lita Ford, Alice Cooper, Lejon Witherspoon, Tony Iommi, Geezer Butler, Duff McKagan, Sammy Hagar, Glenn Hughes and Wendy Dio, all paid warm and very personal tributes to RJD, giving an insight into the man himself.
What came over most throughout was the way that it was more than the music that marked Dio’s career, as filled with stone-cold classics as it was.
Here was a man who lived his life for others, his musical creativity a lifelong passion but equal to his mutual love and respect to both fans and friends.
As the credit rolled, Dio’s original version of Stand Up And Shout blasted out, showing that truly, here was a genuine world-class talent, and nobody did it better than Ronnie.