Sunday, September 02, 2007

Heaven and Hell

Back in college days, the days when my knowledge on heavy metal was still evolving, I still remember listening to a song called "Holy Diver" by Ronnie James Dio. I instantly fell in love with his voice, stable as rock, powerful and reckless as a berserk. For next few years I had lost touch with Dio's voice, till I got the rapturous news of Black Sabbath - Heaven and Hell concert in Monterrey. I got three albums - Heaven and Hell, Mob Rules and Dehumanizer and got my ears tuned back to Dio. I listen to it over and over again, back to back, non-stop, day in day out.

9:30 PM, September 1st 2007 - Black Sabbath brought both Heaven and Hell to Arena Monterrey. We were just on time for the concert, while be grabbed our beers and entered the hall the Gods had already started their opening track dedicated to us "Mob Rules". I was awestruck at the energy levels and consistency and power and intonation and quality of Dio, 65 year old frontman. Not an ounce of any of those has diminished with his age. It was an indoor arena with crowd on three sides of the stage, we were on to the left of the band at an elevation. The crowd was going crazy to Iommi's riffs, banging their heads, gulping their beers, completely immersed in sheer classic heavy metal music. Most of them were dressed in black, had long hair which kept oscillating rhythmically due to head banging. The ambience was a typical metal concert one, darkness around with the bright stage in the center, sound quality was of high fidelity and of crystal clarity. The backdrop was the cover of "Heaven and Hell", three angels smoking, playing cards.

"Children of the sea" followed the "Mob Rules". As Dio started "In the misty morning, on the edge of time, we've lost the rising sun...." the crowd began to do the wave thingy with lighters lit and in no time transitioned to heavy riffs and made us bang our heads and sing along "Children of the sea...oooooooooo...".

Iommi, known for his mammoth heavy riffs, was dressed in black long leather jacket and was belting out his best riffs in the most humble manner -no monkey tricks, no flashy styles, no guitar swinging, no fancy picking.

They dished out more songs from Mob Rules - The Sign Of The Southern Cross, Falling Off The Edge Of The World and Voodoo. We were singing along for most of these songs, playing air guitar, banging heads, gesturing Dio's favorite "Devil's horn". Voodoo ended with an extended play by Dio screaming Voooooooooooodoooooooooooo pointing to each artists with heavy drum beats which was a kick-ass one. Falling Off The Edge Of The World, was like "made for headbanging" song, it had real rocking riffs and was a favorite of mine, especially the one that starts at second minute.

Dio walked out giving the stage to the New Yorker on the drums. Vinny Appice thrashed a 7 minute long drums solo. He controlled the crowd with his drum beats, we throbbed to his beats with rhythmic cheers.

They also performed "Shadow of the Wind", the new song born out of Dio's project with Black Sabbath. With that song, they proved that they are still able to maintain the Black Sabbath signature riffs for nearly three decades. It was a very meaningful songs with lines like:
"Still you chase what you can't see
Like death and pain and sin
And the Shadow of The Wind
The Shadow of The Wind"

After this song, I was screaming "Heaaaavvvennnnnnn and Heellllllllllllll", tearing my throat out with all the energy. Like God fulfilling the wish of his devotee, Iommi started the riffs which received the loudest response...yeah!!! Finally they started off with "Heaven and Hell", the track I was waiting for. Dio started off with "OoooooOOOOooooooOOOO" thing which we metal fans are so good at following and the whole arena was echoing with humming sound of the riff. Dio pulled crowd with his most amazing stage presence getting a thunderous ovation. They played a 9 minute extended version of the song, the guitar lead in the middle of the song was completely a different one and the stage was dominated by Iommi for nearly 4 minutes of extended solo which was brilliant. After bestowing their divinity with the title track, they stopped and the stage went dark.

The crowd started "We want more!!!", I was shouting "Neon Knights" and it looked as though the Gods were very kind on me. The encore consisted of one and only one song - "Neon Knights". I think every damned person inside the arena sang along "Oh no, here it comes again...." and the chorus was a thunderous "Neon Kniiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiights". Iommi's leads were once again full of divinity and excellence. Dio got a Mexican flag from the fans in front, he waved it and with all the reverence he folded it and took it along with him. Butler and Iommi threw candies at the crowd, Appice hurled his drumsticks and with no more gestures the band walked backstage.

Iron Maiden concert review:

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