Ticket Stub: Dio in Philadelphia, August ’84

Written by Music, Ticket Stub

For this week’s Ticket Stub, Matt Wardlaw looks back on a face-melting Dio gig from the summer of 1984.

This week’s unfortunate passing of Ronnie James Dio sent the albums and live performances from his vast catalog into heavy rotation in my world (and I know that my fellow metal fans have joined me in this musical method of remembrance).  As an individual, Dio was short and petite, yet he carried himself with the power and passion of an eight foot tall warrior.  To see Dio storm and stomp around onstage, with that fire in his eyes while singing about your future life in hell, you started going through the mental checklist and asking yourself, “do I have all of my affairs in order? Because it very well could all end here tonight!”

There will never be another band or artist like Ronnie James Dio.  Recent entries like 3 Inches of Blood and Dragonforce might cover similar subject matter, but the concert dudes at Wolfgang’s Vault note wisely that if any band today were to attempt a show in the vein of what Dio did back in the day, they’d probably be laughed off of the stage.  These are different times, and often, it’s simply cost-prohibitive to mount a tour featuring dragons and a giant castle built to scale.  It’s hard to come across good knights that are skilled in sword fighting in the midst of hazy smoke and lasers, and with security concerns always on the rise, you can forget about getting those swords and suits of armor through customs at the border patrol.  And it’s a real bitch, getting the lawyers to sign off on dragons – something about security concerns, and a shortage of flame retardant Devo suits for the stage crew.

Now, keeping all of the above in mind, I will say that the stage setup for the Heaven & Hell (*cough* Black Sabbath *cough*) tour in 2007 was pretty bad ass.  For anyone that caught that tour, they definitely put a big chunk of the box office receipts right back into making the theatrics of the show as cool as they could possibly be.  With the exception of Iron Maiden and a few other fellow old school bands, you just don’t see enough tours like that these days.

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This week’s edition of Ticket Stub remembers the days when exorbitantly over the top stage shows were the norm, and the Dio show came fully loaded with both castle and dragon, and in fact, the rumor is that the dragon might still be lurking in Philly where this particular show was recorded.  While we’d love to confirm rumors that the dragon has been contracted to help with the pending demolition of the Spectrum, we will hold off on creating any unnecessary controversy…until we have pictures of the dragon, that is.  Instead, we invite you to direct your attention to this fine Dio concert, recorded during the early days of touring in support of the band’s second album The Last in Line, which had just been released one month prior.  The album would eventually go platinum, and it had one of the most bad ass album covers released in the ’80s.  (Paging Jefito, we need an Uncovered piece on this album cover, STAT.)  Shawn Colvin wishes that she could have had an album cover this cool.

The Last in Line was one of the final albums to be recorded at James William Guercio’s Caribou Ranch in Colorado.  You know – the same studio where Chicago and Elton John recorded a bunch of albums?  Yeah, that’s the one.  Check out this short timeline of events:  Dio records The Last in Line at Caribou in 1984, and then the studio is destroyed by fire less than a year later in March of 1985.  Coincidence?

If you’re looking for a good show to spin in Ronnie’s memory, this Spectrum show will not disappoint your auditory cravings, and in fact, the 22 minute mashup of “Heaven & Hell” with “The Last in Line”  that I mentioned in my previous Dio thoughts earlier this week, ranks way up there as one of Dio’s finest recorded moments.  (Regrettably, I don’t think that I can embed the whole thing here, since it’s broken up into several tracks, so you’ll have to click through to the link to hear it in sequence.  Which is fine, since you need to listen to the whole damn show anyway!)  The Dio band is in fine form with former Rough Cutt keyboard player Claude Schnell joining the already established Dio lineup featuring bassist Jimmy Bain, drummer Vinny Appice, and Vivian Campbell (who would stick around the Dio camp for one more album, departing after Sacred Heart).

With the exception of potentially the Tracy G. era, the musicianship in Dio’s band was always top notch, and I never saw a bad Dio show.  I’m really going to miss that short demonic little fella.

Listen to this entire show at Concert Vault by clicking here.