While the band morphed so many times that it's tough to call anything a true Sabbath reunion, everyone and their stud-jacket granny is calling it that. Ozzy who?
Okay, I give up . . . can someone tell me when Ronnie James Dio sold his soul to the Devil? That's the only way he could sound as good in 2007 as he did in 1977. It defies every law of physics and nature: it's the only way the wee metal gypsy have the same pipes that he did back in his Rainbow days. There’s black magic afoot. Over the past three decades, the guy has not only lapped every other aging vocalist in his peer group, he's embarrassed them. Plant? Daltrey? Coverdale? Gillan? Diamond Dave? Shells of their former selves. Not even the still-pretty-damn-good Rob Halford can hold a tuning fork to Dio. Add in the inverse proportion of Ronnie James' modest stature to his vocal might and you've got a genuine metallic conundrum. So the Devil has taken Dio's pink slip, and he's given him vocal chords of high-tensile steel in trade. No complaints from this metal head . . . none whatsoever. As a matter of fact, based upon Dio's recent gig in New York City, I may even send Lucifer a "thank you" note. Everyone and their stud-jacketed granny is calling it The Black Sabbath Reunion Tour, which, in a six-degrees-of-separation way, is true. But the band has morphed so many times over the years, it's tough to accurately call anything a Sabbath reunion, unless you send out some extra invites. And don't forget a place setting for Bev Bevan, the guy from the Move. It's the same incestuous-transient-band-member thing as Deep Purple, but that's a story for another day. Revolving-door rosters be damned -- we're in another decade, another where Dio has not decayed, and he's touring with the second most popular incarnation of Black Sabbath proper: Tony Iommi on guitar, Geezer Butler on bass, and Vinnie Appice on drums. The same post-Ozzy line-up that gave us the album Heaven and Hell in 1980, which suffered the unfortunate "right place, wrong time" fate, going up against AC/DC's Back In Black. Good stuff, nonetheless, and proof that Dio was a worthy successor to the Wizard of Oz. (By the way, notice the album title? Exactly.) Anyway, years after their prime, these tired, aging blokes must be, well, tired and aging, right? Uh, no. As a matter of fact, Dio and his immortal voice box are given a hearty run by Iommi, Butler, and Appice, and I can't think of another singer who could keep up. * * * After a handful of warm-up shows, Heaven and Hell descends upon Radio City without current tour opener Megadeth. A small loss, but no worries: the solo gig is being recorded for DVD posterity, thus no one thinks too long about Dave Mustaine's absence. I grab a spot in the serpentine line crawling up the block. It moves at glacial speed thanks to Murphy's Law of Concerts which dictates that whatever line you get in, it will be the slowest. And I've got Mr. Over-Zealous giving my group the thorough shakedown -- guess he's bucking for that promotion to the airport security job. Uh, no sir, that's not a weapon of mass destruction in my jacket pocket … it's a friggin' Sharpie. To take notes. During the concert. Jesus Horatio Christ, it's like trying to get into the Pentagon past closing time. After finally circumnavigating Checkpoint Charlie, I make my way up to my front-row balcony seats. A quick look around . . .what's this place hold? Five, maybe six thousand? And nary a rock chick to be seen. It's the oddest demographic I've ever experienced at a concert -- virtually 99% alpha male. Such is the legacy of Sabbath Mark II.