PopMatters is moving to WordPress in December. We will continue to publish on this site as we work on the move. We aim to make it a seamless experience for readers.

Reviews

Heaven and Hell: Live at Radio City Music Hall [DVD]

After years in purgatory, Black Sabbath veterans reunite and create metal heaven.


Heaven and Hell

Heaven and Hell: Live at Radio City Music Hall [DVD]

Price: $19.98
MPAA rating: N/A
Label: Rhino
US Release Date: 2007-08-24
UK Release Date: 2007-08-27
Artist website
Amazon
iTunes

Two decades ago, Tony Iommi was about as washed-up a rock star as one could get. The guitarist was the lone original member carrying on the Black Sabbath name. This forced him into employing the services of countless supporting musicians and lead singers, (okay, more like a dozen in a few years, but that's still a ridiculous number). The resulting heavy metal temp agency putt out a string of inconsistent albums, and played to nearly-empty arenas. Even worse, they were often getting blown away by whatever band happened to be opening.

Even when the legendary riffmeister mended fences with Ozzy and Sharon in the late-90s, though the man sounded as solid as ever, the once-mighty Sabbath had been reduced to strictly a retro act. They seemed fated to be following Ozzy's tired lead of trotting out the same old standards over and over, OzzFest after OzzFest: "Iron Man", "War Pigs", "Paranoid"…yada, yada, yada. Pleasing for we fans, no question, but we had to wonder if there was any passion left in Sabbath anymore.

All it took was another reunion to give the metal progenitors a swift kick in the pants. The Mk. III lineup of Iommi, bassist Geezer Butler, singer Ronnie James Dio, and drummer Vinny Appice banded together under the moniker Heaven and Hell, (politely side-stepping the wrath of the Osbournes), for a year of touring in support of the excellent Rhino compilation The Best of Black Sabbath: The Dio Years. In the first couple weeks of the tour, as it trekked across Canada, word quickly spread about just how inspired the foursome was. The lost intensity that was last heard on such albums as 1981's Mob Rules and 1992's Dehumanizer, sounded fresh again.

By the time they hit the stage at Radio City Music Hall in late March, (see Adam Williams's review of the show), the old dudes sounded their most well-oiled in ages. They must have known well in advance that they were on to something good, as this show was set up to be filmed well before the tour started. A mere five months later, (an incredibly short time frame for a live DVD), we have a fabulous document of what was arguably the most pleasantly surprising band reunion of 2007.

Sabbath's output with Dio as the captain at the helm has always been appreciated by fans, (1980's Heaven and Hell is one of Sabbath's all-time best-sellers), but among casual listeners, his tenure has been rather underrated. Though many justifiably cling to the notion that Ozzy is the definitive voice of Black Sabbath, one cannot overlook the merits of the Dio albums. The greatest heavy metal singer of all time, Dio is also one of the most charismatic frontmen in history. The second he takes the mic with Sabbath, even today, old Leather Lungs infuses the band with an entirely new level of musical energy; Ozzy has always relied on his own inimitable stage presence, but what Dio gives us is sheer power, which his three bandmates feed off of, and as listeners and viewers, do we ever feel it on Live at Radio City Music Hall. This isn't a bunch of greybeards faithfully delivering rote renditions of classics. What we have on this famous stage is pure musical alchemy.

The two hour, 15 song set, not surprisingly, is centered on the three Dio albums. They toss out such overlooked nuggets as "I", "Voodoo", "Falling off the Edge of the World", and the endearingly goofy "Lady Evil", but equally impressive is just how well the new material holds up. Recorded for the Dio Years compilation, both "The Devil Cried" and "Shadow of the Wind" have the band sounding reinvigorated, with Iommi unleashing his most doom-ridden riffs since 1983's Born Again. Classic singles like "The Mob Rules", "Die Young", and the barnstorming "Neon Knights" sound fantastic, but the two showstoppers are the two epic tracks from Mob Rules and Heaven and Hell. "The Sign of the Southern Cross" is a marvel, as Appice, the master of the slow, crushing minimalist beat, downshifts to a crawl, as Iommi lets that distinctly ominous, yet warm tone of his Gibson SG mesh seductively with Butler's wah-wah enhanced bass notes. "Heaven and Hell", meanwhile, is transformed into a 15 minute opus; the perfect showcase for Dio (the song is his calling card), he puts in a dominating performance, aided brilliantly by some simple yet clever lighting effects.

For something that seems so hastily assembled, the DVD is extremely well put together. The concert is beautifully shot, giving us many different camera angles, from superb close-ups, to balcony shots, to views from down in the audience, yet there is nary a cameraman in full sight during the entire show, a testament to director Milton Lage. The editing is tasteful, allowing the cameras to dwell on the musicians, giving us good close-ups of Iommi's famous prosthetic fingertips shredding away on the fretboard. And the extras deliver as well, as we get a 20 minute documentary of the band on the road, interviews with fans on the street, and a cool behind the scenes glimpse at Radio City Music Hall with the theater's rather smug manager.

For music that is, in the minds of some, incredibly dour, it's amazing how plentiful the smiles are on this DVD, from the fans, to each member of the band. The guys are either approaching 60 or past 60, (Appice is the youngster of the group at 50), but watching them interact onstage and hearing them rediscover the magic that made Black Sabbath so great from 1969 to 1983 is a feel-good story we hope won't end anytime soon.

8

Please Donate to Help Save PopMatters

PopMatters have been informed by our current technology provider that we have until December to move off their service. We are moving to WordPress and a new host, but we really need your help to fund the move and further development.


Music

Books

Film

Recent
Music

'Wildflowers & All the Rest' Is Tom Petty's Masterpiece

Wildflowers is a masterpiece because Tom Petty was a good enough songwriter by that point to communicate exactly what was on his mind in the most devastating way possible.

Music

Jazz Composer Maria Schneider Takes on the "Data Lords" in Song

Grammy-winning jazz composer Maria Schneider released Data Lords partly as a reaction to her outrage that streaming music services are harvesting the data of listeners even as they pay musicians so little that creativity is at risk. She speaks with us about the project.

Music

The 100 Best Albums of the 2000s: 100-81

PopMatters' best albums of the 2000s begin with a series of records that span epic metal, ornate indie folk, and a terrifying work of electronic music.

Books

The Power of Restraint in Sophie Yanow, Paco Roca, and Elisa Macellari's New Graphic Novels

The magical quality that makes or breaks a graphic novel lies somewhere in that liminal space in which art and literature intersect.

Books

'People of the City' Is an Unrelenting Critique of Colonial Ideology and Praxis

Cyprian Ekwensi's People of the City is a vivid tale of class struggle and identity reclamation in the shadows of colonialism's reign.

Music

1979's 'This Heat' Remains a Lodestone for Avant-Rock Adventure

On their self-titled debut, available for the first time on digital formats, This Heat delivered an all-time classic stitched together from several years of experiments.

Film

'The Edge of Democracy' and Parallels of Political Crises

Academy Award-nominated documentary The Edge of Democracy, now streaming on Netflix, lays bare the political parallels of the rise of Bolsonaro's Brazil with Trump's America.

Music

The Pogues' 'The BBC Sessions 1984-1986' Honors Working-Class Heroes

The Pogues' BBC Sessions 1984-1986 is a welcome chapter in the musical story of these working-class heroes, who reminded listeners of the beauty and dignity of the strong, sooty backs upon which our industrialized world was built.

Music

Mary Halvorson Creates Cacophony to Aestheticize on 'Artlessly Falling'

Mary Halvorson's Artlessly Falling is a challenging album with tracks comprised of improvisational fragments more than based on compositional theory. Halvorson uses the various elements to aestheticize the confusing world around her.

Music

15 Overlooked and Underrated Albums of the 1990s

With every "Best of the '90s" retrospective comes a predictable list of entries. Here are 15 albums that are often overlooked as worthy of placing in these lists, and are too often underrated as some of the best records from the decade.

Books

'A Peculiar Indifference' Takes on Violence in Black America

Pulitzer Prize finalist Elliott Currie's scrupulous investigation of the impacts of violence on Black Americans, A Peculiar Indifference, shows the damaging effect of widespread suffering and identifies an achievable solution.

Music

20 Songs From the 1990s That Time Forgot

Rather than listening to Spotify's latest playlist, give the tunes from this reminiscence of lost '90s singles a spin.

Film

Delightful 'Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day' Is Good Escapism

Now streaming on Amazon Prime, Bharat Nalluri's 2008 romantic comedy, Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day, provides pleasant respite in these times of doom and gloom.

Film

The 10 Best Horror Movie Remakes

The horror genre has produced some remake junk. In the case of these ten treats, the update delivers something definitive.

Television

Flirting with Demons at Home, or, When TV Movies Were Evil

Just in time for Halloween, a new Blu-ray from Kino Lorber presents sparkling 2K digital restorations of TV movies that have been missing for decades: Fear No Evil (1969) and its sequel, Ritual of Evil (1970).

Music

Magick Mountain Are Having a Party But Is the Audience Invited?

Garage rockers Magick Mountain debut with Weird Feelings, an album big on fuzz but light on hooks.

Music

Aalok Bala Revels in Nature and Contradiction on EP 'Sacred Mirror'

Electronic musician Aalok Bala knows the night is not a simple mirror, "silver and exact"; it phases and echoes back, alive, sacred.

Music

Clipping Take a Stab at Horrorcore with the Fiery 'Visions of Bodies Being Burned'

Clipping's latest album, Visions of Bodies Being Burned, is a terrifying, razor-sharp sequel to their previous ode to the horror film genre.


Reviews
Collapse Expand Reviews



Features
Collapse Expand Features

PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 PopMatters.com. All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.