Strange Highways

Dio's latest release, Strange Highways, marks a return of one of the greatest vocalists in rock 'n' roll. And his live show simply gives more proof to cynics who would doubt such a statement. In one of the better shows I've seen, Dio, Atomic Opera, and 619 rocked a full house at the Boots club in Springfield, VA.

The highlight of the show was Mob Rules. Earlier in the year, I saw Black Sabbath perform it and got to hear Iommi's wizardry on the guitar. This time I got to see Dio himself belt out "If you listen to fools / the mob rules!" This was probably the most favourite tune to among the crowd. The most powerful vocals were on Evilution, however, a song Dio said was about our government ("The government is for you? We say it's for shit!"). But I think it makes more sense when applied to mass society in general:

Oh, plastic dreams and fast machines   Oh, neon names play neon games
pushing it to the limit.               showing it to the public.
Girls and boys who think that noise    I hate you and you hate me
is music in the air.                   and everybody smiles.
Twisted felon, stay awhile,            So money talks and no-one walks
here's your invitation.                but everybody's crawling.
Dirty rags and body bags               Golden rags and body bags.
                      ---Dio, Evilution

Another crowd-pleaser and a powerfully sung tune was Give Her the Gun, where Dio makes his stance on child abuse very vocal: "People who hurt little kids should be shot" (words to that effect).

She, she's heard this song before.  Please, please don't let him in.
Daddy's at the door.                Is it all beginning again tonight.
Just to say I love you.             Somebody make it right!
		       I say give her the gun!
			Look at him run away!
  Give her the gun, before the next one comes along and doesn't pay.
                                             ---Dio, Give Her the Gun

To describe Dio himself: for people who've seen me, he's skinner than I am; but there's only one person in this world (Ian Gillan) who I think can scream better than he can. He's not fashionable or anything, he doesn't write songs about love, but the issues he touches on are much relevant to our existance than the stuff you hear on popular radio. Combined with his amazing voice, it presents a powerful message. Every song that was performed carries enough angst that a lot of these so-called industrialists can barely come close to:

"I, I, good for nothing. going nowhere, so they say.
 Hey, someone give me blessings, for they say I have sinned
 That when I crawl inside myself and ride into the wind on
                                           strange higways."
                                    ---Dio, Strange Highways

And Dio is the one who comes off as knowing what Pain (see lyrics at end) is all about. Other mind-numbing renditions included Rainbow in the Dark and We Rock (both encores), Don't Talk to Strangers, Holy Diver, and Man on the Silver Mountain. The drum and guitar solos were also very good, with Vinny Appice doing an inspired job on the former, though Tracy G. is nothing to write home about on the latter. The bassist, Jeff Pilson, was also excellent and was really enthused by the crowd response. They did not, unfortunately, play a second encore.

619 opened. They were quite good, but nothing more than a Whitesnake or G'n'R clone. They did a few covers, including a couple by G'n'R ("You could be mine"), with a couple of spots that Axl R. himself wouldn't be able to do as well. The singer also moved around the crowd a lot, and danced on the bar, which endeared him mildly to the crowd.

Atomic Opera came on next and they are one of the best opening bands I've ever seen to date. They raged, letting loose some excellent riffs and bass lines, combined with intelligent lyrics, above-average vocals and powerful drumming. This is definitely a band that bears checking into. I was not at all familiar with them, but I did come back with a promo single with the two songs Joyride and Justice (both of which were played) from their latest release For Madmen Only. I think the fact that this band was so good made the entire concert experience even better than anticipated. I was rocking to them entirely during the show, and as Adam, the person I went with, said: "they made me glad I went to the show."

When I saw the Boots club, set in the suburban, VA, and in a complex surrounded by suburban-type stores, I thought it was sad that Dio had to perform here. But the crowd did him justice, and after experiencing the show there, I nominate this the best club around the DC area to see a show in. The sound quality was excellent and the atmosphere was less dingy (contrast this to the 9:30) than most clubs I've been to. The crowd itself was okay---there was no moshing, but it wasn't what you'd call a nice crowd (a few fights). It's very small and easily gives you the opportunity to experience people like Dio standing four feet away from them. The negative thing I have against them is allowing people with beer bottles onto the floor, since drunken morons wave them around without control.

Music ramblings || Ram Samudrala || || September 21, 1994