Heaven and Hell @ WaMu Theater in Madison Square Garden (8/25/2009)

Heaven and Hell has been enjoying an incredible ride for the last couple of years and it is richly deserved based on its members overall importance to the Heavy Metal genre. The reunion show at Radio City Music Hall and its subsequent DVD showed that this grouping of players were legends and soon we would find the crushing power of their new work on “The Devil You Know”, the new CD of music. Now on a hot summers night Ronnie James Dio, Tony Iommi, Geezer Butler and Vinny Appice came a calling and the Metal faithful were all listening. Horns up!

Logo - Heaven and Hell

Artist: Heaven And Hell
Venue: WaMu Theater at Madison Square Garden (New York, NY)
Opener: Coheed & Cambria
Date: 8/25/2009
Label: Rhino Records

One of the most highly anticipated Metal album releases of 2009 was Heaven And Hell’s “The Devil You Know” and how could it be anything less when one considers that this would be the first full album of music from the Black Sabbath lineup that featured Ronnie James Dio and Vinny Appice. As most of the Metal community knows, this particular configuration of Black Sabbath reunited after the great success that was found from the compilation release “Black Sabbath: The Dio Years”; this album not only gave us some of that phases greatest work but also presented three new tunes to the general public that showed incredible promise and would whet the appetite for the possibilities that the future could hold for the lineup once again. The compilation was followed by stunning concerts and video releases which would all lead us to the eventual new recording and this evening’s show – this has clearly been an exciting two and a half years for the band and it doesn’t show any signs of stopping. Tonight the group would be making a grand return to New York City after their rousing Radio City Music Hall concert and make an appearance at The Theater which is located just below Madison Square Garden. As their opener they would select Coheed & Cambria and while I think that they are a strong band live I could not argue with the tried and true Metal fans who felt that perhaps a little bit more of a Metal band should have been given the chance to open up on this tour. Let’s face it, there are a number of killer groups out there that more people need to see and Coheed is already doing headlining shows of their own for folks who truly appreciate their brand of Heavy Progressive-themed Rock. Here is how the night went down for those who might not have been able to secure tickets.

I got to the arena early as my expectation was to be able to absorb and cover Coheed & Cambria as well but the luck of the draw was not on my side as all the media folks bearing cameras needed to wait outside until being escorted in for the chance to do our thing for Heaven And Hell. This meant I would be getting inside well into the C&C set and also not allowed to take any photos or properly document their gig. Despite this little bit of nuisance I managed to find an upside and that was based on being able to enjoy a couple of their tunes at very close quarters and I must admit that I really found them to be on top of their own musical game. There is a great live DVD which the band filmed at the Hammerstein Ballroom (a venue which is actually down the block from MSG give or take a turn) and that was what raised my own interest in what they do in the first place. As I glanced around the room I took notice that many of the Metal heads were in their seats which was a good thing and hopefully they enjoyed the band as well. Now it was time for Heaven And Hell to get down to business and I was very excited to see what they would bring to the table now that a new recording had been done.

Entering to the instrumental track of “E5150” the band hit the stage to the sound of “Mob Rules” which has long been one of my favorite “Sabbath” numbers based on its ability to rouse you to attention and drive that fist and those horns into the sky. Dio sounded in great form and this was the case for the whole group when it came down to it. Tony’s guitar was cutting the air of the venue with its biting sound and no matter how many times I see him in action he never fails to impress me. He is truly the Father of Metal Guitar and he who will always be revered in the genre. Geezer Butler seldom left his spot off to the left hand side and was pounding that bass like only he can and of course holding this whole thing together behind a truly monster drum set was Vinny Appice. This tour he seemed to be using a slight derivation from the kit he had on the last couple of tours and it looks to be a wonder of drumming technology from where I was standing. Dio greeted us all and thanked everyone for being a part of the show before launching into “Children Of The Sea” which was followed by “I”, one of my preferred numbers from “Dehumanizer”. Last summer the band released the “Rules Of Hell” boxed set which was the four releases that Dio recorded under the Sabbath name and by the time the Fall had hit us, each of these releases were made available on an individual basis which allowed fans to pick and choose their favorites from the batch. Of course 2009 would start with the anticipation about the bands new material and they would deliver in full with “The Devil You Know” and it was at this point in the show where we got our first taste of the new album in the live sense with the stunning “Bible Black”. The track sounds great live and I had hoped for a little more of an extended visit to the new release but they instead gave us “Time Machine”, another “Dehumanizer” tune and one from the film “Wayne’s World”. Like many around me, I think I would have preferred to hear another new number or “Computer God” from that same album. We got to see Vinny do his thing on that massive drum kit for a good ten plus minutes and I really felt that six numbers in was a little early for a drum solo but here it was. They followed this with another new one by giving us “Fear” which is another sound track from the new release and the coin would flip from the new release yet again to visit “Mob Rules” with “Falling Off The Edge Of The World”.

Vocal wise Ronnie James Dio still sounds very strong and remains one of the best singers in the genre. He brings fire and passion together easily in his vocal register and while speaking kindly to the audience from time to time it would not stop him from prominently showcasing the signature Metal horns that he has long been credited for bringing to Metal music’s stage so long ago. As you looked around it seemed as though when he did it, the entire audience responded in kind. Moving on with the set I found it interesting that nothing from the compilation “Dio Years” were brought to the stage tonight since all three of those tunes are rather powerful and made our interest in this project much stronger when we first heard them. “Follow The Tears” was the next and final new song which I found to be a disappointing realization. They really should have given us “Atom And Evil”, “Double The Pain” and “Rock And Roll Angel” if you asked me. I know people are saying that they want to hear the classics more than the new stuff and while this lineup has some signature numbers, I feel that these tunes were done to death over the last few tours and I felt that they could have successfully given us a new album focused set and found no one arguing about its difference and brave step. We got a super lengthy “Heaven And Hell” which while an amazing tune did not need to run almost twenty minutes and it was followed by “Neon Knights” which was followed by “goodnight New York City”. The show moved really quickly and it seemed as though the band played for just about 1 hour and 22 minutes or so. It was not even 10pm when they walked off the stage and I had learned mid-show that a good number of fans arrived late thinking that they were playing at 9pm. Make note of the time on your tickets my friends because if it says 7pm and there is one opening act, the headliner is not going to go on two hours later. These shows cost too much money for you to be missing valuable performance time. Before I forget, the bands stage setup is still that whole Gothic cathedral theme with the ornate gates and walls. I am not sure that it is exactly the same as when we last caught them but had to say that it appeared to be so, or very similar if it had been modified at all.

I loved the delivery and cordial nature of the musicians tonight and my only gripe would be in the sometimes unevenness in sound in the mix. Perhaps it was just where I was, but it was not always crystal clear. I also would have liked the set list to be a little different and dare to mix things up a little bit more than it had done. The new album is too good to be avoided and should have been focused on. If people are crying for some of the older staples, then let them buy the Radio City DVD and get their fill from it again and again. I also feel that we could have done without the drum solo and I say this as a fan of Vinny Appice who I find to be a kick ass drummer. When you consider that the set is going to be so short then the inclusion of a solo like this is just keeping me from hearing another tune or two. I would have preferred to hear “Voodoo” or even “Turn Up The Night” instead of the drum solo. Despite Iommi saying in a number of recent interviews that we might find them playing a few legacy Sabbath numbers at some point in the future we would not find this being the case this evening. I view this as a good thing because even though Dio had sung them on the “Live Evil” recording, I think the larger Metal populace wants to see how this whole project plays out a little more before such a tactic is used. To be brutally honest with you, most of the people I spoke to were hoping for something off of Iommi’s solo albums and perhaps even a relevant Dio track that would work within the Heaven And Hell set makeup more than having them do “Paranoid” or “War Pigs”. I honestly don’t care if they ever play these songs and feel if an “Original Sabbath” reunion ever happens again that we will get more than our fill of these tracks at every show that gets done. What I would love to see happen with Heaven And Hell is for them to do another solid studio release and then deliver a live CD/DVD that encompasses their whole recent history (picking up from the Radio City Music Hall gig left off). These guys are showing why they are legends and proving that they still have it night after night, it is too good to let it fall to the wayside before more avenues are approached. Food for thought guys, no charge for the consultancy.

Set List:
1. E5150 (intro)
2. The Mob Rules
3. Children Of The Sea
4. I
5. Bible Black
6. Time Machine
7. Vinny Appice Drum Solo
8. Fear
9. Falling Off The Edge Of The World
10. Follow The Tears
11. Die Young
12. Heaven And Hell
13. Country Girl (snippet) / Neon Knights

A little pre-show wandering around found me seeing this cool graphic on one of the many trucks that haul the band’s elaborate stage and equipment around.  The need to be timely made using the PiercingCamera an impossibility so the powers of the PiercingPhone were instead employed.  I love technology when it helps me do this better.

We Are The Road Crew

Official Website: http://www.heavenandhelllive.com
Official Website: http://www.coheedandcambria.com

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