“You‘re Hungry for Heaven, but you need a little Hell”
People think I’m kidding when I say I like Dio, or, at the very least, that I’m being “ironic” about it. Well, first of all, irony is for punks, plus I think it’s against the law now anyway. And even if it wasn’t, I don’t do irony, baby. I really DO love Dio, and I am quite sure that “Holy Diver” is one of the greatest rock n’ roll rekkids ever made. I could give you a 17-point explanation why- probably will, at some point - but we don’t have time for that now, man. We got bigger fish to fry. Suffice to say that Ronnie James Dio (RIP) did not know strife, did not know pain or poverty or struggle (um, cancer aside), had never suffered a moment of fear, loathing, or self-doubt, and there’s a reason for that. Ronnie James, ya see, was a winner. He had been his ENTIRE life. The cat was a singer-of-songs and seller-of-singles since the late 1950’s, amazingly enuff. Back then, they had yet to invent metal, so he sang doo-wop, but whatever. And then he was in Elf. And Rainbow. And Black Sabbath! Whenever RJ got behind a mic, there were people there to listen. And crook their fingers into devil horns. And scream “DIOOOOOO!!!!” at him.
Since forming his solo band, Dio (nobody ever said he was humble) in 1983, RJD has become the official voice of heavy metal. I mean, when anybody anywhere just says it, ya know, “heavy metal”, whether it’s between gum snaps at a strip mall in Missouri or screamed in mortal agony in a bamboo cage in Indonesia, Ronnie James Dio is what they mean by it. His throaty howl contains not a trace of blooze, or pop, or country, or punk, or even teen-Dio doo-wop, anymore. It is one thing, and one thing only – METAL. And that takes conviction. And RJ was about nothing, if not conviction. Ronnie James Dio was so committed to heavy metal and all it stands for that he was willing to slay dragons with broad swords to prove it. I mean, c’mon, man, who else is gonna SLAY DRAGONS? You?
Nope. Just RJD. Keep in mind, by the way, that Dio flourished in the days of Poison and Bon Jovi and every pretty boy puffball hairspray band that ever trolled the Sunset Strip, and he was only like, 5 foot 2, and his hairline was always receding, and he had always looked like your uncle, the one that used to live in your dad’s basement whenever times got tough. But Ronnie James didn’t need looks, didn’t need make-up, didn’t need hair that covered his whole head. All RJD need was that big crazy voice, and his fuckin’ broadsword, and a dragon to slay, and METAL. And to hell with the rest of it, ya know?
And that’s why he survived, and thrived, through all those wasted years. See, RJD refused to change. Ever. Are you the same person as you were in 1983, assuming you were already born 1983? Of course not, right? Well, Ronnie James Dio was the same guy in 1983, and 1993, and 2003. Do you know what the name of his last (2002) record was, man? “Killing the Dragon”. I think that about sez it all.
Time to Burn
Which brings us to this DVD, “Sacred Heart”, which was shot in Philadelphia, in 1986, during the tour of the same name. There’s a supplemental interview included, shot in 2004, with Ronnie James and Sacred Heart guitarist Craig Goldie. Goldie just sits there like a mook, and complains that the audience booed him on the tour, ‘cuz he used to be in Giuffria. Personally, I think he should STILL be booed for being in Giuffria. Anyway, Dio, looking as rock as a dude your dad's age is gonna, says cool stuff like, “I didn’t have to do that much, I just had to kill the dragon. These guys had to play and play, while knights were running around the stage trying to fight each other.” Then he gives advice you can use today, like, “When ya get thrown into the fire, you learn to dance really quickly, or you burn your feet.” Then, mixing decades willy-nilly, Dio says, “I’m not gonna give ya a Beyonce song, or a Klymaxx song.” It’s OK, RJ, we didn’t expect you to, brother.
Then there’s the actual concert. It's shot with multiple cameras and deftly edited, but looks sorta murky (there's a whole lotta fog going on). It's certainly not unwatchable, tho, just a little fuzzy in places. The stage looks like the Flintstones, with lotsa fake rocks and fire, with a big crocodile-dragon napping quietly behind the drum riser. Although they were touring their second album at the time, Dio leans heavily on prior hits here, including a cuppla Rainbow tunes (“Long Live Rock n’ Roll”, “Man on the Silver Mountain”) and a Sabbath nugget “Heaven N’ Hell”, which is weird, since “Holy Diver” was pretty much a solid-wall o’ metal hits, but mine is not to reason why. Ronnie James keeps mentioning the dragon ‘tween tracks, like that’s what everybody was really there to see. “I know, you want to see the dragon. Keep watching…and listening…”
I don’t know what kind of freak pays $35 or whatever it was just to see a cable-operated plastic dragon flop around, but I’m not an ‘arena’ guy, so mebbe he was on to something. Anyway, the intro to “Sacred Heart” is a film of Ronnie James, with some kinda monster make-up on, inviting you to join him on his ‘journey’ to the “Sacred Heart”, which you can’t even refuse at this point. I mean, you're already there. The search for the “Sacred Heart” leads RJ to a giant orb with lasers in it. At one point, the laser is the devil. Then it’s a heart. Then the dragon’s head starts moving around, eyes glowing red, snorting. And the band plays on.
RJ has his sword, He’s swinging it around. His sword is a laser now, too. Everything’s a laser, even the guitars are lasers. Two gold statues come to life, like in that old Japanese movie, Maijan, and start shooting…well, lasers, at each other. Then the dragon’s ‘body’ cracks open, revealing his “Sacred Heart” ( a laser, natch), and RJ does something with it. That part was confusing, looked like he was humping it. Anyway, after it’s over, he starts singing “Long Live Rock n’ Roll”, so it all must work out in the end.
“Rainbow in the Dark”, Dio’s biggest solo hit, is saved for the end. It sounds great. All the songs sound great, even with the lasers and the dragon and Goldie wearing a cape, and even with Dio’s ad-libbing (“I’m the man, where’s my hand, here’s my hand!”), and even tho he has to mime everything (if he mentions ‘time’, you just know RJ’s gonna point to his imaginary watch).
Sure, motherfucker, all that’s kinda funny. Fake rocks are always good for a chuckle. But when the laughter’s over, there remains a triumphant Ronnie James Dio, shouting, with all authority:
“If you suddenly see what has happened to me
You should spread the word around
And tell everyone here that it's perfectly clear
They can sail above it all on what they've found
It cries for you - it's the best that you can do
Like a sound that's everywhere - I can hear it screaming through the air...
Long live Rock and Roll!
Long live Rock 'n' Roll!
Long live Rock and Roll!”
Say what you will, man, but here's the truth: DIO ROCKS. Always and forever. “Sacred Heart” provides ample evidence, if ya need it.