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Heart of Steel: Concert Reviews

Dio/King's X/HammerFall
Harpo's, Detroit, Michigan
12/7/2002

Review by Night of the Realm

The week of December 1st, culminating in Dio's concert on Saturday night was one of the most hellacious death-rides that I have ever experienced. In addition to my already full schedules at both work and school, I also attended the Blind Guardian/Symphony X show on Dec. 5th, and took my final exam on Friday. That night I wound up in the University Of Michigan Hospital ER with severe abdominal pain, and was diagnosed with pre-ulcer gastritis. Nothing, however, could keep me from seeing Dio, and I set out for the concert on Saturday.

The last time I saw Dio in concert was just over 2 years ago, and just like that night, it was another cold December evening as I pulled up to Harpo's for Dio with HammerFall and King's X.

I arrived early to be there when the doors opened at 7, not wanting to miss HammerFall. I was hoping that this would be an early show as there were no local bands opening. I made my way to the front in my customary fashion to wait for HammerFall. I wound up standing for a while, as HammerFall did not take the stage until nearly 9! As I waited in the pit, I got the chance to chat it up with several metalheads, even engaging several of them in a debate following their ignorant comments that metal is dead in the U.S. If people would just refuse the pabulum force-fed to them by the media and open their eyes and ears, they would see the strong pulse of the American metal underground. My faith was somewhat renewed, however, as a fair number of people were wearing HammerFall shirts, including several members of the over-30 crowd. The crowd was a good mix of young and older fans, though there were few long-haired metalheads such as myself there from what I could tell. My patience held out, the light's darkened, and the intro to "Riders of the Storm" played over the system. First Anders Johanssen came out behind the kit, followed by Magnus Rosen and Stefan Elmgren. As the song broke into full force, out comes Oscar Dronjak decked out in his full armor outfit, followed by Joacim Cans. Leading into "Heeding the Call," the band was in fine form. Although I do not really care for Joacim's vocals, he is a good front man, and he performed with lots of charisma and style. His performance was almost overshadowed by Stefan and Magnus, however. Stefan and Oscar were running back and forth trading leads, and Magnus

HammerFall:
Riders of the Storm
Heeding the Call
Renegade
Hearts On Fire
Let the Hammer Fall
Hammerfall

I knew coming into the show that King's X set would be the perfect time to hit the bathroom, have a few beers, and get some fresh air, and that was precisely what I did. I quickly found, however, that I could not drink enough to tolerate their set. They absolutely sucked! I have no idea how they got on the bill, but they are not metal at all. The singer/bassist was a walking twig of a man, looking more like an AIDS patient than a rocker. Actually, I wouldn't doubt the validity of that statement, as he is openly homosexual. That's ok, but it's no excuse for a weak performance. Nice frosted short hairdo, too; it matched your cowboy hat. The guitarist wouldn't know a riff if he were pummeled with it, looking more like a college professor of Sucking 101. They had some other lanky looking cowboy behind the kit, though he was the only decent member of the band. In addition to the lack of musicianship, the band had almost no emotion or presence onstage. Unlike HammerFall, King's X failed to impress the crowd. They received almost no reaction, save for the mocking given to them by myself and a few other individuals up in front. Go back to Texas, King's X. Detroit hates you, and Dio hates you, too.

The roadies breaking down King's X's gear did so faster than an Olympian sprinter, and within a short amount of time, Dio was up and ready to go. The lights went down, the intro to "Killing the Dragon" came on, and Dio came out in front of a crowd that was going absolutely nuts. What can I say about Ronnie James Dio, other than he was in perfect form. I cannot think of any other metal front man who has more charisma or energy than Ronnie. Despite his stature, Dio's has such a large and commanding presence onstage.

Moving along from "Killing the Dragon," Dio ran right into "Egypt," which I was really surprised that he played. About halfway through, the band switched gears into an abbreviated version of "Children of the Sea" before coming back to finish "Egypt." It was an interesting combination, pulled off flawlessly. Overall, Dio's setlist was a cross section of his career spanning Rainbow, Black Sabbath, and his own solo works, much like when I saw him last in December, 2000. The band themselves were very tight as well. Guitarist Doug Aldrich was great, taking an extended solo about halfway through the set (somewhere around "Man On The Silver Mountain," I believe) which sounded awesome. He is an excellent performer to watch onstage. Simon Wright also took a hell of a drum solo early in the set, following "Egypt." It was nice to see the extended solos, as few bands seem to do those nowadays. From Killing the Dragon, Dio played "Push," and "Rock And Roll." While both songs are good, I would have preferred that he pick "Along Came a Spider" and "Better in the Dark," my favorites from the album. I was surprised that they performed "Mob Rules," and "Man on the Silver Mountain," but I am glad they did. As with "Egypt," Dio inserted "Long Live Rock and Roll" into the middle of "Man on the Silver Mountain." Two Rainbow classics rolled into one; is there a better deal? The highlights of the night for me were, of course, "Holy Diver," "Heaven and Hell," "Don't Talk To Strangers," and "The Last in Line." On these songs especially, the crowd hung on Ronnie's every word, captivated by the sheer power of Dio. Closing out with "Mob Rules" (I think), Dio came back with an encore of "We Rock." Dio put his all into the song, but it was the crowd's reaction that made it special. Ronnie brought out the energy in everybody that no one knew they had left in them, and the crowd participation was unbelievable.

By the time Dio finished his set, the clock was nearing 1 am. Dio performed for nearly 2 hours, and I was nearly exhausted as the energy of the concert wore off. Except for King's X, the night had been nearly perfect. Dio's setlist was mostly unbeatable (though I was hoping he'd play "Neon Knights," or "I Speed At Night), and I felt his performance was even better than when I saw him 2 years ago at Harpo's. I left the hall that night knowing I had a new addition to my top 5 shows that I have ever seen.

Dio (Mostly complete, not in order):
Killing the Dragon
Egypt/Children of the Sea
Drum Solo
Stand Up and Shout
Push
Rock And Roll
Don't Talk To Strangers
Holy Diver
Man On The Silver Mountain/Long Live Rock And Roll
Guitar Solo
Heaven and Hell
Last In Line
Rainbow in the Dark
Mob Rules
We Rock