Heart of Steel: Concert Reviews

Dio / Lynch Mob / Armored Saint
Roseland Theater, Portland, OR, USA
March 2, 2001

Review by Michael De Los Muertos
Pictures and Additional Commentary by Ice Maiden

We live at an interesting time in the history of metal. Enough time has passed since the formation of our musical genre that it has coalesced as a particular subculture with its own traditions and conventions, yet the good old days are still recent enough that some of our "founding fathers" are still around. Let's face it, there aren't that many metallers out there who have had 30-year careers. The George Washingtons and Thomas Jeffersons of metal are few and far between, but without a doubt, Ronnie James Dio is one of them, and he deserves all the respect and reverence he gets for having survived that long while still producing quality metal.

This was the second time in a year that Mr. Dio has graced our little Pacific Northwest hamlet, and I'm certainly glad he decided to come back. Ice Maiden and I were very excited to see this show, not just because of the interesting combination of Dio, Armored Saint and Lynch Mob, but also because all of our metal friends were going to be there. After a bizarre dinner at the Alibi -- that famous tiki-torched Valhalla of Polynesian cheesiness -- we ventured down to the Roseland Theater for the main event. I was expecting tough security, but quite dismayed to see metal detectors at the front gate. This is the first show I've ever been to that included that feature. While I hope it is the last, somehow I doubt it.

(Ice Maiden's Commentary: I must say, this was a night that summarized what a pleasant metal evening should be. Heading to a true metal show, meeting up with a solid, intelligent group of true metal friends, having a couple of beverages and some grub…..ahhh…that's livin').

Astonishingly enough, ARMORED SAINT was first on the bill, and was already playing when we went up. While I like this band and absolutely loved their performance in Portland in May 2000, I have not been too kind to Armored Saint in the pages of this webzine and in fact panned their effort at Wacken. Luckily at this show they proved they have not lost their touch. Their set, while brief, was hard-hitting, punchy and definitely energetic. I just can't agree with all the John Bush slagging that goes on in the world, most of which I think is perpetrated by Belladonna-era Anthrax fans. I think he's a great frontman, and his vocal talents are quite formidable. The set presented a standard survey of Armored Saint, and for being packed into a brief time period I think the band did pretty well. In fact I liked them so much I won't even make fun of John Bush's new hairdo -- a classic "Welcome Back Kotter" white man's afro, circa 1975 -- which would, of course, be a shot below the belt. So overall, a good grade for Bush, Vera and friends, and I definitely hope they come back to Portland as headliners. (Ice Maiden's Commentary: This was my third time seeing Armored Saint, and I have to say that it appears that the smaller the venue, the more I like these guys. This was a medium-sized venue, and my reaction to them was very "medium"-solid performance, nothing super-powerful, but fun-better than their ho-hum Wacken performance, but nothing like the "in your face" job they did in a smaller club. They were hamming it up for my camera, though-that's pretty much all it takes to win me over.)

Now comes the controversial part of this review: LYNCH MOB. I confess my familiarity with this band begins and ends with casual listens to "Wicked Sensation," which my roommate used to play sometimes in our dorm room back in 1991, and the rudimentary knowledge of George Lynch's formidable accomplishments with Dokken. This 80s-styled band took the stage with a lot of hubbub, none of which was merited, but I have to say their music was pretty good -- catchy, friendly riffs, very good guitar work (of course) and a generous groove that was enough to get the crowd moving. The vocalist, however, was terrible. He was a prancing poser obviously enjoying his "rock star" status too much. Word of advice, pal: appearing on stage at a metal show wearing a silk scarf and banging a tambourine is NOT the way to win friends and influence people. Also, pointing out people in the crowd and waiting for an enthusiastic reaction from the singled-out person is not necessarily a good tactic either. If this guy had any significant vocal talent, these sins might be forgivable. As it is, he was the major reason that at least a portion of the crowd was not thrilled with Lynch Mob. That being said, I do have to reiterate that I generally liked their music, and overall I really enjoyed the Lynch Mob set despite the scorn of some metalheads there. I think they had every right to be on this bill and they do what they do pretty well, so in the final analysis my criticisms are not enough to turn this into a bad review of them. (Ice Maiden's Commentary: BMC, Tim and I had to bust out the disco moves at times during Lynch Mob's set-what else can you do when you see the lead singer prancing with a flowing scarf and tambourine??? Still, these guys were having a very good time and were playing for all they were worth. Ditch the vocalist and the music was actually very good.)

After a tremendous amount of anticipation, shouting and chanting of "Dio!" from the crowd, after a lengthy set-up time, DIO himself finally ran onstage to the thunderous hails of the audience. It's rare to see a solo metal figure command such an immediate response, but Dio is one of the few who can do it. There were no preliminaries or warm-ups -- Dio was going from the first song!! The fine traditional metal rhythms, well-played guitars and snappy drumming perfectly augmented Dio's legendary vocals, but the best thing about the performance was that you knew Dio has never, in all his years of recording, lost his faith in metal. R.J. started the show with a wealth of old, traditional favorites such as "Holy Diver" and "Stand Up And Shout," and during this part of the set the enthusiasm of the crowd was infectious. Like the best and most experienced metal performers, Dio obviously knows from great experience how to make the crowd respond right away, thus setting the tone for the whole show.

Unfortunately I have to say the energy flagged during the middle of his set. When he was here last year Dio made the mistake of playing the entire new "Magica" album from beginning to end. Because that performance occurred the very week that "Magica" was released, I figured it was a fluke -- here we are now a year out from the release of that album, and surely pushing it is not as dire a priority as it was in March 2000. While, to his credit, Dio at least did not do the WHOLE album, to my chagrin he did enough of it to create a noticeable slump in enthusiasm. Perhaps I'm being too hard on R.J., but I just think that a man with a 30-year career should not have 60% of his live set be material recorded in the year 2000. (Ice Maiden's Commentary: I know more than one person who did not go to this show because they feared the "Magica" factor. I have to say, once I hear those "Battle Star Galactica" cylon sounds coming from the speakers, I started to zone…)

Luckily Dio worked through the "Magica" stuff and at the end of the show returned to the old standbys. With the crowd rocking again for the end of the set, the energy was explosive at the finale of the show, and in fact Dio came out for not ONE, not TWO, but THREE encores, at least two of which were unplanned. The encores featured some of the best of the whole show -- "Last In Line," "Rainbow In The Dark" and a stunning rendition of "Neon Knights." The final encore said goodbye with "We Rock," and Dio still left the crowd wanting more. Visible throughout the end of the show was the great love and enthusiasm Dio still has for metal, and a keen understanding of what the fans like and why they like it. No wonder he has been around for 30 years! (Ice Maiden's Commentary: The encores pretty much made this show. Why, oh, why, Mr. Dio, couldn't you just stick with playing your old material? Or, at least, playing more of your old material???? Still, I definitely felt the motivation to head bang during the encores, and head bang I did.)

The crowd at this show was excellent -- not a single mallcore kid in sight! True metal lives in Portland, strange as it may sound, and everyone was very animated and full of energy. Dio commented several times on what a great crowd he had. There were a few drunken frat boys who made some trouble -- they were particularly rambunctious during the Lynch Mob set -- but overall things were respectful and good-natured. In our party we had a little excitement -- one of our friends blacked out and nearly collapsed, not from drinking but from heat and lack of air in our part of the venue. (Ice Maiden's Commentary: I have to give it up for Gladys, the non-metal wife of one of our friends. She flies in from a business trip to Asia that morning, hasn't been to sleep for about 2 days, has some beers, then fights to the front of the stage in leather pants in a super-hot venue. No wonder she passed out! But, hey, she recovered and ended up playing pool until 4 a.m. Hails to Gladys!!!!)

This was a great show with great bands, a great crowd and a terrific communal "metalness" that was a treat for any true, traditional metalhead. You should certainly see this tour if it comes to your location, and it would probably even be worth a road trip if Dio happens to miss you. I hope R.J. comes back again soon -- he knows he's got friends in Portland.

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