The late Ronnie James Dio took his love for the mystical to a new level in 1986. While on tour for his then current album, Sacred Heart, he and his crack band played on a stage that resembled a giant castle, complete with an animatronic dragon. It was the perfect backdrop for Dio's powerful music. Fortunately for fans, a show in Philadelphia was filmed and released, first as a VHS and later as a DVD. Unfortunately, however, the show was edited in those releases. For the Blu-ray release, entitled Dio - Finding The Sacred Heart: Live in Philly 1986, the concert has been fully restored and is complete for the first time ever. The results show Dio in his mid-80s arena rock prime.
The Sacred Heart era was not without its problems. During the recording of the album, a rift developed between Dio and guitarist Vivian Campbell. While Campbell did the first leg of the tour, he was replaced for the second leg by guitarist Craig Goldy, formerly of Rough Cutt. He joined a band that included Dio's ex-Black Sabbath band mate, Vinny Appice, on drums, Jimmy Bain on bass and Claude Schnell on keyboards.
The opening "Draco Ignis" provides an eerie musical backdrop to the proceedings as the Dio logo is lit up in lasers. This segues into a blistering "King Of Rock & Roll." Goldy's guitar playing is put to the test right away as he delivers lightning fast, yet melodic leads on this ferocious cut.
Dio shows the depth of his remarkable voice on "Don't Talk To Strangers," with its mellow intro leading into a pounding main riff. Some of Dio's best-loved songs are performed as part of a medley, as a brief "Children Of The Sea" from his days in Black Sabbath is sandwiched in between the solo classics "The Last In Line" and "Holy Diver." The former of these is particularly inspired and played at a faster tempo than its studio counterpart while the latter finds Dio basked in laser lights.
Pop music began to creep into Dio's repertoire around this time as evidenced by the keyboard laden "Hungry For Heaven." The visual highlight of the show has to be "Sacred Heart," however. During its ominous intro, Dio appears in a disk on the stage, speaking in a distorted voice. He later returns with a light up sword to fight a huge animatronic dragon. It's right out of Spinal Tap, but it's Dio, so he can get away with it.
The video is presented in 1080i High Definition Widescreen 16x9 (1.78:1) and looks fantastic. Audio options include DTS HD Master Audio and LPCM Stereo. Bonus features include a behind the scenes video, interviews from the period and the "Rock 'n' Roll Children" music video.
The world of metal lost one of its greatest voices with the passing of Ronnie James Dio. While the imagery in Dio's music is present in a lot of metal, few, if any, did it as well as he did. Getting the concert fully restored and in its entirety for the first time makes Dio - Finding The Sacred Heart: Live in Philly 1986 a must own for Dio fans.