In 1993, Ronnie James Dio's second stint with Black Sabbath was over and the veteran singer was, once again, finding himself as a solo artist. He decided to reform Dio, taking Sabbath drummer Vinny Appice with him in the process while recruiting former Dokken bassist Jeff Pilson and guitarist Tracy G to round out his new lineup. The band recorded Strange Highways, which marked a harder-edged stylistic shift musically. A concert at London's legendary Hammersmith Apollo was professionally filmed and is just now being released for the first time as Dio - Live in London: Hammersmith Apollo 1993.
The show features several tracks from Strange Highways, with the set list alternating between old and new songs throughout. The band opens with an intense "Stand Up And Shout" that features Tracy G adding his own spin on the classic track, improvising new leads. The title track from Strange Highways follows with its sinister bass line courtesy of Pilson. Dio offers a dramatic vocal and Pilson sounds great on the harmonies. Where Tracy G might have changed some of the classic tracks around too much for some Dio fans' taste, Pilson is a great addition to the band, allowing Dio to do his trademark harmonies during the show.
A potent "Don't Talk To Strangers" is followed by two more new songs, "Evilution" and "Pain," the latter of which finds Tracy G dive-bombing all over the track while Dio pushes the upper limits of his vocal range. Tracy G shines throughout, especially on the new material where he seems most comfortable.
Sadly, much of Dio's Sabbath and Rainbow material is presented in medley form, though it does not diminish the performances any. In particular, Dio shows off his versatility with a ferocious rendition of "The Mob Rules," yet handles the delicate opening of "Children Of The Sea" with ease. Many singers could do one or the other. Dio could do both.
After a blistering reading of "We Rock," the band closes with the appropriately titled -- and equally potent -- "Here's To You" from Strange Highways. Throughout the show, Dio makes a point of saying that yes, the band will play the classics, but they also have new material they wanted the fans to hear.
The video is upscaled Standard Definition that is thankfully kept in its original 4:3 aspect ratio. The picture quality is really quite good and looks as if it could have been filmed this year. Since it was filmed in 1993, it also lacks the rapid fire editing that mires so many of today's concert videos. Audio options include DTS HD Master Audio, 96/24 and LPCM Stereo.
Whether with Rainbow, Black Sabbath or the Dio band, Dio delivered both on record and on stage. After Sabbath fell apart for the second time, Dio seemingly had something to prove. Dio - Live in London: Hammersmith Apollo 1993 shows a band playing as if they were trying to win over an audience for the first time and the effort comes through in an excellent performance.