Heaven and Hell
Cardiff's CIA, 14th November 2007
Reviewed by Nadine Ballantyne
Tonight marks what should be something special at the CIA; it isn't often you see a reformed Black Sabbath with the mighty Ronnie James Dio leading on tour, especially in a city as small as this (compared to other cities). Other acts of their size usually do the traditional run of England, and falsely dub their dates as a fully fledged UK trek. They grace Wales tonight, and won't we know it. The group have a legacy to validate with Dio somewhat, and some may favor his back catalogue with the Aston heavyweights to that of Ozzy's revered (for the most part) seventies output with the group. Others may be here for the experience though, whereas others might be here to remember the Mob Rules (1981) era line up again in all its reformed glory. Or then again, some might be here to see the supporting groups in action. Tonight, the CIA seems empty. Prior to Iced Earth gracing the stage, the venue's attendance figures seem rather poor. Generously speaking, the CIA seems to have barely reached half its maximum capacity. If the venue was actually half full, then that would be a surprising fact. All in all, it isn't a good start. There’s many reasons for that though, considering how overly priced the tickets are.
Tonight, Iced Earth can't be too pleased in some respects. From their point of view, they're going to be rocking out before a rather bare arena somewhat. Regardless though, they carry on with the best efforts they have to offer. They sound typical of their genre, even though they're certified veterans of the heavy Metal industry. A mere half hour has been allocated, and that's how long they've been granted to pace through a somewhat abbreviated set. Iced Earth do try, and put effort into their live presence. Each members gets their own unique presence centre stage; they share the duties, and seem like a band that can respect each other’s space on stage. Although Tim “Ripper” Owens' voice has a presence too much like those in the genre, he does try. Owens can be seen thoroughly enjoying the music he’s belting along to, and it's a great sight to see. Most credit should be given to mainman Jon Schaffer for keeping the group in existence, and for keeping Iced Earth emotionally connected with the front row - he displays many aggressive facial expressions. However, the crowd are only moderately interested in their set. We’ll blame this on the atmosphere though, and the lack of people for that matter. When you take the musical stylings of Heaven and Hell into account though, then most people should enjoy their traditionally veined set pretty quick. Iced Earth really did try tonight, and deserve some credit.
Lamb of God
Without doubt, Lamb of God are the strange choice of support appearing on the bill tonight. there has been some speculation as to why Heaven and Hell chose Lamb of God to be the main supporting act - maybe it's to gain a Modern Metal audience, or maybe it's to sell more tickets. As we see tonight though, it was possibly a good move in some ways. Lamb of God's presence compensates for the overpriced ticket, and seem to immediately have the crowd majority within their grasp. The audience chant for the Virginians, and they haven’t even taken to the stage yet. Singer Randy Blythe storms onstage, and gets cheers immediately directed at him. This is when we know the destructive behaviour is about to begin, and when we know people are actually going to enjoy themselves. Finally, they can forget that the venue is somewhat bare. Wearing a hood up only improves his devilish look, while his vocals are fierce and strong throughout the whole set. For each song, a spiral of pits open up. They play, and it only gets more chaotic. The whole place seems more atmospheric now, and more energetic. Now, it actually seems like a real musical concert. Blythe is the most active on stage, and is there to make sure you remember who the fuck they are. He even reminds us of the first ever Cardiff date they honoured, and that was a very long time ago. It's shocking to even hear that Blythe remembers the venue they played, namely the Clwb Ifor Bach. They appreciate where they are today, and that can be accredited to the many high profile support slots they’ve acquired over the years. More and more Lamb of God chants emerge from the crowd, and they’re loving it. We get a glimpse of the future for Lamb of God, and knowing they’ll be back in 2009 with a new album is a treat. They end with the traditional “Black Label”, and this is the most carnage anyone will see for the rest of the night. “Open this place up Cardiff” screams Blythe, and they do in style. Although Lamb of God stick to their main hits and perform fan favourites such as “Now You’ve Got Something To Die For”, “Ruin”, “Laid to Rest”, “Redneck”, “Pathetic”, playing it safe tonight has paid dividends. They surpass themselves, and prove why they should be on this bill.
Heaven and Hell
At least the CIA's attendance figures are improving by this point. It's still nowhere near sold out though, and that's still a bit of a shock. The curtain drops, and Heaven and Hell stroll onstage. Unfortunately, their performance is marred by a somewhat slow start. After witnessing Lamb of God's impressive set, you would expect a bit more presence from the headlining act. There's only one member that even looks like they’re putting any effort in tonight, and that is singer Ronnie James Dio. Dio is sounding on top form, and ready is to rock the CIA. The rest seem to lack any kind of movement, or the vibe which announces they're a rock star. When it comes to the man himself, namely Tony Iommi, there isn't even some measly Metal horns. Really, it feels as though we're just another audience. Having said that, the slightly impressive stage set up, to an extent, diverts your attention away from this. The whole stage seems like medieval walls, and those walls are fenced off via a gate. It looks as though they lead to another world, perhaps heaven or hell itself. You really need to be a fan of Heaven and Hell in order to appreciate what they’re playing onstage, or else it becomes quickly boring. Being the mainman onstage, Dio is once again the only guy who donates any effort into communicating with the crowd. Upon looking around, you can see that people are standing like statues. Their arms are folded, and they're just enjoying the set like it's any other night out. “Voodoo” evolves into an extended jam towards the end, and that sees Iommi plays a guitar solo. This is followed by some drum work from Appice, and then Iommi brings the jam to a close. Despite being a key member of the group, bassist Geezer Butler isn't given an opportunity to shine. The show seems very organized, and that statement is even extended towards the “jam” session. Now though, it's in the hands of drummer Vinny Appice to shine, and display his drumming capabilities. We get shown nothing special, with Appice's effort amounting to a run off the mill drum solo. It can hardly be called a solo even, and modern drummers display more than that within the space of half a song. Unfortunately, this painfully tramples on for the equivalent of a two song duration. The audience participates during only one part, and this is good for the live show - seeing as they’re still awake. In terms of drumming capability, Appice seems very poor. Yet though, it looks like he’s doing the best he can. How can the crowd lap this up? He then chooses to play lower floor tom drums, and those lower floor tom drums stand up behind him. Appice plays them as a near tribal beat, and that accompanies slightly eerie, Electro music in the background. This is a bit peculiar. Are the rest of the group just having a rest? Many solos later, and there are still bad graphics lit up via three screens - which act as castle windows. Iommi has yet to change his walk, and facial expression, onstage. Dio does his magical work, and gets the crowd singing along the notes. There's “woah”’s and yet more “woah”’s, but again it somehow feels like a typical trick to call upon. They get the crowd to play along though, and at least it's creating some fun. Throughout the set, it seems as though the pace of the songs hasn’t changed. There's been no variation, but that changes for the encore. After much of the crowd still carry on singing “woah”’s and more “woah”’s, they again stroll back onstage. “Neon Nights” closes the show, and is probably the only song which they have all actually channelled their energy into. It's one the crowd can enjoy, and actually livens the place up.
Summing up, it’s been an easy night for the security at the front. For the price of the ticket, you'd think they would've played at least an hour and half set with an additional encore. You would've possibly expected to hear a two hour set at least, but no. Maybe they’re just getting past it. Whatever energy this group possessed back in their prime has faded away , and so has the hype. It'd be easier to stay at home, save yourself £40 and listen to The Dio Years. That is, unless you're a really die hard fan.