Tokyo 2007 (Zodiac 341)
Tokyo International Forum, Tokyo, Japan – October 22, 2007
Disc 1 (49:07) E5150, The Mob Rules, Children Of The Sea, I, The Sign Of The Southern Cross, Voodoo, Drum Solo, Computer God
Disc 2 (42:48) Falling Off The Edge Of The World, Die Young, Heaven And Hell, Neon Knights
I remember the excitement following the announcement that the Dio era line up of Black Sabbath was reuniting under the moniker Heaven & Hell. Even more exciting was they would be doing only Dio era music culled from the bands tenure together, Heaven and Hell, The Mod Rules, and the vastly underrated Dehumanizer. By this time Black Sabbath’s reunion with original singer Ozzy Osbourne had run its course, the set lists were getting repetitive, the luster certainly fading. There was also interest in the Dio line up thanks to a Black Sabbath compilation release entitled The Dio Years showcasing some of the group’s finest moments plus three new songs by the combo. A short tour of Canada was booked (who the hell books a tour of Canada in March?) featuring the line up of Heaven & Hell with support acts Megadeth and Down. Not letting little things like five hour drives and borders stand in my way, I bought tickets and made plans for a romantic get away with my wife in the beautiful City of Toronto where we saw the March 22, 2007 show at the Air Canada Center. Needless to say it was a tremendous concert that exceeded expectations, I would go on to see the band twice more on the tour.
It should be noted that I did not originally purchase this title, it was recommended by CMR member Chambau who gave it a high rating and said it was a must have. Since I was getting ready to order a few titles, I instantly included it and it was the first title I listened too when it arrived. The recording featured on this release is excellent, sounds like it was taped very close to the stage on Geezer’s side as his bass is well represented in the mix. All instruments and vocals are clean in the mix and the atmosphere inside the venue is well captured. As aforementioned Geezer’s bass is captured perfectly in this recording, yet does not over power the other two instruments or vocals, we can just hear his fantastic playing with no effort, it’s a beautiful thing.
Heaven & Hell played a short four date tour with two shows in Tokyo and one each in Osaka and Nagoya, I reviewed the following nights performance in Osaka on the title Sabbath In Loud Park 2007 Osaka (Tarantura TCDHH-2), that show was part of the Loud Park festival and featured a shorter set, this new title by Zodiac features a full headline set. Sadly by this point in the tour several songs were dropped from the set list, After All (The Dead), Lady Evil, The Devil Cried, and Shadow Of The Wind all were previously played. No worries thought, there is plenty to get excited about, the classics we all know and love and some deep cuts for the people who listened to the other side of the cassettes.
E5150 is the traditional opening intro music and the band take the stage in full flight with a blistering version of The Mob Rules. Having been on tour for over a half year at this point, the band is energetic and Dio is in excellent voice, the song is a perfect opening song, fast and furious with the band delivering the goods. Dio introduces Children Of The Sea as the first song they wrote together, one never tires of this song, heavy and epic, somewhat majestic sounding. Great to hear Geezer’s playing, not just keeping time with the times, playing his own style of what is really a lead style bass, not a rhythm section instrument. Like the Loud Park recording, shouts of “Geezer” can be heard! The Dehumanizer cut I is simply brutal, aggressive Tony Iommi riff and venomous lyrics spewed forth by Ronnie, a headbangers dream.
Dio gives a nice introduction to the next song, about playing in Australia and seeing a beautiful array of stars, the southern cross…The Sign Of The Southen Cross. Simply a Black Sabbath classic, I remember hearing the live version on Live Evil and wishing it was complete. The version Haven & Hell played was complete and far superior to the old live versions, this is a Geezer tour de-force. His playing is simply incredible, he uses multiple effects to create an aural echo like soundscape lending to the dreamlike atmosphere, beautiful to hear while Tony plays chords that seem to rise from the depths, just epic.
You know it says something about the music this group created when a song like Voodoo is the feel good song of the set, dig it as it’s a song where the band hits a groove and it just flows, Ronnie sounds like he’s going to blow out his vocal chords during a quick blues jam with Tony at the songs conclusion. The song leads into a Vinnie Appice drum solo, love Vinnie, solid rock style certainly influenced by his older brother yet certainly not a copy. There’s a great video from I think Oakland in 1992 where Carmine jumps on in place of his brother unbeknownst to Ronnie, who is shocked when he turns around and sees him. The cold and bleak Computer God finishes the second disc, Ronnie’s vocals are excellent on this song, he injects passion into the song, lost in the world of growing technology, Scott Warren adds subtle keyboards to this song as well.
Falling Off The Edge Of The World is the song that really blew me away, completely unexpected. The song had only been played live by Black Sabbath very early on the tour to support The Mob Rules, the deep track was for me, the highlight of the Heaven & Hell live sets. I first started listening to The Mob Rules album in 1983, a good friend gave me his brother’s cassette and I soon began listening to side 2, largely due to Falling and Country Girl. Tony’s riff is just incredible, totally wicked, one of his greatest in my humble opinion. Great sorrowful lead in, keys sounding like mournful violins, Ronnie sings like he is crying then Tony’s riff takes your head off, stunning song, equally as stunning as a live song as well.
I saw Heaven & Hell five times from 2007 to 2009, if there was one song that delivered every single time, every time going balls out full on head banging madness it is Die Young, if I could imagine what it feels like to skydive, this would be the soundtrack hands down. All four members just leave it all on the stage, Ronnie is brilliant delivering the goods at 65 years old, just incredible the passion he exudes in his voice. As one would expect, the song Heaven and Hell is the set closer, epic in length, equally in stature as well. Like the live versions dating back to the beginning, the band start off in jam mode, great to hear the Japanese audience singing along to Ronnie’s scat style vocals, their voices are strong in the call and response section as well. The song clocks in at 19 minutes, we get the aforementioned beginning loose jam then the middle section goes full on band jam mode, old school style guitar, bass, and drums. They move through simple riffs, at times bluesy, at times a bit funky plus a bit of heavy, even getting into a snippet of Electric Funeral at the 9:53 mark. Ronnie comes back on stage with “Then a little white shape looked down on me” improvised lyrics section that leads to the iconic spinning carousel. There is only one choice for encore, Ronnie tells the audience they are all “Neon Knights”, the song is a celebration of the band and their fans, the culmination of the evenings musical presentation.
The packaging features full color inserts, the front cover featuring officially looking graphics taken from the Radio City Music Hall release, the back cover and interior features both live and posed shots, the inner tray is a studio shot of an older and wiser band and sums up the 2007-2009 period, a band enjoying each other and the music they created and played together. Of course picture discs and numbered sticker all housed in a slim lined jewel case. Hard to believe we are coming up on the ten year anniversary of Ronnie’s passing, I myself choose to think of him through his brilliant music he created, recordings like this don’t bring sorrow, just smiles.