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Finding The Sacred Heart: Live In Philly 1986


Reviewed by : Mark Gromen
Rating : 8.0

Rising, Long Live Rock N Roll, Heaven & Hell, Mob Rules, Holy Diver… perhaps the strongest consecutive five studio album arc in metal history (and for three different bands!). No wonder Ronnie James Dio was acknowledged as the genre’s greatest singer, even before the posthumous platitudes following his untimely death. Although, without speaking ill of the departed, let’s be honest, aided by the rising power (pun intended) of the burgeoning thrash movement by ’86, DIO was on a downturn that would be hastened by the upcoming sales spurt spawned by acts from the Sunset Strip. Truthfully, it wasn’t just him, as all the established names were going through potentially lethal growing pains, including JUDAS PRIEST (Turbo), IRON MAIDEN (Somewhere In Time) and BLACK SABBATH (Seventh Star).

However, DIO could always count on Philadelphia (a little behind the curve when it comes to heavy metal). Although NFL Films was located in town, perhaps it was really the gumbas in South Philly treating him well, hence he released no less than three different video packages from the old Spectrum, this being a reissue of the original VHS (dubbed to DVD in 2004), now augmented with the entire concert (also out as dual audio CDs), vintage interviews (6:30, back-in-the-day with gap-tooth, pre-dental work Ronnie and newer 18-minute look back, w/ both Dio and guitarist Craig Goldy), plus other extras in the digital format. There’s also a 2013 written interview with Goldy and drummer Vinnie Appice in the accompanying CD/DVD booklet. Saw this tour twice, including the Philly show. Was the first tour Claude Schnell (who had been hidden in the wings previously) was visible, albeit semi-obscured, playing keyboards from the second tier turret of castle stage set. Remember thinking the ballyhooed laser “images” and special effects were tame by standards of the day (now, cheesy) and the slow giant animatronic, fire-breathing dragon was a stadium prop from another era for those of us now getting most of our music from overseas (like tour openers ACCEPT) and preferring gritty live club shows by vibrant newcomers EXODUS, MEGADETH and METALLICA (yes, they were once cool, although that might be about the last time!) to stale arena fare.

That being said, this now complete concert is a much longer (better?) career retrospective than A Special From The Spectrum, originally released two years earlier. In additional to five Sacred Heart tracks, there’s also ‘Holy Diver’ (how was that left off the ’84 vid?!), the rarely heard and to-that-point, never previously aired ‘Time To Burn’ off the Intermission Ep and a pair of SABBATH and RAINBOW medleys. Oh that hair, the lighters (since replaced by cellphones) and flashy/frilly costumes (a cape Craig?), the diminutive man with golden voice (and fringed boots to match) hops/skips across the stage, smiling and playing to everyone, occasionally spinning the mic stand: the consummate frontman. This is not the only DVD shoot I've attended, and while not quite the same as the movie The Truman Show, still odd having segments of your life captured for later investigation. Had forgotten about the poppy ‘Hungry For Heaven’ being in the Vision Quest wrestling/coming of age flick, which is how Dio introduces it live, bassist Jimmy Bain adding backing vocals. Funny to think that the few girlie audience close-ups, in the seated venue, are now probably grandmothers! Don’t really need glo-stick drum, keyboard and classically tinged guitar solos virtually back-to-back, separated by ‘Heaven And Hell’, complete with synth embellishments. All crop up within the first hour of the 100 minute concert (never uttering one curse word!). The synth laden ‘Sacred Heart’ brings out all the props, Ronnie’s electric, color-changing light saber, the laser eyed dragon, and a see-though, lightning-in-a-globe centerpiece. For an encore, it's 'Rainbow In The Dark', then a concluding 'We Rock', with the now shirtless Bain. Damn I miss Ronnie!