Flashback: 35 Years Ago tonight, the late, great Ronnie James Dio performs with Dio at the RPI Fieldhouse

Ronnie James Dio, the Cortland native and heavy metal legend, brought his band DIO to the RPI Fieldhouse in Troy 35 years ago today, September 4, 1985.

This was the second Albany-area appearance by Dio with his solo band – he’d played the Glens Falls Civic Center less than a year before, in November 1984 on the ‘Last In Line’ tour.  In 1985, the band was promoting the third Dio album, Sacred Heart, a patchier effort than the first two Dio albums.

This was the last tour to feature the original DIO band backing Ronnie: NYC (ex-Black Sabbath) drummer Vinnie Appice, Scottish (ex-Rainbow) bass player (the late) Jimmy Bain, and Irish guitarist Vivian Campbell (ex-Sweet Savage), who would be fired midway through the tour, breaking up the original foursome which had made the classic first two Dio records.  

The opening group was Rough Cutt, one of those spandex-ey LA bands, there by virtue of being managed by Dio’s wife, and they sucked.  The RPI crowd was unmoved.

The house was packed for Dio’s set – despite the dip in quality offered by Sacred Heart, Ronnie James was in 1985 viewed as a deity in the heavy rock world, and the Fieldhouse was accordingly full of metalheads.   This was the era of over-the-top stage shows, and this one was particularly Spinal Tap-ish, with lasers, a giant crystal ball and a giant dragon (which Dio himself “battled” with a sword), pre-taped wizardly creepy voice intro to the song “Sacred Heart”, and each member getting a big long solo.

Frankly, the whole thing would have been better if they dropped all that and just played a whole bunch of songs. That said, it was the 80s, you had to expect that kind of thing.  The bands opened with a couple of the better new songs (“King of Rock’n’Roll”, “Like The Beat of a Heart”), played a slew of already-classics from the first two records, and a couple of the less-essential new ‘Sacred Heart’ songs, such a the somewhat corny title track, and the depressingly commercial “Hungry For Heaven.”

This tour featured less of the classic Ronnie James-era Rainbow and Black Sabbath songs that had featured in earlier Dio tours, all delivered during extensive medleys, and a truncated version of Sabbath’s “Heaven & Hell” got the biggest roar of the night.  Rainbow classics “Man on the Silver Mountain” and “Long Live Rock’n’Roll” were played – again, in shortened form – in a medley with new yawner “Rock’n’Roll Children.” In fact, medleys were a big part of the show – the band played an extended, almost 40-minute medley of the song “Last In Line,” which incorporated “Holy Diver”, solos by all band members, more “Last In Line,” “Heaven & Hell,” “Sacred Heart,” and concluded with more “Last In Line.”  The main set finished up with speedy early Dio classic “Stand Up and Shout” – a roaring highlight – and encores were Dio evergreens “Rainbow In The Dark” and a storming “We Rock.”

All hail Ronnie James Dio!

Setlist: King Of Rock’n’Roll, Like The Beat Of A Heart, Don’t Talk To Strangers, Hungry For Heaven, Medley: Last In Line/Holy Diver/Last In Line, Drum & Bass Solos, Heaven & Hell, Guitar & Keyboard solos, Sacred Heart, Last In Line, Medley: Rock’n’Roll Children/Long Live Rock’n’Roll/Man On The Silver Mountain/R’n’R Children, Stand Up & Shout, Rainbow In The Dark, We Rock.

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