Bitching And Moaning In The Temple Of The King

One day in the Year Of The Fox, three fellows visited Universal Amphitheatre, to witness the elf Killing The Dragon. Should Mr. Dio the dragon-killer happen upon these musings from yon fellows, we beg him grant us our poetic leeway, for though we complain of lungpower lost and fury faux, yet there is much love and respect behind our ranting, and we’re only bitter that the world has indeed turned and replaced our nostalgia with cynicism.

Never more apt has Zappa’s aphorism been - “Writing about music is like tap-dancing about architecture” - for we three cannot hold a sputtering candle to the ferocious epiglottal might of the self-proclaimed Man On The Silver Mountain… yet all things being equal, the time for passing the torch may be closer at hand than even JB & KG might opine…

The following stream of consciousness e-mail exchange was initiated by Leslie Spring (during work time, of course), whereupon Dunmore picked up the torch and ran with it, only to have Jim Davis cannon into the Scheherazadean tale 'pon de side; a tale of dragons and rainbows and hippos, lorded over by -

The Elfin King
Ronnie James Dio carves pentacles into the Universal Amphitheater's apses. A three-way commentary by Jon Dunmore, Leslie Spring and Jim Davis.
May 2004.

Leslie Spring, Sony Music

So when did Dio turn into Gene Simmons? His chats with the audience had all of the cadence and pitch of Gene hawking his new line of KISS underwear, or KISS coffins, or KISS whatever. That was weird.

Other than that, good ole' RJD sounded great as usual... I also liked how Doug Aldritch managed to make lemonade from the lemons of a breaking string.

Jon Dunmore, Egomania Records
I found his patter to be exactly the same as it always was; that lilting business-like approach. I just wish people would stop mentioning 9-11 - give it a rest, world. And the lyric "Long Live The USA and Rock And Roll" - I'm pretty sure those aren’t the correct words to that song – I looked it up.

Though we may have enjoyed the show for its professionalism, songwriting and charisma, I know that you know that I know that you know that his voice was not cutting it. Age trammels us all, and I think it's time for The Dio to do like The Dunmore and ask his boys to TUNE DOWN a semitone, please. The power and glory of his unmistakable timbre is still there (there is still only one DIO), but his range has diminished somewhat, he opting for lower harmonies than singing the OOooh's, Yeehhh's and diphthongs at their classic, recorded pitch. I know you have "Live Evil" - check again what he does in the "bridges" to Heaven And Hell, with the Oooh's and Yeehhh's (not to mention the verses themselves). When I first heard that album, my jaw could not be lifted from my chest - to have seen THAT Dio live would have been the bees knees, or the dragon's wings, as the case may be - actually, I DID see "that" Dio live, when the band Dio toured Australia for the Sacred Heart tour way back when - I can tell you that he did not drop a NOTE then. All those throat-scorching melody lines that he set himself up as the super singer to sing, were all in place and on FIRE [to be said like Dio, during Heaven and Hell and any other song he says the word "fire" in]. He also had Craig Goldy on guitar, who, while not a supertrouper, had his moments... and dat’s anudder ting…

I don't think anyone will contest (except The Elf himself) that Viv Campbell was probably the most tasteful and talented of the guitarists that Dio has ever worked with (barring of course, the gods themselves, Iommi and Blackmore). Doug Aldritch, though he has great taste in equipment, is a poor Malmsteen clone/wannabe who has spent HOURS and HOURS practicing his scales, arpeggios and etudes naked in front of his bedroom mirror and now he's gonna make us pay for it. Posing I can handle (Blackmore, The Gene, Halford, Coverdale, The Dunmore, et al), but have some SUBSTANCE to back up your posing with, instead of assaulting my ears with your passionless noodling and buttonless shirt. He had M.I.T. WANKER written all over his bared torso.

I do agree he made lemonade with the broken string - I know how he felt - he looked really pissed. Still, scraping your frittering fingers arbitrarily up and down the fretboard, at one-hundred-thousand miles per hour, without any thought, feel or propriety is gonna prompt a string to break simply out of principle.

Jimmy Bain was great / cool/ a solid “family” member, as always.

I thought it was quite cute how they all choreographed getting up on the wedges during Rainbow In The Dark. The spirit of The Village People lives on.

Simon Wright. Double-kick. Dunmore refrains from EVEN commenting…

Actually, I will add that Simon Wright called me about seven years ago when we were looking for drummers for F.U. He was a really nice guy; Australian, you know, down to earth, chatting, and offered to listen to the album, etc. He didn't HAVE to do all that; he could've been a prick, like that Riley prick from W.A.S.P. who also answered our ad, met with us, with his bottle-black hair and LA Guns ‘tude, and made me want to slap him. Wright's drum solo (only four short songs into the set - did someone need to hit the head that badly?) only missed one thing: the nachos to go with all that cheese.

As always, the super-fey keyboardist perpetuating the retarded notion that us keyboardists are there only to play choir pads, intros to epic opuses and pick up the stray homosexual groupie. Where is The Lord when we need Him? Whereas once, the Hammond timbre crunched like driveway gravel through the shards of old-school rock, now we have namby-pamby digital efx disguising the fact that this guy cares more about his pointy boots than rocking his organ to sin and back.... now if I could just manage to shave my head HALF as smoothly as he shaves his torso…

The lighting guy was high. He was just not paying attention to what Ronnie was doing. The audience blinders are there to use every time the singer "gives the mic to the crowd", or any time the singer shades his eyes to talk to and see the crowd, or when the singer "stabs" at the crowd with WE ROCK, etc. This guy opted to continue smoking crack and click them on and off arbitrarily. That was just ONE aspect. Some idiot rigger had put two Intellibeams IN FRONT OF two par bars on the downstage truss, thereby BLOCKING at least three cans on each bar. I could go on…

I would give the show a B+. Yes, the charisma and songs and POWER is all there; I'd rather see an excellent band stuck in the 80's than a moronic band trying to relive the white-boy burden of wearing their caps backwards in the 90's, or a gay/ dance/ techno/ hiphop/ jabbathehutt unclassifiable piece of turd that the 00's has spawned from the remnants of MTV's failed attempts at marketing - but when you set yourself up in the studio to perform such super vocal feats, it's a tad disappointing for the fans not to get what they came to hear. Dio is Dio only BECAUSE he is such a super vocalist. That has always been his selling point - besides The Evil Eye - and we all know that people were there not to see a shirtless guitarist, ex-AC/DC drummer, fey keyboardist or cool bassist, but to see The MAN… on the silver mountain. And dat’s anudder ting…

Only The Wizard Blackmore can get that "swagger" on his guitar that is an imperative in playing The Man On The Silver Mountain. Besides Ronnie opting not to even sing the choruses, ShirtBoy over there was plucking away madly at the riff like a skoolkid jabbing his fingers into a vagina for the first time – heyheyhey – reLAAAX, Pierre Cardin!

As a last comment re. Dio turning into Gene Simmons - I ask you: Shouldn't EVERY man be so lucky?

Poffy The Cucumber
Rebel Newsboy

Jim Davis, Evil Associate

As usual, your treatise was excellent... and just as usual, you stole many classic lines from me. But that's okay because I give them out gratis. I must say that your paragraph on the "so fey I make Legolas look like Archie Bunker" keyboardist nearly made me wet myself with mirth. That guy was cracking me up all show, and the only problem with our EXCELLENT, 2-rows-from-the-front seats was that we could not watch that particular sideshow most of the time.

Also, I'm surprised that you didn't mention the World's Wimpiest Security. I think they may have been from the passive/aggressive school of event staffing. "Umm, yeah... you can jump on the stage if you want. I'm sure it'll only ruin the show for some people, you know, but not all... so... ummm... feel free." If there is a jackass up on stage dancing around for so long that *I* actually consider hopping up there and kicking his ass off, then your security needs a serious dose of testosterone. Reach down deep and grab a nut. Surely some of the white hippos in green jackets there could have simply used their girth to force the idiots off. Perhaps they were going to do something about it, but it's just so hard climbing the 4 or 5 steps up to the stage and hey - is that guy eating nachos? I wonder if he'll let me have just a couple. It's been soooooo long since I ate and 4 Snickers just isn't enough of a snack to tide me over....

All in all, I got what I wanted, which was to see some real, actual metallic rock and roll and listen to the man scream about demons and fire - even if he can't hit the highs of 30 years ago. I just wish that someone besides Blackmore could play that crunchy riff from Man on the Silver Mountain. Both times I've seen Dio, the guitarist was too quick on that riff and it takes all the gravity out of that song. If RJD sings it too quick, a genius line like, "I'm the night, I'm the night, I'm the dark and the light, With eyes that see inside you" doesn't sound terribly sincere or scary like it does on record. Part of my enjoyment of the Man is that he is like an evil little gnome who at anytime could summon up hellfire, and a soulless wanker playing too fast makes it all so much less... well, EVIL sounding.

I did have a good time, though, and the Dunmore gave me some delicious Juicy Fruit.

Your pal,

Leslie Spring, Sony Music

Amen to your "911" commentary. I don't go to see Dio to be patriotic. I go to see Dio to have my ass kicked to hell. More Demons and Fire please.

And as far as the little Dwarf's vocals, it's amazing the difference that a single year can make. He was totally "on" a year ago at the same venue, and only started the "Dio Variations" toward the end of the set. This year, he seemed to be doing jazz improv by the third or fourth song. I think I heard the words 'Silver Mountain' in there somewhere later in the set, but I can't be positive.

Oh, and I think that the band MUST have tuned down. Some of the old material was WAY too easy for me to sing along with... I was in the pisser, nailing heaven-n-hell better than the little dwarf himself, and that's just not right.

Now, Viv Campbell was da' man... no argument... those first two Dio albums had some of the tastiest soloing in metal. However, Doug Aldritch sounds WAY better on the new album than he did live. But live, well, even though I'm a guitarist, I would have been fine with NO instrumental solo breaks, instead of the GIT Mr. Roboto crap that was served up. Actually I think I enjoyed the string breakage BECAUSE of the "soul" that suddenly appeared in the performance. He was forced to stop with the histrionics and to have some real emotion, even if it WAS anger. Remember, G.I.T. = git.

And that so-called keyboard player sucked, probably in more ways than one. I'm not a keyboard player by any stretch, but even I could have worked up a better showing than THAT.

Now, for the lighting: after about the third flash of the blinders, I was ready to punch someone... anyone... just to make it stop. Hey, epileptic disco boy! Save that shit for a couple of high points toward the end of the show, don't keep abusing the poor audience's optic nerves. Hell, with all the smokage going on, the average response to each flash was probably, "I didn't do it, officer!

As for "Man on a Silver Mountain"; that song has been getting performed worse and worse over the years. What happened to the medium tempo groove that made that song so bitchin'? Now it's like the whole band just snorted an 8th of crystal meth EACH, right before launching into the song. And this time was even worse, as Dio's avoidance of the chorus shows another symptom of an aging voice. He can't hit the 5th interval in the word "Silver", so he just drops the whole damn chorus? When the hell did that start?


Jim Davis, Evil Associate

As much of a patriot as I am, I must say I don't want to hear Ronnie James Dio say, "Go USA". I want to hear him say, "GO TO THE PIT OF HELL AND BURN WITH MEPHISTOPHELES!" Or something like that. He should make a rule for himself: "Whenever I get the urge to have cheezy banter with the audience, I should invoke one or several of the Dark Gods and then scream."

I agree with what you're saying about getting older in the last year [Well, at least a year older – Ed note.] I saw him in 2000 at the Fillmore in SF and he was on FIRE. The encore was a cool medley of 'Silver Mountain' and 'Rainbow in the Dark' and although the guitarist he had for that conceptual album (the one before this one) was far too soulless and slick to get the STANK in that lick that is necessary for total enjoyment, Dio not only sang all the words and hit the highs, but he made the song twice as long - basically he bookended 'Rainbow' with a version of 'Silver Mountain' on either side. There were no instrumental breaks in that show either.

“Actually I think I enjoyed the string breakage BECAUSE of the "soul" that suddenly appeared in the performance.”

It's funny you say that, because the Dunmore and I discussed this same point in the car on the way home. When I saw Dio in SF two years ago, Yngwie opened for him, and even to a layman like myself, Aldritch made Y F'n M sound more like Slowhand. After that solo, I felt like there was chafing on MY dick. I think the only way we can consider ourselves lucky is that he kept his pants on. Now, I don't expect the guy to be Steve Cropper, but frikkin eat some red beans and rice and listen to a little Earth Wind and Fire to see if you can get some o' the uptight-white off of ya. I mean, even listening to a little mid-seventies Stones would help. Learn to play 'Midnight Rambler', and then get really drunk on Chivas, play it again and tape it. Then, later, play the tape back and learn to play it like you played it then.


Jon Dunmore, Egomania Records
Now that you mention the "security staff", I think I have figured out the political backstory as to why we saw such a lackluster display of balls - half the security guys... were GIRLS.

I initially thought that they were letting Beavis and Butthead mill aimlessly like untethered goats onstage for so long due to the amount of lawsuits being broached with backstage bashings (ahh, the good ole days), but now I realize that this current political situation has arisen due to that OTHER hellspawned evil so scary that even a hardened warlock like Dio refuses to sing about it - WOMEN'S RIGHTS.

Think about it: I don't think even ONE of those - as you pointed out correctly - HIPPOS caused our autonomous hormonal discharges to excrete pituitary fluid which would cause us to picture them as liable recipients of our phalluses. What I'm saying is: god-DAMN they were ugly - each with its own personal SEA of arse. Doddering about like authoritative artiodactylic pachyderms with badges, only put on sentry-duty at the base of the stairwells leading to the floor-area because the management knew that no one in their right mind would try to squeeze past these mountains of cholesterol havens with arses the size of the asteroid that killed the dinosaurs.

Keeping this in mind, think of the mind-set of the MEN who have to work with these divot-creating plumpsters: "You mean that THEY are getting paid the same as ME to just stand there blocking the aisle with their "gunts," while I've got to whip my dick out and tackle some y-chromosome yahoo off the stage, risking broken bones, lawsuits, a poke in the eye, my headset stuck down my throat, the wrath of other fans, a twisted ankle, a bitten finger, a bloodied nose, a lowering of IQ, a stab from a concealed weapon... - fuck THAT! If those libsters want equality, let THEM take a dive for the team off a six-foot stage - maybe they could use the exercise - goddam fat cunts!"

Now keep this in mind while considering that if the women security personnel were HOTTER THAN A DOCKER'S ARMPIT, you know that even though none of THEM would offer to take a dive off a six-foot stage on the high probability that they would break a nail, every testosterone-juiced security GUY would be LAYING HIS LIFE ON THE LINE to look like Superman-Meets-Mel-Gibson to try to IMPRESS these slut-junkies into copulating with them like the concupiscent honeyed-vagina whores that they are.

Now that's just MY opinion - and it's probably right.

The Dunmore

…And thus, after having strayed so far from what was originally a treatise on the “I’m Stuck In The 80’s” Tour, we bid Selah to our three journeyman journalists at the Gates Of Babylon, as they breathlessly await the double-bill dosage of dork death from White Lion and Y&T at the House Of Blues. Jesus Christ – look at those trousers! Sail away on ships of wonder…

Added: 2004, May 29