Simon Saradzhyan
Staff Writer On
The Moscow Times
Published 03/10/99

All The Clichés That Go With The Concerts Of A Veteran Hard-rock Star Were There To Be Counted At Ronnie James Dio's First Gig In Russia, At The Olimpiisky Arena. a Gigantic Heavy-metal 'Murray' Was Strung Behind The Stage And Powerful Speakers Were Piled Up In Front, As Groups Of Middle-aged Faithfuls Craned Their Necks Above The Sea Of Enthusiastic Teenagers, To Catch A Glimpse Of Their Idol.

But There Was Something That Made This Show Different From Those Put On By Other Rocksters That Have Come To This Country In The Past Few Years, To Exploit The Nostalgia Of Their Aging Fans. And That Was Dio's Truly Powerful Voice, That Dominated The Arena For An Hour And A Half.

Dio Effortlessly Climbed Up And Roared Down His Formidable Range, As He Went From His Most Recent Solo Hits To The Earlier Numbers, That Made Him The Star Vocalist Of 'Rainbow' And 'Black Sabbath' In The Late 1970'S And Early 1980'S. His Vocals Overwhelmed The Audience In A Way That Would Have Made Ian Gillan, Of 'Deep Purple' And David Coverdale, Of 'Deep Purple' And 'Whitesnake', Weep Into Their Mikes.

Both Gillan And Coverdale Struggled Through Most Of Their Repertoire During Recent Performances In Moscow, Often Choking On The Higher Notes They Had Mastered With Such Apparent Ease On Studio Recordings. But Not Dio. He Outperformed Coverdale, Even When Performing One Of The Latter's Most Famous 'Deep Purple' Hits, 'Mistreated'.

American-born Dio Also Had To Cover Up The Flaws In His Most Recent Line-up, Which Featured Only One Man Up To His Standard --Former Ac/Dc Drummer Simon Wright. Guitarist Tracy G. Could Offer None Of The Lightning-speed Technique And Mind-blowing Riffs Of 'Rainbows' Ritchie Blackmore Or 'Black Sabbath's', Toni Iommi And Merely Succeeded In Producing All Sorts Of Ugly Screaming Sounds. But Dio Was Powerful Enough To Compensate And Make The Audience Forget About The Acoustic Defects Of The Olimpiisky And The Constant Feedback From The Overloaded Speakers.

The Crowd Repaid Dio For His Efforts By Bursting It's Lungs Every Time The Singer Picked Up The Refrain From One Of His Biggest Hits. "We Have Lost The Children Of The Sea" The Crowd Howled, As Dio Spread His Fingers For Another Old-fashioned Satanic Sign Over The Huge Expanse Of Burning Lighters. However, Most Of His Mystical And Angry Lyrics, Filled With Encounters With All Sorts Of Devils And Monsters, Were Likely Wasted On His Russian Audience Which Could Only Guess The Words Dio Sang Between Refrains.

Dio Himself Said In An Interview That His Lyrics Were Not Meant To Depress, But Rather Enlighten His Fans. "The 'Evil' Things That I Have Sung Are More Of A Warning, Telling The People There Is A Dark Side Of Life And You'd Better Stay Away From It", He Said Of Songs He Wrote While Singing With 'Black Sabbath'. Moreover, Dio Admitted That He Wrote And Sang Darker To Maintain The Image Of 'Black Sabbath' And Would Have Probably Written Differently If The Band Had Been Called 'Angel'.

Dio Was Visibly Pleased With The Way His Hard-rock Flock Screamed And Applauded At The End Of His Show, Prompting Him To Do Numerous Encores. He Is Already Planning His Next Visit To Russia In The Fall.

Ronnie James Dio's Name Means 'God' In Italian. God He May Not Be, But His Voice Is Pure Heaven.