Sacred Heart [Video/DVD]

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Dio's 60-minute concert document Sacred Heart is a relic from a bygone era. This 1986 release, recorded at a sold-out show at the Philadelphia Spectrum, exemplifies the height of arena-oriented heavy metal theatricality. At the time, that kind of showmanship was appreciated by audiences and even some portions of the media. In fact, the elaborate stage set, which synchronized perfectly with the mystical swords-and-sorcery imagery found in Dio's music, was voted the best in rock & roll by industry trade magazines Pollstar and Performance. Ronnie James Dio was happy to offer the over-the-top spectacle to his fans on this trek promoting 1985's Sacred Heart. In a 1997 interview, the vocalist said the set cost $500,000 to build, and the expense of trucking it and a large crew around on a world tour meant that he didn't make any money. The stage set is certainly impressive, but the music performed by Dio, guitarist Craig Goldy, keyboardist Claude Schnell, bassist Jimmy Bain, and drummer Vinny Appice has its ups and downs. At times there's an annoying tendency to lump songs into medleys. "King of Rock and Roll" and "Time to Burn" (from the rare EP Intermission) start things promisingly, but then an abbreviated "Holy Diver" is stuck in the middle of "The Last in Line." "Heaven and Hell," a gem from Dio's underrated Black Sabbath days, is shortened and rearranged slightly in spots, but it's still fun. "Sacred Heart" features theatrics that would humble Spinal Tap; Dio wields a glowing electric-powered sword, essentially a light saber, to slay a huge animatronic dragon. Unfortunately, Dio-era Rainbow songs "Long Live Rock 'N' Roll" and "Man on the Silver Mountain" don't come off well because they are performed too fast.