Gig review: LAST IN LINE – Islington Academy, 1 August 2013

LAST IN LINE + SWEET SAVAGE + DENDERA

A two thirds full Islington Academy to see the surviving members of the classic Dio line-up from the early/mid-80’s, no mean feat as August is never a great month for gigs outside of festivals (it was Bloodstock’s turn this weekend) and the odd one-off date by bands on the European festival circuit. Nice to spot Dante Bonutto in the crowd too who championed Dio back in his days at Kerrang!

First up we had young guns Dendera who played an enjoyable set of Iron Maiden/Judas Priest approved metal. The vocalist had the Rob Halford approved metal screams and the twin guitarists played big, metal riffs. ‘Selanc Hill’ and ‘Bridges Will Burn’ (they had a decent following in the audience who loved this song), were highlights and a band I will be investigating further. They are back on the road in October supporting the mighty Gloryhammer.

Sweet Savage are known for two things by the casual fan, being the early band for Vivian Campbell and the fact that ‘Killing Time’ (performed at a manic pace tonight) was covered by Metallica.

Bassist/vocalist Ray Haller is the sole original member in the line-up and he seemed to have a great time on stage with a young band who included rising blues rock guitarist Simon McBride. A lively set and although not my personal cup of metal, I would recommend seeing them live.

Last In Line are not the only band around with former Dio members out there as there is also Dio’s Disciples, who feature Simon Wright and Toby Jepson amongst their line-up. I have not seen that version live, however they will have to go some to beat Last In Line who were on fire tonight.

The line-up is the Dio one from 1982-1985 (although Schnell joined in 1983), namely current Def Leppard guitarist Vivian Campbell, Claude Schnell (keyboards), Jimmy Bain (bass) and Vinny Appice (drums).

The man tasked with singing Ronnie Dio’s songs was Andy Freeman, not an enviable task as Dio will always be one of the greatest singers in rock. He did a very good job, maybe not a direct sound-a-like as say Jorn Lande, however he worked the crowd well and gave deference to the musicians backing him as they were the main draw to hear Dio classics performed by the surviving original band.

Strong set list too, although I would have liked ‘Rock ‘N’ Roll Children’ and ‘Hungry For Heaven’ to be played. Still you can’t complain with ‘Stand Up And Shout’ getting the crowd singing along from the off and I did like Andy Freeman’s quip they were going to quieten things down and then launch into the metal beast that is ‘Evil Eyes’.

The band were spot on and in particular I’d single out Vivian Campbell who played the solos and riffs with style. Listening to Dio songs you’d often think there were two guitarists in the band. He is currently undergoing cancer treatment and I hope he recovers soon, plus I am sure playing live these Dio songs will help greatly. Good to see Vinny Appice keeping up his great tradition of wrecking his drum kit by playing it too hard!

What a treat though to hear ‘Holy Diver’ again with this line-up, last time I saw this version of the band would have been at the old Monsters of Rock back in 1985. Glad they included ‘Rainbow In The Dark’ as the keyboard riff always brings a smile to my face as it is very simple, yet effective. In fact Claude Schnell, sporting a hairstyle last seen in the more dubious films from the 1970’s, only got a few chances to take the musical spotlight.

Two cracking encores with ‘Gypsy’ and after asking the crowd what they’d like to hear, it had to be ‘We Rock’. What a finale to a great night and a perfect tribute to the late, great Ronnie James Dio. I am sure they will be back and I’d say they are a must see for any Dio fan.

Review by Jason Ritchie

Setlist: Stand Up and Shout/Straight Through The Heart/King of Rock and Roll/Don’t Talk to Strangers/Sacred Heart/Evil Eyes/Holy Diver/Caught in the Middle/Egypt (The Chains Are On)/I Speed at Night/The Last in Line/Invisible/Shame on the Night/Rainbow in the Dark/Encore:Gypsy/We Rock


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