The path of Last in Line started as a casual jam session back in 2011, but before long, original Dio members Vivian Campbell (guitar), Vinny Appice (drums), and Jimmy Bain (bass) decided to make it a full-fledged musical project designed to keep the spirt of those classic Dio albums Holy Diver, Last in Line, and Sacred Heart alive, as well as eventually record brand new music in that same vintage metal tradition. In comes Hudson Valley, New York native Andrew Freeman on vocals, and the seeds were planted for the Heavy Crown album for Frontiers Records in early 2016. After the tragic death of Bain shortly after the albums release, the band decided to continue on, inviting veteran bassist Phil Soussan and keyboard wizard Erik Norlander into the fold for a series of live shows around the world. On this cold and rainy night at the historic The Chance Theater, local favorite Freeman made his triumphant return, the band set to energize a packed house with classic Dio staples as well as selections from the new album Heavy Crown.
With an overload of opening acts, the band didn't actually hit the stage till 11:30PM, obviously much later than expected but the few hundred in attendance were ready to go nonetheless. Rampaging into set opener "Stand Up and Shout" was a great way to kick things off, long a Dio favorite of many, Freeman immediately letting the crowd know he was going to kick things into high gear right from the outset and never let up. The band are locked in and tight, Campbell armed with his black Gibson Les Paul, unleashing more riffs and solos in just this opening number than what it seems he's ever really able to contribute to Def Leppard. "Straight Through the Heart" is next, another Dio classic from that first album, the crowd eating up every minute of it, which then leads into the catchy "Devil in Me" from Heavy Crown, the first of a few from the recent album to be played this evening.
The trio of "Don't Talk to Strangers", "Evil Eyes", and "Holy Diver" follows, the first and third truly legendary songs, performed perfectly here with Freeman doing an outstanding job paying tribute to Ronnie and Norlander adding the right amount of synth embellishments to the metal thunder. "Already Dead" might be the heaviest number on the new album, and live it takes things to another level, easily one of the highlights of the evening with Appice & Soussan laying down a crushing groove under Campbell's menacing riffs and Freeman's potent howl. "Martyr" and "Starmaker" also fare quite well, becoming even more powerful live and mixing in quite well with the old classics. Speaking of, "Last in Line" of course makes an appearance, epic and majestic, as well as "Invisible" , "Egypt (The Chains Are On)" and of course the mandatory "Rainbow in the Dark" and "We Rock", each one featuring plenty of sing along from the crowd.
Omissions? Well, I'm sure some missed "Gypsy", "I Speed at Night", or anything from Sacred Heart (really surprised we didn't get at least "Rock 'n' Roll Children" or the title track) but there's only so much room and the band really wanted to mix in some of the newer songs, so it all worked out in the end. Great to see all involved having a blast playing these old and new favorites, especially Campbell who appears happy & healthy with his chops fully intact (though the sound guy didn't do him many favors this evening), and we can only hope that there is more Last in Line to come in the months and years ahead.