Twenty odd years back – me and the Cowboy were off to the witch one chilly December evening at the old Hammy Odeon in London. I am truly blessed to have seen Ronnie James Dio live on more than one occasion and he is sorely missed. Ronnie’s amazing and instantly recognisable vocals really defined – for me – what rock n roll/hard rock/HM was all about. Since the time of our last encounter (Sydney 1986) – I had obviously consumed hundreds of more rock shows, bought new albums and digested newer bands. But I never ever forget who the giants of rock n roll were – Ronnie James Dio being one of them – and on Sunday 12th December 1993 I was at a stage in life where I could truly appreciate seeing him and his band do what they do best. Support band was Freak Of Nature led my Mike Tramp – unrecognisable from the big-haired, Harley-riding pouter I remember fronting White Lion – and they were tolerable. Not all that memorable either ! I can probably recall more about the ‘open’ kebab from the local greasy take-away which would’ve ended the evening than anything about Freak of Nature. Apologies Mr Tramp. Between band sets I do recall an announcement over the PA for ‘members of the UK Dio Fan Club to gather at some meeting point’. Ahhhh – rock bands don’t do it like that anymore. Ronnie loved his fans and it was an evening to cherish. He kicked off with long time set opener Stand Up and Shout – surely one of the most iconic rock tunes to open a show – (and for what it’s worth, no lead player nailed it as well as the long departed Vivian Campbell, but I digress). All the Dio/Rainbow/Sabs favourites, along with stuff from the Strange Highways record (which he was touring) – like Jesus Mary & The Holy Ghost , Evilution and the title track got an airing. Set staples Don’t Talk to Strangers, The Mob Rules, Children of the Sea, Holy Diver, Heaven and Hell, Man on the Silver Mountain and The Last in Line got blasted, and the hordes lapped it up. Read those song titles again which I just mentioned. Astounding. This was a master class of hard rock – and Dio always delivered the goods. Ronnie’s band had Pilson from Dokken in there (Jimmy Bain was apparently fired earlier in the year), and also Tracey G (what have we told you about guys with chicks names ?!). I seem to remember ‘G’ screwing up the intro on one of the songs and the rock n roll wizard giving him the evil eye ! ha ! The younger Appice was once again perched on the drum stool and gave a flawless display – but I am not going to mention the unnecesary drum solo…zzzzz.. Encores were Rainbow in the Dark and We Rock. You cannot get two better set closers. Talk about being drunk on rock. All in all this was a fun night of rock and it is hard to believe it occurred two decades back. The great man may be gone, but his music lives on. and WHAT a back catalogue of riches he left behind. Dio’s lyric in The Last in Line really does ring true when thinking of nights like this – “the magic that we’ll feel is worth a lifetime”. Where’s my wax copy of Strange Highways got to ? Time to re-travel that road I think….