It’s the first day of High Voltage Festival 2010, and it must be said that for a first time festival, everything seems to be running rather smoothly. The punters are in – tattooed leather-lovers in front of the Hammer Stage, wizard-like hippies smoking their pipes by the Prog Stage, and the Dad Rockers at the Classic Rock Main Stage, trying to work out if the geezer in front of them once played in Quo. Victoria Park is brimming with excitement, and it only takes a quick glance at the line-up to realise why.
As much as everyone is looking forward to ZZ Top tonight, it’s really Heaven & Hell that are the true headliners of the Main Stage. Today is the day the band are to stand together one final time and pay tribute to their fallen brother, Ronnie James Dio. There is no tour being planned by money-grabbing managers or parsimonious promoters – as Michael Jackson once said, this is it. One final farewell and a last chance for UK fans to hear these songs being played live, by the band that wrote and played them. Fronting the band today is Glenn Hughes, an amazing musician but more importantly a close friend to Ronnie that sang and spoke at the funeral. Joining him is Jorn Lande, a Dio-influenced Norwegian singer who recorded a tribute album to the little man with the big voice within two months of his untimely passing.
Tomy Iommi of Heaven & Hell @ High Voltage Festival 2010 by Gary Wolstenholme
As Iommi, Butler and Appice take the stage to the usual intro of ‘E5150’, they look composed and focused for what must be a very emotional moment in their lives. Jorn Lande is first up and the band open with classic rock anthem ‘The Mob Rules’. Within seconds, almost every single person in the crowd is in awe of how close Jorn’s voice is to the real thing. Everything about it – his phrasing, diction, vibrato and overall snarl (ok, not a technical phrase, but you get the idea) is absolutely spot on. In a weird way, you cant help but wonder if his Norwegian accent aids him in getting close to Ronnie’s very individualistic approach to singing. Following on with the heavy metal of ‘I’ – there are points when you can close your eyes and actually be back at Sonisphere last year, when Ronnie and co conquered Knebworth in the pouring rain. When it comes to stage presence, Tony Iommi has always been an ice-cold character and today, as he rips through a blistering solo, this is truer than usual.
Glenn Hughes strolls out to a much warmer reception, as the crowd are more familiar with his work fronting Deep Purple, Black Sabbath (briefly) and as a solo artist. Unlike Jorn, he treats the vocal lines in his own way and isn’t afraid to deviate from the recorded versions these songs are famous for. In a way this pays even greater tribute to Dio, who probably would have loved to have heard Glenn colouring these classic songs in the way only he can. The slow tempo of ‘Children Of The Sea’ allows him to further embellish the melodies, even venturing as far as gospel-like falsetto when there is space for him to really go for it.
A rhythm section that boasts Geezer Butler and Vinny Appice leaves little, or rather nothing, to be desired. These are two professionals that have played together (on and off) for almost 30 years, and this is evident in the solid groove at the very heart of the band. Tearing their way through older anthems such as ‘Turn Up The Night’ and ‘Voodoo’ as well as throwing in the doom laden reverie of ‘Bible Black’ from the recent The Devil You Know album, today’s set is very much a collection of the best moments from Dio-era Sabbath.
Both singers come out for a grinding rendition of ‘Heaven and Hell’, with the entire crowd singing back to them, as well as all members of Down who have their fists in the air on the side of stage. After this Wendy Dio comes on stage to say a few words, and despite the PA system failing her soft, gentle voice, her sentiment is understood by all. One single encore, the fast paced ‘Neon Knights’, is the final chapter of this tribute set – and sees Glenn Hughes calling Phil Anselmo on stage to join them. Together the three sing their hearts out, paying tribute to one of the greatest singers of all time. Ronnie James Dio would have been so proud.
Heaven and Hell @ High Voltage Festival setlist
The Mob Rules (sung by Jorn Lande)
I (sung by Jorn Lande)
Country Girl (sung by Glenn Hughes)
Children Of The Sea (sung by Glenn Hughes)
Turn Up The Night (sung by Jorn Lande)
Voodoo (sung by Jorn Lande)
Bible Black (sung by Glenn Hughes)
Falling Off the Edge of the World (sung by Glenn Hughes)
Die Young (sung by Jorn Lande)
Heaven and Hell (sung by both)
Neon Knights (sung by both with guest vocals from Phil Anselmo)