Live Gig Report and Photos: Robert Cavuoto
Last in Line rolled into Teaneck, NJ at Mexicali Live on Friday, March 24th to support their 2016 CD; Heavy Crown. Members of Ronnie James Dio’s legendary band from the 80s featuring Vivian Campbell [guitar], Vinny Appice [drums], the late Jimmy Bain [bass] together with Ronnie, co-wrote some of the rock’s most definitive metal albums; Holy Diver, The Last in Line, and Sacred Heart. Albums that not only created Dio’s sound but help forged a genre of music known as Heavy Metal!
The band’s ferocious 2016 CD, Heavy Crown was released shortly after Jimmy Bain’s untimely passing so the band never had the opportunity to do a proper tour of the US. Fast forward a year and the band now consists of Phil Soussan on bass, Andrew Freeman on vocals, and Erik Norlander on keyboards and they are embarking on a US tour.
In this small rock club on a dimly light stage, Last in Line put on one the biggest Rock n’ Roll shows of the year. It was only the band’s second show and brought back the 80’s in full forces with a setlist that focused on two Dio albums; Holy Diver and Last in Line. They opened with a powerful version of Dio’s “Stand Up and Shout” and never looked back for their 90-minute set. Songs like “Invisible,” “Don’t Talk to Strangers,” “Egypt,” and “Last in Line” were played with an infectious sense of energy that got the crowd rocking. These songs have outlasted the hands of time and sounded just as fresh as they did 35 years ago. The band also included five songs from Heavy Crow; “Already Dead,” “Martyr,” “I Am Revolution,” “Devil in Me,” and “Starmaker.” All songs were tight, fast-driven and neatly filled with all the bands’ trademark riffs, chunky guitar tone, and soulful vocals provided by Andrew who did an amazing job channeling Ronnie on the Dio songs as well as performing the band’s new material. A powerhouse vocalist with energy abound!
The band has incredible chemistry not only with their playing but with their on-stage comradery; performing with big smiles and constant joking throughout the set.
I chatted with Vinny and Vivian prior to the show to ask them about the band’s chemistry. Vinny told me; “It’s the way we play when we are together, we are a band. It wasn’t something where Ronnie directed everything and told everybody what to play. There were four guys in the room and we all brought in our own personalities to it. That’s the sound we created when Ronnie added his signature voice.” Vivian added; “It just happens to be the noise that we make when we get together. That was the sound of the early Dio records because that was us. The difference is Ronnie vs. Andrew.”
It was great to watch Vivian and Vinny perform up close as they are most notably known for playing large arenas with Def Leppard and Heaven & Hell. Armed with only a black Gibson Les Paul, it was awe-inspiring to watch Vivian do all the intricate guitar work from the Dio albums and hear that unique guitar tone which has made him the guitar hero that he is. Vinny has a smaller kit than you would normally see in arenas but he is still the same drumming beast; with every hit on the kit being felt right in the chest. Phil Soussan on bass is a perfect fit in the band with his Ozzy connect and all-star playing and singing. He made a very humbling remembrance speech about the band’s friendship with Jimmy Bain. It was truly a powerful rock show on many levels.
Towards the tail end of the show, the band played one of my favorite songs, “Rainbow in the Dark” which was the first Dio song I ever heard and turned me on to the band as well as countless others.
The night would not be complete without “Holy Diver” and “We Rock” which closed the show; a bona fide metal anthem, setting the stage perfectly for a great weekend and to look forward to the band’s next CD that is in the works.