May 5, 2007, Chicago, Illinois, USA

Rosemont, Illinois, USA (suburb of Chicago) was graced with the opportunity to host the reunited Black Sabbath band, fronted by the iconic Ronnie James Dio, under the moniker Heaven & Hell on May 5th, 2007. Also on the bill were Megadeth on the wings of their May 15th release of United Abominations, and Machine Head, fronted by the charismatic Robert Flynn. The All State Arena was the venue of choice, and approximately 9000 nostalgic fans found their way to the turnstiles, looking to recapture a bit of that magic that was taken for granted back in the early 80s when Dio-era Sabbath made a permanent mark on Metal history.


First up on this evening was Machine Head at precisely 7 p.m. The band, made up of Robb Flynn (guitars/vocals), Phil Demmel (lead guitars), Adam Duce (bass), and Dave McClain (drums), strolled onto the stage in a calm and collected manner, only to break into an absolute fury of energy and aggression with their brand of Neo-Thrash (California Bay Area) Metal. At this early point in the evening, about half of the total audience had made it to their seats, and many of them were a bit astonished at what they were witnessing. Although there were a good number of teens and 20-something year olds in the audience, the vast majority attending this event were in the range between 30 and 50, and needless to say the brutal assault that Machine Head levied on the crowd was received with a mixed response. Perhaps 25% of those in attendance at the time were visibly into Machine Head’s 25-minute set, but the other 75% just kind of gazed at the stage like they just witnessed a car wreck.

Machine Head

Audience response aside, Machine Head played an inspired set, highlighted by Robb Flynn’s introduction to “Aesthetics Of Hate” from their new album The Blackening, whereby Flynn spoke of the “conservative Web site” that posted an article saying Dimebag Darrell’s fate was well-deserved because of his vocation towards playing and creating Heavy Metal… a form of music that promotes violence. This song seemed to hit home with the audience, and Phil Demmel’s solo was extremely impressive and spot-on.

In the end, Machine Head tried very hard to “warm up” the audience, as is the primary job of the warm-up band… they played tight and with vigor, but the audience demographic simply just wasn’t right to fully appreciate or soak in Machine Head’s style of Metal.

Imperium * Now I Lay Thee Down * Aesthetics Of Hate * Davidian


After a relatively short break of 15 minutes, all of the patrons had made their way to their seats, and Megadeth hit the stage to an amazing roar of the crowd. On paper, many Sabbath fans (especially the older ones in attendance), probably had little to very little interest in Megadeth back in the day… after all, Megadeth was the bastard stepchild to Metallica, and Thrash Metal in the 80s was viewed by those who grew up listening to Classic Hard Rock of the 70s and early 80s as an inferior and less-refined aggressive musical expression. Thrash bands (and Megadeth especially) were strictly for overweight, out of shape, pimply-faced losers who were social outcasts and loners.

Megadeth's Mustaine & Drover

Those hard facts made the audience’s more-than-enthusiastic response to the band’s entrance a bit of a surprise… perhaps even to the band. Maybe it was an apples to oranges comparison that helped Megadeth’s cause… Machine Head had played so brutally that Megadeth almost seemed to be playing Melodic Metal in comparison, making “familiar” sounds that much more enjoyable and appreciated by those in attendance. Whatever the reason, Dave Mustaine seemed a bit overwhelmed by the response, and if anything, this reaction seemed to make the band play tighter and tighter as their set went along. Glen Drover on the other lead guitar and Mustaine traded the spotlight back and forth, playing the customary very complicated Megadeth riffs and solos throughout the set to a very high level of precision, all the while satisfying this crowd’s thirst for high quality, high energy Metal.

There were a ton of highlights in this set, but the raw and catchy opener “Sleepwalker” from the new Megadeth album, “Hangar 18” with its awesome musical interludes, “Peace Sells” with the audience sing-a-long segments, and “Holy Wars” with Shawn Drover beating the holy crap out of his kit stood out as the most memorable musical moments. Towards the end, Mustaine came out alone and stood at the microphone to address the crowd and to thank them for their great support on this night, and also to wish the Latino contingency a happy Cinco de Mayo. Funny, but once the poster boy for recalcitrant Metal outcasts in the 80s, Mustaine was now in 2007 coming across to the audience as a very intelligent, together, loquacious spokesman for stopping political abuse and social injustice, and the audience was at his disposal.

Yes, Megadeth was in no way cast in the shadows as an underground “almost as good as Metallica” band on this night. Rather, they showed that Progressive Thrash is alive and well, and with a set as well-played as theirs was on this night, the band was able to reach a couple-three Hard Rock/Metal generations by delivering a totally enjoyable musical experience. Megadeth could do and did no wrong this evening… and they set the bar pretty damn high for what was to follow. In the end, during their 45-minute set, Megadeth invariably “stole the show” in Chicago.

Sleepwalker * Take No Prisoners * Kick The Chair * Wake Up Dead * Hangar 18 * Washington Is Next * Symphony Of Destruction * Tornado Of Souls * Peace Sells * Holy Wars (encore)


Still totally juiced from the Megadeth set, the audience stayed close to their seats as the stage setup for Black Sabbath was unveiled. The setting was the entrance of a brick castle, with a faux brick backdrop and brick pillars with iron gate bars on both sides of Vinny Appice’s drum set. Above his kit were three small movie screens that were designed to look like oval-topped castle windows. These were used to add a bit of mystery and scenery during the band’s set… kind of a cool effect that you don’t see everyday.

To the audience’s great pleasure and expectations, the lights went dim and “E5150” from The Mob Rules album was piped in over the P.A. system, apparently starting identically to Black Sabbath’s opening during that very same tour in 1981. However, instead of belting out “The Mob Rules” as the audience expected, Sabbath transitioned to “After All (The Dead)” from the Dehumanizer album, which essentially had the effect of putting half of the audience back on its heels. Based on the Chicago audience’s reaction to this opener and the other 2 songs played from Dehumanizer, “I” and “Computer Gods,” it appeared many in attendance weren’t all that familiar with that album (shame on them). The unfortunate result was that these songs seemed to take some of the charge out of the audience’s buzz, making Sabbath’s decision to open with “After All (The Dead)” one of the first “mistakes” of the night. The audience was ready to explode, but that explosion was held back until after Ronnie James Dio addressed the crowd and said, “Now it’s time to play the song that you all THOUGHT we were going to start with, ‘The Mob Rules’!” And, for the next few minutes, all was back on track, including the audience’s demeanor.

Tony Iommi

Next up came “Children Of The Sea” and “Lady Evil” from the Heaven And Hell album, and by this time, Ronnie James Dio, looking a bit diminutive on this castle-like stage, almost appearing to be Rock ‘n’ Roll’s version of Lord Farquad (Shrek) and sounding a bit raspy, started to better take control of the stage and flex his vocal muscles. After cutting through his larynx cobwebs, Dio showed clearly from this point forward that he has lost little (if any) vocal range or power (although it did appear a few times that he missed a few queues on when his vocal lines should start throughout the show… faux pas easily forgiven).

As most fans of Sabbath know, this Heaven & Hell tour was kicked off in the wake of The Dio Years greatest hits album being released; an album including 3 new tracks by this historical line-up, 2 of which were performed on this night: “The Devil Cried” and “Shadow Of The Wind.” Both were met with better than average response from the audience.

Other main highlights of the show were “Falling Off The Edge Of The World” (played very well with high energy), “Die Young” (including an impressive solo by Iommi as a lead in), the encore performance of “Neon Knights,” which really gave the audience a boost, and, believe it or not, the drum solo by Vinny Appice. Now, if you’ve been to many concerts in your lifetime, chances are that you’ve seen more than your fair share of drum solos… and the “drum solo” segment of whatever concert you’re attending may in fact be the “best” opportunity to go hit the restrooms or grab another beer, because you may feel you really won’t miss anything. Well, this drum solo started off about as bland and basic as it gets… lots of snare hits with the occasional cymbal crash. HOWEVER, Vinny, being the true professional veteran that he is, was able to pull a few tricks out of his sleeve and actually conjured up a very enjoyable, rhythmic, and unique drum solo that must have lasted 5 minutes. Kudos to Vinny for making this interlude and rest for the other members of the band quite the worthwhile experience for those in attendance.

As mentioned above, the choice of openers was a mistake by Sabbath. A few other ill-advised decisions were made as well. First, the band stopped playing between each song, allowing Dio to address the crowd. On the surface, that’s not a bad thing, but it seemed as the night continued on, Dio was kind of running out of inspired things to say to the fans… also, this practice kept on bringing down the energy level of the audience. A better decision would have been to perform 2 or 3 songs in a row, thus keeping the audience on their toes and totally charged up. Second, Sabbath strung out the duration of a small handful of songs with some unnecessary musical wadding, which again had the effect of keeping the audience more subdued than they wanted to be… songs like “Heaven & Hell,” “Sign Of The Southern Cross,” and “Voodoo” were extended out too far, causing a bit of audience fatigue. Lastly, the setlist, though great, should have included more up-tempo songs… high energy songs like “Turn Up The Night,” “Slipping Away,” “Walk Away,” and the “best” new track off of the greatest hits release, “Ear In The Wall,” were unfortunately not performed.

Overall, Sabbath had the audience ready to eat out of their hands… but they didn’t fully take advantage of the situation. In the end, the audience “got” what they came to see — that being legends performing tracks from some of the best (Doom) Metal albums ever written. The show was indeed enjoyable from start to finish, and the musicianship of Geezer, Tony, Vinny, and Ronnie were largely top notch… but, the band had the opportunity to knock off one for the ages, and instead Sabbath left the audience with just a slight feeling of emptiness and disappointment — not in what they saw or heard, but in what they could have seen and heard had a few aspects of the show proceeded in a different manner, as outlined above. Still, this reunion tour is certainly worth your while to go see… SO DON’T MISS IT!

E5150 * After All (The Dead) * The Mob Rules * Children Of The Sea * Lady Evil * I * The Sign Of The Southern Cross * Voodoo * The Devil Cried * Drum Solo * Computer Gods * Falling Off The Edge Of The World * Shadow Of The Wind * Die Young * Heaven & Hell * Neon Knights (encore)


  • Dan Skiba

    Dan is a former partner at Metal Express Radio, and also served as a reviewer, photographer and interviewer on occasions. Based out of Indianapolis, USA he was first turned on to Hard Rock music in the mid-1970s when he purchased Deep Purple's Machine Head as his first album. He was immediately enthralled with the powerful guitar sound and pronounced drumbeat, and had to get more! His collection quickly expanded to include as many of Heavy Rock bands of the time that he could get his hands on, such as Ted Nugent, Judas Priest, and Black Sabbath, to name just a few.

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