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Heaven and Hell Offer Little Diversity from Previous Tour

Tony Iommi, in a 2007 interview when the Dio-era lineup of Black Sabbath reformed under the name Heaven and Hell, said he was looking forward to touring because of how stale the Ozzy-era Black Sabbath shows had become due to a fairly static set of song choices.

After Heaven and Hell's appearance at Merriweather Post Pavilion in Columbia, Md., on Aug. 23, it might be safe to say that old habits die hard.

The band served up a strikingly similar set of old songs from their 2008 tour (which was itself a near mirror to the 2007 reunion tour), with tracks from its latest release, The Devil You Know, replacing then new material featured on The Dio Years.

Considering how diverse their back catalog is, the lack of set list diversity was the night's biggest disappointment.

From the back catalog, Heaven and Hell offered nothing different from their 2008 slot opening for Judas Priest, other than teasing the beginning of "Country Girl" from 1981's The Mob Rules before segueing into the show encore finale, "Neon Knights." The rest of the 11-song (not counting the piped in "E5150" instrumental track that serves as the intro and Vinnie Appice's drum solo), 90-minute performance featured three tracks from the latest offering in addition to the retreads from the last tour.

It is a shame that the band kept things so short, as Ronnie James Dio proved that he could vocally hang with singers half his age. Each song was extended by guitarist Iommi's soulful soloing, including an extended intro to "Die Young" and a lengthy instrumental passage during "Heaven and Hell" that really put the guitarist's skill on display.

Dio had plenty of opportunity to keep his vocals in check and powerful throughout the performance during the lengthened tracks, so why the band could not add another 30 minutes to the set with another three or four songs remains a mystery.

Opening the show was New York-based prog rockers Coheed and Cambria. The band is touring in support of its latest release, Neverender. The live set features the performance of the band's conceptual story spread across its entire four-album catalog. The 50-minute performance covered three of the four albums (skipping out on any tracks from the band's debut, The Second Stage Turbine Blade) and a partial cover of Iron Maiden's "The Trooper" (through the second verse and a portion of that song's solo section).

The band offered a solid display of musicianship punctuated with the unique vocals from lead singer and guitarist Claudio Sanchez. Given how short Heaven and Hell played, another 25 minutes from Coheed and Cambria would have been very much welcomed.

Heaven and Hell (w/Coheed and Cambria)
Aug. 23, 2009
Merriweather Post Pavilion
Columbia, Md.

- Gregory Twachtman

Copyright 2009, Brian Heaton. All Rights Reserved.