Heaven and Hell live at the Warfield, San Francisco

September 14, 2009
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For metal heads, a recent Monday night at the famed Warfield was a lot like going to church, just with more hellfire and much better riffs, because the godfather, Tony Iommi, was in town rocking Dio-era Sabbath tunes. Anyone looking to hear “Iron Man,” “War Pigs,” or any other gems from the time of his Ozzness were in for a surprise, because Heaven and Hell don’t play that. They stick to the two killer albums Ronnie James Dio cut with the band in the ’80s, Heaven and Hell and The Mob Rules, plus some tracks from the less killer Dehumanizer from the ’90s, as well as a bunch of tunes from their latest release, The Devil You Know.

Iommi had a crushing tone throughout and proved from the first note that he is truly British rock guitar royalty. His sound was more open and full than what he went with on this incarnations first few tours, which was at times more midrangey and fuzzy. The band did heavy versions of new tunes like “Bible Black” and “Follow the Tears,” although those tunes don’t have the dynamics or the drama of some of their older material. Iommi truly shined on tunes such as “Heaven and Hell,” “Die Young,” and “Children of the Sea.” A big part of the heavy factor comes from the interaction between Iommi and Geezer Butler and they were locked in this night with punishing sledgehammer riffs. He took huge, expansive solos in every tune and displayed great chops, a biting attack, and a seriously wicked vibrato. They closed with “Neon Knights,” which may have been the best tune of the night. The only thing to detract from it was the fact that they did a bait-and-switch for the encore and started “Country Girl” to the crowd’s delight, only to truncate it after a verse to launch into “Neon Knights.” Despite that, the still rocked and could definitely school many younger bands on what it truly means to be heavy.

For Iommi’s thoughts on gear, tunes, and heaviness, look for a cover story in GP in the upcoming “13th Issue.” —Matt Blackett

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