As the early evening sun beat down relentlessly on an expectant London crowd you could almost taste the emotion and smell the expectation. It was time for what would surely be the defining moment set of this inaugural rock and metal celebration as a host of the greatest names in the business prepared to deliver a fitting tribute to a fantastic man.
When Heaven & Hell initially announced they would play the main stage, vocalist Ronnie James Dio appeared well on the road to recovery after being diagnosed with cancer. When they subsequently cancelled the show a dark cloud was cast across High Voltage and beyond but the inevitable happened far sooner than anyone could have imagined. Opting to rejoin the bill soon after Dio had passed away ensured the emotional rollercoaster was almost complete but a star-studded show guaranteed the final twist to a journey both sad and uplifting in equal measure.
Pairing Glenn Hughes with Jorn Lande to deliver the Dio-era Sabbath classics was a masterstroke and their version of metal anthem tag worked a treat. Long-haired Norwegian Lande, of Masterplan fame, complemented veteran Glenn Hughes (looking more like Scott Weiland’s crazy uncle every day) perfectly and the duo rattled through tracks like Mob Rules, Children Of The Sea, Voodoo and Bible Black with confidence, respect and passion.
Hughes described Bible Black as the very best modern metal anthem and his pin sharp delivery on a balmy summer night added to the feeling that Dio’s legacy has been truly enhanced by Heaven & Hell’s final offering, The Devil You Know. Initially regarded as a good album, history may ultimately record it as a great one.
Having picked off two tracks at a time Hughes and Lande left the stage to Tony Iommi and the understated master of the metal guitar set about marking his own tribute to Dio in typically fret-burning fashion.
Lande returned to belt out a brilliant version of Die Young before he joined Hughes for a stunning rendition of Heaven & Hell. This was where the tribute to Dio reached its spine-tingling peak and it was a moment which will live forever in the memories of those so fortunate to be present.
The Neon Nights encore was liberally sprinkled with genuine stardust and ZZ Top must have been stroking their beards with disbelief. Following this landmark show would be the most difficult gig of their long and celebrated career – the night, and possibly the festival, belonged to Dio’s mates and Dio’s memory.