By the time I was 23 I’d been to dozens of concerts and seen most of my favorite bands (some of them multiple times) But one’s first concert is special, and mine was…Ronnie James Dio. I was 15. Dio came to my hometown and played at a very nice and respectable place. Not so that night in 1984. All kinds of disreputable heavy metal kids showed up—we stood on chairs and smoked the place up (*I* didn’t smoke), so that a haze of smoke hung in the air. I remember this night as something magical. My first concert.
Now, I LOVE music. Love it. I listen to it all the time; sometimes I feel like it’s part of the air I breathe. That night I discovered how much I love live music. I could FEEL the music! The kick drum spit off spurts of air, the ground vibrated, the rhythms pulsed right into my heart. People were all squashed up against me, sweating and singing and screaming and making the devil’s horns. \m/ I was sweating and singing and screaming and making the devil’s horns right along with them. I pumped my fists in the air. I yelled when the singer said, “I want to hear you SCREEEAM!” I loved all of that. Still do.
I remember Dio, this diminutive, elfish man with a huge voice standing on stage looking very ethereal. I don’t know if that’s how he really looked or whether it was a trick of lighting and smoke. None of that mattered. All that mattered was that I WAS SEEING DIO! Live! He stood just a few rows away from me on a small stage. At certain points during the show this green laser-like light would come down and surround him. He’d poke his hand out and when he touched it it would flash, like…magic. Of course, being a good showman, he’d pick the perfect time in a song to do this—at a particular magical word or phrase.
My best friends and I went crazy when he played Holy Diver and Rainbow in the Dark. We screamed and jumped up on our chairs. When he played something slow we held up our lighters. As we became more experienced concert goers, we always made sure we had fresh lighters for a show. We never wanted a lighter to run out of fluid during a concert.
We bought t-shirts. Lovely things depicting the cover of his Holy Diver album with a priest thrashing around in the water after a horned devil threw him in the water in chains.
We bought programs with pictures. We relished the experience. I proudly wore my Dio concert shirt to school every week for months after that night (although I don’t think my mother was pleased). One day my two best friends and I all wore our shirts to school on the same day. We laughed as we walked to our lockers in our Dio shirts and faded Levi’s. After that we became known around school as “The Dio Trio.”
That night changed my life. From that point on I had to see my favorite bands live as often as possible. And I did.
What was your first concert?