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Heaven & Hell Show Up Britney in New York

It was a quintessential New York moment at what’s billed as the ‘World’s Most Famous Arena’: One throng of people at Madison Square Garden are queued up to see Britney Spears in the arena, and another to see Heaven & Hell play downstairs, at the WaMu Theater at Madison Square Garden. In the end, age won out over beauty as Ronnie James Dio, Tony Iommi, Geezer Butler and Vinny Appice held sway over a sold-out crowd during a 90-minute set in support their latest album, ‘The Devil You Know.’

While Britney’s ‘comeback’ tour saw the 27-year-old lip-syncing through her 10-year body of work, a man easily old enough to be her grandfather effortlessly led a band that’s been around for over 40 years. And instead of costume changes and choreography, Heaven & Hell let the music do the talking. One thing’s for sure — unlike others associated with their band, Heaven & Hell’s talent has not diminished over time. As the architect of some of the best riffs in metal, Iommi also knows how to play tasteful solos alongside his shredding — shredding that still holds up well.

Butler’s fluid and insistent bass lines cut through everything, at times threatening to show up Appice’s work on the skins. And Dio still hits notes on songs such as the opener, ‘The Mob Rules,’ like the day he first sang them. His polite, almost scholarly, banter between songs was something akin to attending a VH1 Storytellers show. It was definitely a welcome change from the macho posturing that most metal frontmen feel the need to indulge in.

If there was any room for improvement throughout the set, it was the set list itself. While they had five albums to choose from, many songs were familiar to anyone that’s seen the band on their past two tours. And the 17-minute version of ‘Heaven and Hell’ that closed the the night could have been truncated to make way for another song or two. But the three new songs they played, ‘Bible Black,’ ‘Follow the Tears’ and ‘Fear,’ sounded punchier than they do on record.

And although the average age of the band members is over 60, Heaven & Hell’s enthusiasm and musicianship showed they could easily be doing this again five years from now. We’re not sure we can say the same about Britney.

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