All the clichees that go with the concerts of a veteran hard-rock star were there to be counted at Ronnie James Dio's first gig in Russia at the Olimpiisky sports arena.
A gigantic heavy-metal tour T-shirt was strung behind the stage and powerful speakers were piled up in front as groups of middle-aged faithfuls craned their necks above the enthusiastic teenage mosh pit to catch a glimpse of their idol.
But there was something that made last Saturday's show different from those put on by other old hard rocksters that have come to this country in the past few years to exploit the nostalgia of their aging fans. And that was Dio's sad, but truly powerful voice that dominated the arena for an hour and a half.
Dio effortlessly climbed up and roared down his formidable range as he went from his most recent solo hits to the earlier numbers that made him the star vocalist of Rainbow and Black Sabbath in the late 1970s and early 1980s.
His vocals overwhelmed the audience in a way that would have made Ian Gillan of Deep Purple and David Coverdale of Deep Purple and Whitesnake weep into their mikes.
Both Gillan and Coverdale struggled through most of their repertoire during their recent performances in Moscow, often choking on the higher notes they had mastered with such apparent ease on studio records.
But not Dio. He outperformed Coverdale even when performing one of the latter's most famous Deep Purple hits – "Mistreated."
American-born Dio also had to cover up the flaws in his most recent lineup, which featured only one man up to his standard – former AC/DC drummer Simon Wright.
Guitarist Tracy G could offer none of the lighting-speed technique and mind-blowing riffs of Rainbow's Ritchie Blackmore or Black Sabbath's Toni Iommi, and merely succeeded in producing all sorts of ugly screaming sounds. Nor was keyboard player Scott Warren able to offer much beyond simplistic background lines that could hardly be heard.
But Dio was powerful enough to compensate and make the audience forget about the acoustic defects of Olimpiisky and the constant feedback from the overloaded speakers.
The crowd repaid Dio back for his efforts by bursting its lungs every time the singer picked up the refrain of one of his biggest hits.
"We have lost the children of the sea," the crowd howled as Dio spread his fingers for another old-fashioned satanic sign over the expanse of burning lighters. However, most of his mystical and angry lyrics, filled with encounters with all sorts of devils and monsters, were likely wasted on his Russian audience which could only guess what words Dio sang between refrains.
Dio himself said in an interview that his angry lyrics are not meant to depress, but rather enlighten his fans.
"The evil things that I have sang are more of a warning, telling the people there is a dark side of life and you'd better stay away from it," he said of songs he wrote while singing with Black Sabbath.
Moreover, Dio admitted that the main function of such lyrics was to maintain the image he had cultivated for himself.
"I wrote and sang a bit on the darker side than I would have if the Black Sabbath were called Angel or something," admitted Ronnie James Padovana, whose pseudonym means nothing less than God in Italian.
God or not, Dio was visibly pleased with the way his local hard-rock flock screamed and applauded at the end of his show to prompt him to do a few extra songs. He is already planning his next visit to Russia in the fall.