Setting the Stage: In recent years, “hologram performances” of deceased musical icons have been occurring more and more often. Case in point: Tupac Shakur, Frank Zappa, and Ronnie James Dio all appearing onstage once again in computerized form. Despite having passed away nearly a full decade ago, the popularity of Dio’s music with Rainbow, Black Sabbath (later as Heaven and Hell), and as a solo artist has never waned — proving to be quite enduring.
So much so, that a “Dio Returns” U.S. tour was announced, which sees an image of RJD projected on a screen, and synched to vocals recorded from his live performances. And providing support is a band of live musicians — including former Dio members Craig Goldy (guitar), Scott Warren (keyboard), and Simon Wright (drums), plus bassist Bjorn Englen — and vocals from two veteran metal frontmen, ex-Judas Priest singer Tim “Ripper” Owens and ex-Lynch Mob vocalist Oni Logan, for good measure. The crowd was warmed up with an opening set from Jizzy Pearl’s Love/Hate.
Taking the Stage: A current hot topic amongst rock fans is when artists use prerecorded tapes in concert — to either enhance their performance, or, for the simple fact that they are getting up there in age, and cannot “hit the high notes” anymore. Well, in the case of “Dio Returns”, at least the concertgoer is clearly aware that Dio’s vocals are not being sung live. And in case you were wondering, there is indeed demand for hologram performances within the realm of rock, as the 1,573 capacity Paramount in Huntington, New York, was indeed, close to capacity.
The configuration of the stage saw Warren and Englen on “stage right” and Goldy and Wright on “stage left,” all performing on platforms, while the bottom part of the stage was reserved for when Logan and Owens sporadically came out. Then, in the middle, were several screens (above, between, and below) the performers, which would flash computer-animated images, vintage photos of Ronnie, album covers, and song titles. And the screen smack dab in the middle was reserved for the Ronnie James Dio hologram.
What followed was a set that focused on the classics (in other words, don’t expect a healthy helping of Strange Highways or Angry Machines), including the set-opener “King of Rock and Roll,” as well as a medley of “The Last in Line” and “Holy Diver”, another medley of “Heaven and Hell” and “Man on the Silver Mountain,” and “We Rock” (the last tune really getting the crowd singing along).
Sensing that projecting a hologram center-stage all night may get a bit tedious for the audience, Logan and Owens have been enlisted to helped break it up a bit, with strong renditions of “The Mob Rules” (Owens) and “Children of the Sea” (Logan) among several other tracks, with both sharing vocals on a medley of Rainbow’s “Catch the Rainbow” and “Stargazer.” And the supporting musicians were spot-on as well — if Ronnie was still alive, this lineup would have certainly still been deserving of backing him.
As far as the actual appearance of the hologram of the singer (which would often “enter” a song by a bunch of tiny little particles appearing, that would transform into an image of the singer), it sort of resembled that of a video game, which shows that technology is still a ways off until hologram images are truly perfected. But that said, it wasn’t laughable, either.
And the era of Ronnie that the hologram reflected was his look circa the early 2000s – white long-sleeved shirt with a cross on it, leather trousers, and long hair (with a receding hairline). But most importantly was how the vocals sounded. I am happy to report that it was probably the highlight of the night — whoever mixed the sound did a splendid job, as Ronnie’s vocals were not only loud, but also, crystal clear and very powerful.
Closing the show was a glorious rendition of the Sabbath thrasher “Neon Knights”, which saw Oni, Tim, and the Ronnie hologram taking turns singing verses, while a special guest joined in on guitar — Ronnie’s cousin and guitarist of his pre-Rainbow band Elf (and later, the Rods), David Feinstein.
All in all, “Dio Returns” was a fun night. And on a personal note, I learned something that I was not expecting: An old friend of mine attended the show, and brought his two sons, who were too young to have seen Dio perform back in the day, and he had told them shortly after Ronnie’s passing that it was always his wish for them to see him perform. Now, metalheads old and new have as close a chance of once again experiencing a Ronnie James Dio performance, with the “Dio Returns” tour.
Photo Gallery – “Dio Returns” tour at The Paramount in Long Island, New York (click to enlarge and scroll through):
All photos by Stephanie Pearl (@stephpearlphoto)
King of Rock and Roll
The Mob Rules
Children of the Sea
The Last in Line / Holy Diver
Stand Up and Shout
Don’t Talk to Strangers
Rainbow in the Dark
Egypt (The Chains Are On)
Gates of Babylon
Catch the Rainbow / Stargazer
Heaven and Hell / Man on the Silver Mountain