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Dio Returns – a review of the Dio hologram tour

When I first heard about the hologram tour I had rather mixed feelings. For those who do not know, what I am talking about: Wendy Dio (widow and manager of Ronnie James Dio), Jeff Pezzuti (CEO of Eyellusion, the company that came up with the idea) and the Dio Disciples (kind of an official DIO tribute band, which features some former members of DIO’s latest line-up) teamed up to keep the legacy of Ronnie James Dio’s music alive. Their latest idea is to bring late Ronnie James Dio back on stage as a hologram. This hologram is acting in line with recorded live vocals of the renowned rock singer while the drummer is listening to a “click track” to synchronize the live band with the hologram.

While I was curious about how the hologram would look like I also feared that it could negatively impact some very good memories regarding Dio’s real live appearances. With only two days left to go, I decided to avoid reading what people, who have not even seen the hologram, had posted and to attend the concert in Cologne to make up my own mind.

I regard the hologram tour as an offer, an offer of people who do not want Ronnie James Dio to become “a footnote in rock history” (Jeff Pezzuti), an offer of musicians who invest their own lifetime in bringing Ronnie’s songs on stage for fans and people who have not had a chance to see Dio live. An offer of the Eyellusion team, which invested a lot of money to realize the hologram to make their dream come true.

Are they doing it for the money? Yes, to a certain extent they do, like almost everyone of us. We all have to earn our money to make our living. But I doubt that this is the driving force behind the hologram tour. There are definitely more convenient and safer ways for all of them to make money. I assume that both, the creation of the hologram and bringing it on tour are high-risk investments. The claim “Bringing Ronnie James Dio back on stage” is causing so much controversy – and is in my opinion the wrong marketing approach – that it could strongly backfire on all those involved.

So why would a drummer like Simon Wright bow himself to a click tune? Why would Craig Goldy, who has written and recorded two wonderful songs as a personal tribute to Ronnie – which I regard the best output of former Dio members since the passing of the rock icon – would play live on stage to support a 3D puppet? I assume that the driving force behind all this work really is “to keep the legacy of Dio’s music alive”, to honor the man who probably had a great impact on the lives of all involved.

Is a hologram the best, the right, the only way? I doubt it, but it is one way and it is an interesting one. A way that did not work for me though. As it is still far from being perfect. The hologram lacked all the charisma, the warmth, and the personal approach that the real Ronnie could get across to me. The figure seemed to be a puppet, the movements were somewhat choppy, the proportions did not seem to be right and sometimes the subwoofers turned the face into a grimace. Watching it, however, brought back some real good memories. Later in the evening I learned, that the hologram will evolve during the tour. While I can understand this, I worry that unfavorably experiences from the tour’s beginning may negatively impact the future ticket sales. The management should clearly communicate that the hologram is still work in progress.

Having shared so many thoughts on the hologram, let me put it aside now to reflect on the rest of the show. Unfortunately, it had a severe technical problem: The two live singers – who sang about half of the songs – Oni Logan and Tim Owens could not be heard – at least not from my position in the front row. [This is often the case in the front row, for obvious reasons. — THS] It seemed that the microphones were either not turned on or their volume was too low in contrast to the instruments. Only at the beginning of a song, when the instruments were almost quiet, I could hear what great singers the two are. But once the music reached its flight altitude, visual and acoustic signals fell apart: While I could see the vocalists almost wearing themselves out on stage, I could not hear them – a strange experience that almost made me laugh.

The venue “Die Kantine” was far from being sold out, I suppose that around 200 people came to see the show. Therefore, I had no trouble at all finding a place in the first row. The musicians entered the stage at 8:30 p.m., starting with a song accompanied by the hologram. Throughout the 70 minutes show which included one encore song, the band played Ronnie’s most popular songs from the Rainbow, Black Sabbath and Dio days, including “Straight through the heart”, “Rainbow in the dark”, “Tarot Woman”, “Heaven & Hell” and “Catch the rainbow”. Some were performed as recorded “live lyrics” from Ronnie James Dio while others were sung by Oni Logan and / or Tim Owens. (Little side note on Tim Owens: I am still not used to a musician being obviously sponsored by an energy drink company. He wore a sweatband and a cap with the product logo and when he took off the cap after one song he positioned it carefully with the logo facing towards the audience on a microphone holder). Since a couple of songs were played as medleys, the band managed to squeeze many popular songs into the limited time frame. Many people’s favorite “Stargazer” was not part of the Cologne setlist as it is taking turns with “Kill the King” from concert to concert. If I remember correctly, material from Ronnie’s activities since the 1990s was not presented. That’s interesting since apart from Craig Goldy, the other current band members were – as far as I recall – not involved in any of the songs they played.

To sum it all up: I had low expectations towards the hologram itself and that was a rather wise attitude. To put it right, I acknowledge the hologram idea, it is innovative and while it did not work out for me, it may lead to interesting experiences in the future – if only the band and the Eyellusion team get the chance to continue working on it. The sound problems were an unlucky coincidence, but they will most likely not occur in other venues. Nevertheless, I enjoyed the evening! I listened to some of my favorite songs feeling the energy that they only develop while being played live. I had the chance to meet people who share a similar taste of music and I was even lucky enough to meet some musicians and technicians backstage after the show. I had some nice conversations with the band members and got some “insights” talking to Craig Goldy (guitar), Bjorn Englen (bass), Scott Warren (keyboards) and Jeff Pezzuti (Eyellusion). And I am looking forward to new material that is currently being mixed.

Timo Teichert

20 Comments to “Dio Returns – a review of the Dio hologram tour”:

  1. 1
    Nigel Taylor says:

    Horrible idea and what I have seen of it looks awful as well.
    Go and watch Viv and Vinnie in Last in Line, they do the songs complete justice and it’s a great tribute without the hologram horror show of taped vocals!

  2. 2
    Nikolaos Mitianoudis says:

    Horrible. Totally spooky…

  3. 3
    D'ablo Bicasso says:

    The raping of the dead

  4. 4
    Peter Kidd says:

    Thanks for the review. Sadly I never saw Ronnie live. I have no desire to see him after he was live. I have his recordings. That’s enough and I’m very grateful.

  5. 5
    MacGregor says:

    This appalling stunt makes me think of Monty Python & the ‘bring out your dead’ scene! Years ago when the Elvis charade was announced, well that says it all really! Cue Black Adder in the First series, Blackadder ‘ the king is dead, the king is dead etc’ Brian Blessed playing the king walks in, Blackadder ‘the King is Not Dead, the King is Not Dead’ etc! Or HP Lovecraft ‘That is not dead which can eternal lie, And with strange aeons even death may die” You have to laugh, seriously, you have to laugh! Cheers.

  6. 6
    Adel says:

    People who slag off the idea now will be paying big money to see smiler concerts in the not too distant future. It’s called virtual reality!!!!!

  7. 7
    Wiktor says:

    It got nothing to do with keeping Dios legacy alive…but everything to do with money………Its all Necrophilia…

  8. 8
    Tommy H. says:

    Sounds like a morbid idea of some futuristic 80ies movie.

  9. 9
    DP Fan says:

    This would fit perfectly as an episode of Black Mirror. Beyond disappointing that it appears to be real. And a quick google search reveals other ‘acts’ are following this path; Zappa, etc. Dear god, this is wrong on so many levels. Does anyone think these artists would have supported something like this?

  10. 10
    mike whiteley says:

    Just because modern technology allows you to do something,that doesn’t mean that you SHOULD.
    Just a ghoulish,creepy cash grab.

  11. 11
    Steven Johnston says:

    It is an obscene grab for money,if his widow wants to honour his legacy she should just let Ronnie RIP.

  12. 12
    Ron says:

    In the not too distant future when this technology is perfected you’ll be able to see purple at CALJAM or Japan circa 1972 or Wembly circa 1985. Yeah, this thing with Dio seems a bit off, but when they perfect it in a couple of years, who wouldn’t see Hendrix at Woodstock via a theater or concert hall near you.

    I think @6, ADEL, has got it right.

  13. 13
    Blackwood Richmore says:

    @ 10 mike whitely, just like selling videos, dvd’s, blurays… etc, etc… of any dead musicians… like when they got some footage of Elvis Presley singing & took it around & played it in theatres, with living members of the Elvis band up on the stage & playing along to the film with their instruments…. Like when I went & bought that video featuring Tommy Bolin, long after he died…. On the other hand, if there’s a market for it…. well…. just sayin’…

  14. 14
    Matt says:

    Going tonight, great appraisal, I’m still not sure what to expect.

  15. 15
    AndreA says:

    I could only for Elvis P.

  16. 16
    Rock Voorne says:

    I cant really judge very well because I ve not been at the shows.
    It did not appeal to me, maybe i m wrong, dunno.
    Nigel is right about LAST IN LINE.
    Unfortunately when the band did the Netherlands it was too far away for me.
    So sad Jimmy died after releasing this great album with the band.

  17. 17
    Lajos says:

    @Ron….you´ve got a point here.

  18. 18
    uwe hornung says:

    Obscene is the word. What a horrible idea. I’m amazed (and disappointed) that anyone who once shared the stage boards with RJD is even up for it. They must be really desperate. Or could you imagine Paul and Ringo touring together with holograms of George and John?

  19. 19
    RobH says:

    A little bit of info about live sound…….If you want to hear a full mix, do not expect to do so from the front row……look to the sides…those big things hanging in the air are speakers…..if you can’t see the front of them, then you can’t hear them either.
    You will be only a few feet from the backline ( guitar/bass etc). They make lots of noise and you will definitely hear them, but not much else. If you are in front of the bass gear, you will hear that above everything else. Same for guitar. The vocalist, even if he’s not holographic, doesn’t have a built in amplifier, so he will be quiet.
    If you want to hear a balanced mix, go somewhere in the room where you can hear the PA, and if you aren’t going to do that, then don’t blame the sound.
    What I want to know, is did the hologram Ronnie behave atrociously towards the monitor engineer, like he used to in reality? !!! By the end, he was finding it increasingly difficult to find a good monitor man due to his behaviour…..Great singer, fab music, but Saint Ronnie he was definitely not.

  20. 20
    Darryl says:

    Wait…so, it’s not even Dio’s voice being used in the show?

    So, we have the tribute band playing and a hologram Dio lipsyncing to his tribute singers? I assume they are offstage?

    What a clusterf*ck.

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