When we first heard the hologram tour was going full speed ahead, it seemed like every Ronnie James Dio fan out there had mixed feelings about the whole thing. I’ve heard everything from “how dare they?” to rational comments like “some people never got to see Dio live, so this might be cool”. Well, I finally had the opportunity to experience the show first hand this past weekend, and I’m here to tell you it’s worth the trip.
I’ve had the privilege to watch Dio live several times from the 90’s through his untimely death in 2010, and clearly had my own reservations going into this, despite not knowing much at all about what the experience would be. Within moments of the show’s start I was thrilled, confused, slightly disappointed and stoked all at the same time. That’s a lot of jumbled feelings, so let me explain why this thing actually rules.
As soon as the curtains open, you’re invited into an ambiance carefully maneuvered by a state-of-the-art video wall that changes with every track, and further enhanced with an epic light show that shines alongside Dio’s actual band he worked with during much of his career. They are scary flawless in every way. In the center of the mammoth video-driven stage set up is an opening where the hologram is projected, coupled with real deal RJD vocal stems recorded from various shows through out his life. So you really get an incredible live Dio experience, only made stronger by one of the best mixes I’ve ever heard from a live show. The production was so precise you can cut yourself on how sharp it is.
Nestled between the RJD tracks, the show also features two special guest vocalists, Tim “Ripper Owens of Judas Priest and Iced Earth fame, and Oni Logan of Lynch Mob fame, providing fans with some real interaction and banter, and the pair absolutely crush it with their performances. I’d seriously watch Oni Logan do an entire set of Dio because he invokes the spirit and voice of RJD so closely.
This brings me to what many will consider the only iffy part of the show, the hologram itself. I’ve never actually witnessed a hologram before, so I have nothing to compare it to, but it took me a few songs before I realized we were watching the technological experience we came to see, and not a video screen that resembles a character from an XBOX RPG. It appears technology has yet to catch up with what Hollywood movies have lead us to think of a hologram. Therein lies the problem – our expectation based on science fiction.
The experience does get better when bassist Bjorn Englen interacts with the hologram, giving it some real three dimensional depth, and it also helps to move back a bit. Sure, it's easy to get wrapped up in what we think it should look like, but if you stop neigh-saying long enough to appreciate the bigger picture, you'll have a great time.
All in all, the show is totally worth attending whether you’ve seen Dio before, and especially if you’ve never got the chance. Getting to witness Dio’s backing band of Simon Wright, Craig Goldy, Scott Warren and Bjorn Englen perform all the legendary classics in flawless execution is worth it alone, especially considering these are the guys who spent years working with the late singer on many of the songs we love.
Paired with a cutting edge show that combines real-deal RJD vocal tracks and two powerful vocalists supplementing the experience, we are left with a great all around celebration of the legend powered by the tireless efforts of Wendy Dio to preserve his memory. That to me is the big take away, the opportunity to celebrate the enormous life and career of Ronnie James Dio, like you've never done before!
Catch the Dio Returns show on the remaining dates.