The Dio Returns Tour has been making its way across North America and Myth Live in Maplewood, Minnesota hosted the states first hologram centered rock show. The debate about holograms has been non-stop across various social media platforms, as Tupac, Frank Zappa and Roy Orbison holograms have joined Dio as touring acts.
Ronnie James Dio passed away on May 16, 2010. He is regarded as one of the most influential heavy metal singers in the genre. His career encompassed Elf, Rainbow, Black Sabbath, Dio, and Heaven & Hell. He was a catalyst in moving hard rock and heavy metal forward from the seventies into the eighties. His stage shows set a new standard in concert experiences with props that included an eighteen foot fire breathing dragon that would have Game Of Thrones fans salivating. He is the voice behind some of metals greatest songs and this tour brought those songs back to the stage.
Jizzy Pearl’s Love/Hate opened the night with a spirited set. Pearl’s last appearance at the Myth was back in 2005 when he was the vocalist for Ratt and there were plenty of fans excited to see him again. Due to the elaborate set-up of the Dio stage, Jizzy and company didn’t have much space to operate with but it didn’t slow them down a bit. Kicking things off with “Yucca Man” and then into “Tumbleweed” had all the Love/Hate fans rocking. His voice hasn’t lost a thing as he maneuvered through a ten-song set that was capped off by “Why Do You Think They Call It Dope” and “Black Out In The Red Room.” The band he has assembled played the material beautifully and matched Pearl’s enthusiasm on stage. I have never heard the Love/Hate material live and it was a real pleasure to watch this show. Jizzy Pearl released ‘All You Need Is Soul’ on Frontiers Music Srl in 2018 and is well worth your while if you haven’t checked it out yet.
The video introduction used on the “Sacred Heart” tour in 1986 opened the Dio Returns show. The band kicked into “King Of Rock And Roll” as brilliant images of dragons flying and breathing fire appeared on the screens behind the band. The Dio hologram finally made its appearance to the stage wearing a white shirt with a cross on the front and leather pants. The image of Dio is based around the year 2000 so his look matched his bandmates ages, which was important to the creators of the hologram. The vocals were taken from various live performances and it was an instant reminder how great of a singer he was.
The band that surrounded the hologram was made up of past players and members of the touring group Dio Disciples. Craig Goldy on guitar, Scott Warren provided the keyboards, drummer Simon Wright and the newest member to the Dio family, bassist Bjorn Englen. The show also featured two more vocal powerhouses in Tim “Ripper” Owens (Judas Priest) and Oni Logan (Lynch Mob). The trade-offs between the three vocalists worked well as they traveled through an extensive ninety-minute set.
After the opening song the hologram quickly dissipated and Owens took the stage to screens displaying the cover of Black Sabbath’s 1981 release ‘Mob Rules’ and kicked into the title track. He was lethal in his delivery and it sounded fantastic. Not to be outdone, Oni Logan took the stage and sang “Children Of The Sea” and nailed it perfectly. The hologram made its second appearance for a medley of “Last In Line” and “Holy Diver.” The night captured the amazing catalog of Ronnie James Dio. From his Rainbow days we got “Man On A Silver Mountain,” “Catch The Rainbow,” “Stargazer,” and “Gates Of Babylon.” Songs from his solo career included “Stand Up And Shout,” “Don’t Talk To Strangers,” “Invisible,” “Egypt (The Chains Are On),” and his biggest radio hit “Rainbow In The Dark.” The mighty Black Sabbath song “Heaven And Hell” is a classic and that always get a tremendous response.
The night was a ride down memory lane, from the opening video intro, to seeing video clips of Dio performing on the screens as the band played, even the drum solo connected the past with the present with a dedication to another legendary figure. Simon Wright’s drum solo honored Cozy Powell’s 1812 Overture. It was a nice tribute to a man that will always be connected to Ronnie. The night ended with the rousing “We Rock” and “Neon Knights.” All three singers traded off parts as Ripper and Logan stood side by side with the hologram. I can’t think of two better songs to close out the show.
The Los Angeles-based entertainment company called Eyellusion created the Dio hologram. They debuted the early version back in 2016 at Germany’s Wacken Festival. A second version did a European tour the following year and now a third version of the hologram is being used for this U.S. tour. The image itself is not actually a hologram but an illusion of one created by a technique called Pepper’s Ghost. There is a reflective screen that bounces an image onto a see-through screen and that gives the illusion of a hologram. The image was created with three-dimensional models but because the technology hasn’t caught up the actually image we are seeing is two-dimensional. The amount of data used is massive. The average movie uses 24 frames per second; the Dio hologram uses 60 frames per second. The time spent trying to perfect the hologram has been a massive undertaking.
The idea of what I thought or anticipated the hologram to look like compared to the actual product presented was underwhelming. When I think of a hologram I’m jumping right into various movies and how they are presented in that format. This hologram was much closer to a CGI image than a hologram. After reading more about how its done and what the current technology allows I understand that the ideas are greater than the technology used to execute them. From a production side this show was outstanding. The stage and the screens with the images constantly changing kept you attentive and into the show. Sonically the band sounded fantastic as well and having the other two singers really provided a good balance between the live vocal performances and the holograms.
The debate about the hologram among Dio and metal fans is a hot one. There are fans that feel it disgraces his legacy to others feeling they are honoring it. It appears in Minnesota, however, that fans are not buying into the hologram idea just yet. The Myth holds about 3500 people and it was only about quarter full despite a pretty good hype when the tour was announced. Ronnie James Dio is such a beloved figure and the passion people feel for him is so enormous. It is not surprising there is a certain unwillingness to accept a replica of man that most of us saw in person giving every ounce of himself on stage. Time will tell, as technology develops, and future generations discover Dio, if the demand for holograms in general will begin to grow. Right now we are in the infant stages of hologram concerts and what the future holds will be interesting.
Overall, I really enjoyed the show. I found myself just getting lost in the power of the music. Re-discovering how awesome and powerful the songs are, feeling the kick drum go through my chest and the guitar harmonics ring through my ears. Standing next to other Dio fans and singing out the words and throwing horns in the air. That’s what Ronnie James Dio was all about. When he took the stage it was a celebration of people coming together for the love of music and for me, this show was gigantic reminder of how great he was.