Orpheum Theatre, Phoenix, AZ, USA June 26, 2019
Ronnie James Dio was no stranger to elaborate and extravagant stage productions. Whether it was a mechanized dragon and laser effects he used on his 1985/'86 Sacred Heart tour or mechanical spiders during his 1987/'88 Dream Evil tour; RJD's stage productions were always something to marvel at because of the imagery of the album he had created in the studio came alive on these tours. Last night's Dio Returns show in Phoenix, Arizona is no exception. This time, with the assistance of Eyellusion, Ronnie James Dio, the diminutive, yet larger than life and beloved front man for such bands as ELF, Rainbow, Black Sabbath, DIO, and Heaven and Hell, who passed away in May 2010, IS back, this time in the form of a hologram which uses a recording of Ronnie singing numbers like "Last in Line," "Holy Diver," "Heaven and Hell," "Egypt," and "We Rock."
The hologram of RJD first appeared at the Wacken Open Air Festival in 2016. Was in Europe in 2017 and finally here in the States in 2019 at the end of May. So, with a computer-generated puff of smoke, Ronnie appears and disappears, wearing a long white tunic with a silver cross on the front and black leather pants; encased in a portal, which allows him to move freely within this zone. The appearance of a mic and the stair RJD used, as well as, the three-quarter turn to see the back of him, along with the array of computer-generated images and video from previous performances provided for an impactful 3D experience. RJD, of course, was not alone in this performance as he was backed by core members of the DIO band in guitarist, Craig Goldy; keyboardist, Scott Warren; and drummer, Simon Wright. Joining them was bassist, Bjorn Englen and singers, Tim "Ripper" Owens and Oni Logan, who sang versions of favorite DIO numbers when the hologram was not on stage, and later joined RJD during a powerful rendition of "We Rock." Jizzy Pearl's Love/Hate opened the show.
My only concern regarding the overall CGI presentation was when any lighter colored images tended to interrupt the projection of the hologram image or when I witnessed Ripper and Oni crossing behind RJD during "We Rock." Despite the missteps noted, the musicianship and performance were excellent, and the audience was into the show; some were with children or grandchildren there too. I also found myself fist pumping or mirroring DIO's 'horns up' hand gesture to the sky as the music itself is timeless.
© Review: Julie Barela Mills / Photos: PG Brunelli
1) "King of Rock and Roll"
2) "Mob Rules"
3) "Children Of The Sea"
4) "Last In Line"/ "Holy Diver"/ "Last In Line" (Reprise)
5) "Stand Up And Shout"
6) Simon Wright drum solo where he played Tchaikovsky's 1812 Overture (a nod to late, great Cozy Powell)
7) "Don't Talk To Strangers"
8) "Rainbow In The Dark"
9) "Gates of Babylon"
10) Scott Warren keyboard solo
12) Craig Goldy guitar solo
14) "Heaven and Hell"/ "Man On A Silver Mountain"/ "Heaven and Hell" (Reprise)
15) "We Rock"
16) "Neon Knights"