Heavy-metal singer Ronnie James Dio died in 2010, but he’s still headlining a show June 9 at the Paramount in Huntington, by way of techonology. The “Dio Returns” show puts the late Black Sabbath and Rainbow frontman back on tour with his old solo band performing via a hologram of his likeness singing pre-recorded live vocal tracks.
“The whole thing is about capturing the essence of Ronnie while maintaining the authenticity of what he was all about,” says Jeff Pezzuti, CEO of Eyellusion, which created the hologram. “Ronnie was a very charismatic performer; therefore, we wanted to make sure all of his emotion came out in each song.”
When Pezzuti approached Dio’s widow, Wendy, five years ago with the idea to resurrect her husband on stage, she admits she was a bit nervous about the concept.
“At first, I was apprehensive because it was so new,” she says. “But the more I thought about it, Ronnie was an innovator in music, why not be an innovator in technology?”
HOW IT WORKS
When the show starts, Dio appears as a three-dimensional image in the center of the stage where the drum riser normally sits. There’s a large LED screen behind him showing concert backdrops such as roaring fire, gothic iron gates, even dragons.
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“Each song has its own look and feel. The stage changes throughout the show,” says Pezzuti. “We had 25 animators re-creating everything from Ronnie’s hand movements to his clothing.”
Dio’s own band, which played with him for more than 15 years before his death, performs on each side of the hologram, much like at a regular concert.
“I play to a click track, which is synced to Ronnie’s voice and the hologram. You have to keep locked into that click track, which is like playing with a metronome, because everything relies on it,” says longtime drummer Simon Wright. “There’s a bit of concentration that needs to go on there. But, you get used it after a while.”
Singers Tim “Ripper” Owens (Judas Priest) and Oni Logan (Lynch Mob) share vocal duties with the Dio hologram, which is utilized for half the show. But the entire set list reflects Dio’s catalog from his days in Rainbow and Black Sabbath as well as his solo career.
Wendy Dio says her late husband’s hologram even interacts with the crowd.
“Anything Ronnie did in his live shows is what the hologram will do,” she says. “He throws up the horns and even starts chanting with the crowd just like he would when he was on stage.”
Still, many wonder what Dio himself would think of this concept.
“I believe he totally would approve of this and have fun with it,” says Wendy. “Back in the ‘80s during his Sacred Heart tour, we tried to create a hologram projecting Ronnie talking inside a crystal ball.”
Wright agrees, “Ronnie was always involved in the newest thing that was coming along in technology. He had an inquisitive mind.”
But not everyone is wild about the idea.
“It’s just a money machine is all it is,” says fan Billy Passannante of Franklin Square. “Dio is not coming back, he isn’t rising from the grave, so leave the dead to rest.”
Joseph Rao of Lindenhurst noted on Facebook, “The hologram is a disgusting idea and disrespectful to the legacy of RJD. It’s nothing but a money grab.”
Other fans, like Ralph Vitale of Smithtown, are more optimistic.
“Because it’s Dio, I’d go and see it, whatever it is,” says Vitale, who has a tattoo of the late artist on his forearm. “I saw a video of the hologram on YouTube. It’s looks like he’s actually there.”
Wendy Dio says the mixed fan reaction isn’t surprising.
“There’s always going to be naysayers,” she says. “Everyone has their own opinion, but please see the show before you start criticizing it.”
WBAB radio DJ Keith Fingers of Medford, who interviewed Dio through the years on his long-running radio program “Fingers Metal Shop,” feels the jury is still out on the hologram concept.
“I think people will go to see it out of curiosity in addition to being staunch Dio fans,” he says. “But the question is … how will they react to it?”
WHEN | WHERE 8 p.m. Sunday, June 9, the Paramount, 370 New York Ave. in Huntington
INFO 631-673-7300, paramountny.com