THE MAN ON THE SILVER MOUNTAIN HAS INDEED RETURNED
It’s not often that people get the feeling that they’re reliving the best experiences of years gone by. It is even rarer to be reliving the past while simultaneously looking at the future. However, on Saturday, June 1, 2019, that is exactly what the heavy metal music fans who were in attendance at The Plaza Live in Orlando did while they were watching the Dio Returns concert.
Heavy metal music pioneer Ronnie James Dio, affectionately known by his fans as “The Man on the Silver Mountain” (which is a reference to a song of the same name that Dio co-wrote in 1975), passed away in 2010 at the age of 67. Ronnie James Dio’s music in the 1970s was one of the catalysts for the heavy metal music genre that we see today. His live concert tours with elaborate, interactive, and visually stunning stage props (including a 20+ foot mechanical dragon) in the 1980s pioneered the live concert “experience” that fans still compare their current concert experiences to. Now, nine years after his death, Ronnie James Dio is a musical pioneer once again by performing in the world’s first rock hologram tour.
In the years following the legendary singer’s death, several of Dio’s former bandmates and closest colleagues, have been touring as Dio Disciples. Dio Disciples, along with Ronnie James Dio’s widow and manager, Wendy Dio, have teamed with Jeff Pezzuti’s hologram production company, Eyellusion, to bring the Dio hologram to concert stages across the world.
Nearly four years in the making, with updated imagery from previous performances, the Dio hologram has embarked on its first extensive tour of the United States. June 1, 2019 marked the 2nd performance of the Dio hologram on the Dio Returns 2019 Tour. The near-capacity crowd at The Plaza Live experienced rock music history in the making as Ronnie James Dio’s hologram transcended virtual reality to a new dimension.
The show opened with a great, rowdy and energetic 45 minute set from Jizzy Pearl’s band Love/Hate. Jizzy Pearl’s Love/Hate was no stranger to many in the crowd who were head banging, fist pumping, and singing along with the songs.
Around 9 pm, the house lights went down and a video introduction by Ronnie James Dio played on the stage screens. This video introduction was fondly remembered by fans of Dio’s 1986 Sacred Heart Tour. Then, Ronnie James Dio’s hologram was projected on stage. The Dio hologram stirred the emotions of many fans. Gasps were heard due to being overwhelmed by the attention to detail in the realistic appearance, movements, and mannerisms exhibited by Eyellusion’s creation. Obviously, painstaking measures, countless hours of artistic development and untold amounts of money have gone into creating this authentic looking representation of Ronnie James Dio. The hologram has all of Dio’s iconic features — Ronnie’s white shirt with a cross on the front; the shiny black leather pants; and, Ronnie’s dark, curly, mid-shoulder length hair (parted down the middle). The Dio hologram looked just as Ronnie looked all those years ago.
Fans were pleased to see familiar faces on stage with the Dio hologram as a powerful rendition of 1985’s “King of Rock And Roll” started the show. Craig Goldy (Dio’s guitarist, on-and-off, since 1986), drummer Simon Wright (first appearing in the Dio band in 1990), keyboardist Scott Warren (with Dio since 1993), and bassist Bjorn Englen (whose energy and intensity in the show is unparalleled… has been a member of Dio Disciples since 2012) provided fans with the familiarity and integrity that they demanded of Ronnie James Dio’s music.
After the opening track, the Dio hologram dissipated and Tim “Ripper” Owens (formerly of Judas Priest) took the stage and screamed “We’re here to celebrate, right?” The crowd obliged, and Ripper belted out a rousing rendition of (Ronnie James Dio-era) Black Sabbath’s 1981 classic “The Mob Rules.”
Oni Logan (highly renowned vocalist formerly of Lynch Mob), who lists Ronnie James Dio as one of his earliest musical influences and mentors, took the stage next to share vocal duties. Logan left nothing to the imagination as he brought the crowd to their feet with his rendition of “Children of The Sea,” which was the first song that Ronnie James Dio ever recorded during his years in Black Sabbath.
Logan, Owens, and the Dio hologram, (whose vocal tracks were culled from various previously recorded live concerts throughout Ronnie James Dio’s career), sounded amazing, individually, collectively, and collaboratively as they juggernauted through a set-list of many of Ronnie’s most well-known songs including “Holy Diver,” “Stand Up And Shout,” “Don’t Talk To Strangers,” “Egypt (The Chains Are On),” “Invisible,” and “Heaven And Hell.” Even Dio’s early career in Rainbow was represented by phenomenal performances of “Man On The Silver Mountain,” “Gates of Babylon,” “Catch The Rainbow,” and “Stargazer.” Scott Warren’s keyboard intros on “Rainbow In The Dark” and “The Last In Line” not only elicited several fans to “play” air-keyboards, but it brought about some of the loudest cheers of the night, as even the most casual radio-listening fans knew those songs by their opening notes. The show’s visual screens displayed animated medieval imagery along with many never-before-seen pictures and videos throughout Ronnie’s career. From a visual aspect, the entire show was seamless, flawless, and fantastic all-at-once. As has been the case for entire careers, Oni Logan, Ripper Owens, Craig Goldy, Simon Wright, Scott Warren… and Ronnie James Dio sounded as phenomenal, as powerful, and as metal as ever.
One of the many awe-inspiring moments of the night included a homage performed during Simon Wright’s drum solo when he revived the memory of a virtuoso accompaniment to the 1812 Overture by Cozy Powell. Long-time fans of Dio’s music knew full-well the phenomenal creative history that Ronnie James Dio and Cozy Powell had as bandmates with Ritchie Blackmore in Rainbow. Simon Wright’s drum solo was a fitting salute to Cozy Powell, who died tragically in 1998.
Initially, the last song of the night was 1983’s “We Rock” which featured the Dio hologram giving non-verbal cues to Ripper Owens and Oni Logan to sing the chorus of this heavy metal anthem. However, chants of “Dio! Dio! Dio!” and several minutes of clamoring for more music by the crowd at The Plaza Live brought about an encore — 1980’s “Neon Knights.” It was only fitting that “Neon Knights” was the encore, as it was the last song that Ronnie James Dio ever performed live during his final tour in 2009 as a member of Heaven And Hell. “Neon Knights” not only featured Dio, Owens, and Logan sharing vocal parts, but it featured some of the most intense and inspired guitar work from Craig Goldy as he played the song’s guitar solo and lead spots. Many in the front rows were “playing” air guitar along with Goldy during that song, which, is the truest sign that a guitar player has total command of an audience.
In one of the most heart-felt, fan-friendly and sincerest gestures ever witnessed, Wendy Dio personally thanked hundreds of fans as they left the main concert hall. Every fan that met Wendy took selfies with her and/or shared stories about how much her husband and his music positively impacted their lives. Several fans were struggling to hold back tears as they spoke with Wendy. Several more were thanking her for bringing her husband’s music and his performances back to their lives. Others who never got to see Ronnie James Dio perform live on stage were thanking her for the opportunity to witness Ronnie on stage for the first time in their lives. Wendy Dio couldn’t have been nicer and more accommodating of her time to her husband’s fans.
Hundreds of fans in Orlando, Florida left The Plaza Live on Saturday night with smiles on their faces, because they knew that the history and the memories of Ronnie James Dio, and his music, have been preserved by Dio’s family, friends, band members, and his hologram, and in doing so, “The Man On The Silver Mountain” has indeed returned.
Dio Returns perform “Rainbow in The Dark,” “Egypt (The Chains Are On)” and “Gates of Babylon” at The Plaza Live in Orlando, Florida, USA on June 1, 2019:
The Plaza Live in Orlando, FL – 6/1/2019