After debuting at last year's Wacken festival in Germany, a hologram of late heavy-metal singer Ronnie James Dio will set out on a world tour, backed by musicians who played with him, this fall. The trek, dubbed "Dio Returns," will kick off with a European leg of performances in theaters on November 30th in Helsinki before hitting South America, Australia and Asia. The tour will arrive in the U.S. in the spring of 2018 and hit select festivals next summer.T
"In 1986, for the Sacred Heart Tour, Ronnie and I created the Crystal Ball with Ronnie filmed and speaking in a suspended crystal ball effect, done with back projection, which was the closest we could get to a hologram," the singer's widow, Wendy Dio, tells Rolling Stone. "Ronnie was always wanting to experiment with new stage ideas and was a big Disney fan. With this said, I am sure he is giving us his blessing with this hologram project. It gives the fans that saw Ronnie perform an opportunity to see him again and new fans that never got to see him a chance to see him for the first time. We hope everyone will enjoy the show that we have all worked so hard to put together."
The Dio estate has worked with hologram company Eyellusion so the singing specter could perform many of the late vocalist's hits, including "Holy Diver," "Rainbow in the Dark," "We Rock," "King of Rock and Roll," Black Sabbath's "Neon Knights" and "Heaven and Hell" and Rainbow's "Man on the Silver Mountain," among others. The production uses audio of Dio's live performances from throughout his career with a live band backing him up in front of a stage set that hearkens back to the singer's Sacred Heart and Dream Evil tours. The hologram's set will differ from night to night, and audiences should expect to see the Dio Band also perform with vocalists Tim "Ripper" Owens and Oni Logan on select dates.
The Dio Band consists of guitarist Craig Goldy, drummer Simon Wright, keyboardist Scott Warren and bassist Bjorn Englen. The musicians have previously made appearances as the Dio Disciples.
Goldy tells Rolling Stone the band had always hoped to tour and that he and his bandmates are looking to book between 80 and 100 concerts with the hologram. After showcasing at both Pollstar Live!, put on by a U.S. concert-industry trade magazine, and the International Live Music Conference in London, he says the band received multiple offers to perform.
The response Goldy has gotten to the hologram performances has been mixed. "Ronnie was and still is so revered by his fans, which really are his extended family, and they, too, had a special relationship with the man himself which entitles them to a voice," he says. "Like all families, not everyone agrees, but this was a gift to the fans that was created in the very same spirit in which Ronnie gave throughout his whole career and created these amazing stage shows that rivaled Madonna and Michael Jackson."
"For those that were in the room at the Pollstar touring industry event and able to experience this live, the reactions were overwhelmingly positive," Eyellusion CEO Jeff Pezzuti says. "Ronnie was a major touring force for decades and that support lives on today as venues and promoters around the world continue to book this show. We are thrilled about the excitement and anticipation for this tour and are hard at work on making it something fans will remember for a long time."
Eyellusion is also working on securing the rights to bring additional holographic artists to the stage for tours, though reps for the company have yet to reveal future names. The company is currently raising funding to secure additional artist rights and finance other tours.
"We are doing this because we were all a family and when a family has lost their beloved family member, they try to keep the memory of their lost beloved one alive," Goldy says. "That is the spirit behind all that we do. When we perform on this tour, for me, it is a memorial service in the form of a rock concert. … This gives [fans] a chance to experience [Dio live] without relying on the poor-quality videos on YouTube."
Dio Returns Tour Dates
November 30 - Helsinki, Finland @ The Circus
December 3 - Stockholm, Sweden @ Fryshuset
December 4 - Oslo, Norway @ Rockefeller Music Hall
December 6 - Warsaw, Poland @ Progresja
December 13 - Barcelona, Spain @ Bikini
December 15 - Santander, Spain @ Escenario Santander
December 17 - Bucharest, Romania @ Arelene Romane
December 20 - Antwerp, Belgium @ Trix
December 21 - Tilburg, Netherlands @ 013