Wendy Dio has confirmed that "some changes" are being made to the Ronnie James Dio hologram before the launch of the next leg of the "Dio Returns" world tour.
The legendary heavy metal singer died in 2010 at the age of 67 from stomach cancer. His hologram was created by a company called Eyeillusion and made its debut at the Wacken Open Air festival in August 2016 in front of more than 75,000 fans.
The production uses audio of Ronnie's live performances from throughout his career, with the DIO band playing live, consisting of Craig Goldy on guitar, Simon Wright on drums and Scott Warren on keyboards, along with Bjorn Englen on bass. Also appearing with them are former JUDAS PRIEST singer Tim "Ripper" Owens and ex-LYNCH MOB frontman Oni Logan.
Based on video footage of the first leg of last year's tour, Dio fans had mixed reactions to the apparition of their favorite singer, with some loving it and others thinking the performance didn't live up to the real thing or that it was just plain creepy.
In a brand new interview with the "Talking Metal" podcast, Ronnie's widow Wendy Dio, who is a member of the Eyellusion team, said that while everyone that saw the European "Dio Returns" tour "has just been amazed" by the performances, a few tweaks and improvements will be made to the hologram before it returns to the road.
"We took the hologram out to Europe to test the waters — basically to see if there was an audience for it," she said. "Because it's all new, and there are so many people [saying], 'Oh, this is just a video,' or, 'This is just this,' so we took it out to see if the fans were there [for it]. And they absolutely were. I mean, there were kids crying to me, saying, 'Thank you for bringing Ronnie back on stage.' And it was really an emotional trip. It was great. We saw the fans are definitely there. So that was just kind of a trial run. So we brought it back. There's new technology happening every day, so we're making an amazing show, which will go out in 2019, and hopefully here in America also. So we're working on that very well. We're making some changes, and we're bringing it so it's gonna absolutely amazing. It's gonna be where Ronnie sings along with two other singers at the same time. And, of course, we take Ronnie's band that played with him for the last 17 years. And it's a great experience. I mean, there's nothing else like it. There's other holograms going out, but they're not rock bands, for a start, and they're not going out with a band. The band plays live and then they play along with a live track of Ronnie's."
According to Wendy, the people that saw the hologram on the first European leg of the "Dio Returns" tour "think it's real — it looks really real. Because it's not a video; it's a hologram," she said. "It's 3D and it's like he's just right there on stage with a live band. And really, when you're looking at it, you can't tell that it's not Ronnie back up there again."
Wendy went on to describe the "Dio Returns" show as "an experience. We have some great stage stuff going on and production and things," she said. "Everybody that's seen it has just been amazed and just loved it. The naysayers are always the ones that haven't seen it. And I say everybody's entitled to their own opinion, but see it first before you say something about it."
Back in January, Eyellusion CEO Jeff Pezzuti posted a message on the company's official web site thanking fans for their support and underlining the project's goal of sharing the gift of Ronnie's music with future generations.
"It's not easy to be the first to do something in an industry that doesn't change all that often," he said. "But we're fans first. We had a vision that the music that has helped form the foundation of rock and roll should be passed down for generations and generations to enjoy. In the current business climate, that means live tours. After all, there's nothing quite like leaving everything behind for just a night to join fellow fans for an unforgettable experience. It's about the sound, the lights, the memories — just getting lost in the moment.
Goldy last year disputed the assertion that he was doing the "Dio Returns" tour as a way of "cashing in," explaining that he is "always out of pocket on these things." Craig added that while he is aware some of Dio's fans have an issue with the hologram tour, "many people understand the simplicity of this. It's not anything other than a grand gesture with the lights from the same gifted man who was the lighting director on the 'Sacred Heart' and 'Dream Evil' tours, the images on the two screens on each side of the stage, and only a handful of songs done with the hologram," he said.