A lot has been said over the last year or so about the Ronnie James Dio hologram. Now with a world tour announcement I wanted to mash my keyboard in an unholy rage and share my thoughts.
Where do you start…? “What the fuck” seems to be a reasonable place?
That’s certainly where I began as a hologram of one of the most beloved figures in heavy metal history was unveiled at Wacken Open Air. Backed by a live band, Ronnie James Dio appeared in all his holographic glory – or, as myself and many others saw it, an opaque figure projected on a screen in the middle of the stage. That opaque figure, a man loved and respected by metal fans the world over, seemed to be singing live. He strutted across his section of the stage, the rest of the band to the left and right of the image. The drum kit, traditionally placed centre towards the rear of the stage, was to the right, presumably because the image was projected from directly behind the screen. Everything about the set up was just odd. The hologram of Dio himself was singing “live” and interacting with an audience, but it wasn’t the one there.
Around a year later the ghost of Ronnie James turned up at an American awards show. Not having witnessed it live, it may have appeared like the real deal. Having endured the YouTube clip uploaded by creator Eyellusion, to me it looked even more fake than the Wacken performance. The same song ‘We Rock’ was featured, and, not surprisingly, the same performance. For this writer, it had now crossed the line from odd to downright creepy. I wanted to like this, not for my own selfish needs, but to honour the memory of a man who touched the lives of so many.
I was chatting with a friend the other day after the tragic death of Chester Bennington and we were discussing musical regrets. Of those, I have a few. One of my biggest was missing Dio when he toured Australia with Heaven and Hell. There are others: Motörhead, the original Queen line up with Freddie Mercury. But not ever seeing Ronnie James Dio live is top of my list. That’s why, deep down inside, a part of me wanted this to work. Apparently, the rules have changed. Our heroes aren’t really gone. All we have to do is fork over a fistful of cash and we get to see them all live again. Except it’s not live. It’s a manufactured performance. A scanned body double CGI’d back to life by the latest technology. You may as well throw in fucking auto-tune for good measure.
The great thing about a live performance is every night is a different experience. Even if the set list doesn’t change, there are so many factors that go into making a night special. Artists feed off an audience’s energy, and they can be the difference between a good and great show. How can a hologram know if punters are into it, to know “fuck yeah! I’ve nailed it, I’ve got em,” when the crowd is rocking? Or when to change it up a notch when they’re not? It can’t, it’s not there. It’s just fucking software.
Our mortality is what makes us special. Our heroes, as much as we don’t want to believe, are mortal as well. If no one ever dies that magic is gone. As painful as it is, we should let the dead rest in peace, remember and treasure them for the music and performances they left behind and don’t manufacture new ones.
I know this hologram and tour has the full blessing of Ronnie’s wife, Wendy, and I respect her position. But I for one will not be seeing this when it tours. When I want a little Dio magic, I’ll just drop the needle on Sacred Heart, throw up horns and headbang to one of music’s greatest artists.
Gareth Williams (@notgareth)