“If you listen to fools… The Mob Rules”.
Thus spake Tim ‘Ripper’ Owens as a precursor to the Dio Returns band breaking into the song of the same name. What? That’s right. The evil masterminds (Okay, Ronnie Dio‘s estranged wife, Wendy) behind this whole shebang have decided that the assembled headbangers – and there are a lot of them out and about in Deep Ellum tonight, make no mistake – wouldn’t actually be able to sit through a whole set looking at the dear departed diminutive singer in holographic form. And so, here he is, The Ripper, belting it out with his curious mix of vocal bravado and zero stage presence. Owens gives way to the third singer of the evening (the night having kicked off with holoronnie delivering King of Rock and Roll in predictably fine fashion), Oni Logan, who sings on a creditable version of Children of the Sea.
So, we’re all down with the ‘revue’ format, right? A nonsensical set of images flash on the video screen whilst guitarist Craig Goldy – who according to the man on my right is ‘looking more and more like one of Elvis Presley’s flunkies’ plays an okay approximation of Tony Iommi‘s solo. At least he ain’t Tracy G! The next thing to note here – and I don’t know if this has to do with the logistics of the hologram projection – is that the is zero interaction between the ‘mobile’ members of the band Goldy and bassist Bjorn Englen, who stick to their sides of the stage throughout these opening exchanges stoically. This lends the whole presentation a weird, static feel.
Dio’s sometime gardener Simon Wright is a great drummer, and delivers his usual unshowy performance on Goldy’s side of the stage, whilst Scott Warren – the only man who truly looks like he’s having a great time up there – fills the same space on Englen’s. And in the middle, again now, is RJD as the band go through that throwaway medley of classics that used to annoy fans so much when the man was still with us.
All this said, the version of Stand Up and Shout the band deliver, with Owens at the mic, is genuinely blistering, with everything falling into place; however the momentum built up by this performance is immediately dissipated by the arrival of Wright’s proficient yet pointless drum solo. I understand why a band like Whitesnake, or Deep Purple might need solo spots to give an ailing vocalist a chance for a rest and a shot of oxygen, but there are three singers in this band and surely therefore no need for this exercise in time wasting. And why would Wright play along to Tchaikovsky‘s 1812 Overture, a trick already turned (with more bombast and success) by the late, great Cozy Powell back in the day?
At this point, your reviewer is so exasperated with proceedings he considers heading out to the highway and hitting the hay, but holoronnie returns for Rainbow in the Dark which is followed by Logan giving a great reading of Egypt (The Chains Are On); This mixture of the sublime and the mundane is a recurring fixture of the evening as a whole, and, if this format is to survive I think the producers need to decide whether Dio Returns is fish (an actual concept) of fowl (a glorified excuse to charge more for what is effectively a Dio Disciples show with added smoke and mirrors). At the moment the whole thing falls between the two stools, a hopeless position that will please nobody but annoy many.
An ensemble version of Gates of Babylon sees Logan ousting Owens (that man to the right again: “Owens looks like George Costanza!”) and then it’s time for a Warren solo. Really? That was the straw that broke this Camel’s back…
So, what is the final verdict? Sentinel Daily arrived with an open mind, and some of the performances, both holographic (Man on the Silver Mountain is probably the highlight of the taped insertions) and human (Logan sings brilliantly whenever he gets the mic in his hands), are worth the (pretty steep) price of admission. But for too much of the evening the show bumps along, uninspired (Goldy in particular seems almost catatonic at times), glib and high on platitude. The evening ends on a high with We Rock delivered by all three vocalists, but it’s too little too late.
Don’t believe Hideous Destructor‘s Review? Catch Dio Returns on the last few remaining dates of their US tour:
Jun 23 Beaumont, TX Jefferson Theatre
Jun 26 Phoenix, AZ The Orpheum Theatre
Jun 28 Los Angeles, CA The Wiltern
Jun 29 Las Vegas, NV Brooklyn Bowl