Tim "Ripper" Owens has once again defended the "Dio Returns" tour, which features a hologram of legendary metal singer Ronnie James Dio performing alongside a living backing group consisting, in large part, of Ronnie's onetime DIO bandmates.
The Dio hologram was created by a company called Eyellusion and made its debut at the Wacken Open Air festival in August 2016 in front of more than 75,000 fans.
The Dio hologram 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 Owens and LYNCH MOB frontman Oni Logan.
In an interview with "That Jamieson Show" which originally aired last February, Owens stated about "Dio Returns" (see video below): "I like it. It's so amazing every night just to hear Ronnie's voice. And it's one of the most amazing shows ever. I'm up there singing a little bit less songs, but it's always pressure, 'cause every time I get up there, if I don't sing [well], I know Ronnie's looking down on me, going, 'You son of a bitch.' 'Cause he was like that. I feel like he would be yelling at me or something, like, 'That's not right.' But it's great to do it. And I love hanging out with Simon and the guys."
The former JUDAS PRIEST frontman also defended Ronnie's widow/manager Wendy Dio, who is a member of the Eyellusion team, against "cash-grab" accusations, with some fans thinking she and the ex-DIO members are taking advantage of Ronnie's legacy by going out and performing his classic songs.
"The thing is Wendy Dio, she's just one of the most amazing people," Tim said. "She does so much for charity. She loses money doing this tour. People say, 'Really?' And I'm, like, 'Well, listen, if she didn't lose money, we'd be touring all the time.' She doesn't want to [lose money] — the goal is not to — but she's just trying to do something to make fans happy, just like Ronnie did. You know how cool Ronnie was — one of the most amazing guys ever — and Wendy does the same thing."
Two former DIO guitarists have publicly expressed their doubts about the Ronnie James Dio hologram. Last December, Tracy "G" Grijalva, who played for DIO from 1993 through 1999, said that the hologram "looks creepy" and resembles "a puppet." Nine months earlier, Doug Aldrich, who was in DIO between 2002 and 2006, told XS Rock that "Ronnie would probably not" like the hologram. "He would probably be, like, 'This is not what I signed up for.' A hologram? It's not really what he would want to be. I'm just guessing, you know, that it's something that Wendy thought about and she decided that Ronnie would be fine with it. But I knew Ronnie well enough to know that he was very particular and he would prefer for them to let him just die and be in peace."
After the tour's initial seven-date run was completed in December 2017, Ronnie's hologram underwent some changes before the launch of the 2019 leg of the "Dio Returns", which took place in May and June of last year.
The "Dio Returns" 17-song set consists of seven tunes sung by the Dio hologram — the rest feature Owens and Logan separately or together — and encompasses material from Dio's lengthy career, including his earlier days in RAINBOW and BLACK SABBATH.