Album: Foo Fighters ‘Concrete And Gold’ (Roswell Records/RCA)

The biggest rock band in the world return with their ninth album. Unsure as to that claim? Look at the profile of mainman Dave Grohl; he’s everywhere, not just in the rock press, but in all the gossip columns. He has all the high-falutin’ friends (no less than Paul McCartney appears on this album, for instance) and it wasn’t that long ago that the Foo Fighters played alongside Jimmy Page and John Paul Jones – at a huge stadium gig that has been their domain for several years now. This is one rock band that your friends, work colleagues, family has heard of – if you’re a dedicated gig-goer you’ll know all too well how often people dismiss the band you have a ticket for with those words: ‘never heard of ’em’, as though that renders the band non-existent.  No problem here, even your ordinary average Heart FM listener knows who the Foo Fighters are, and when they do play their huge stadium gigs, they attract the sort of crowd who wouldn’t normally have anything at all to do with ‘rock’. In short, they’re the one rock group it’s ‘OK’ to like. So, this is surely the sort of release that is an ‘event’, one which will see folk flocking back in their droves to the much-maligned record stores to grab their copies, yes?

Well, possibly. They are of such stature now that they’re ‘critic-proof’; no matter what is said or written about this record, it will indeed likely fly out of the stores (or down the superhighway, if it is downloaded). At the time of this post, it is the number one album in the UK charts, and looks set to stick around for a while. But is it any good? Thanks to the (also much-maligned) Spotify, I decided to give it a listen or two and find out for myself. I’ve not stayed in close touch with the Foos since they attained megastar status (the last time I actually saw them live was in 2002); I’ve liked a few tracks from their more recent output but to these ears, they’ve never really bettered  ‘The Colour And The Shape’, now a staggering twenty years old.

For this record, the band recruited some major names, starting with producer Greg Kurstin (who has worked with Adele, and written for many other big names in the pop world), and the aforementioned Paul McCartney contributes drums on one song (‘Sunday Rain’). That in itself raised eyebrows, since this band contains two accomplished drummers already. Other guests include pop stars Justin Timberlake and (Boys II Men singer) Shawn Stockman, although you won’t find much influence from that sphere in this record. It’s still recognisably Foo Fighters, with plenty of guitar wallop, and both Grohl’s familiar roar and more melodic singing voice are present and correct.

What there isn’t, is a song that sticks in the mind the way previous numbers such as ‘Times Like These’, ‘Everlong’, or ‘Learn To Fly’ did. I could go through the previous albums and come across at least one title on each, and have the tune instantly pop into my head. Grohl & Co. always had a knack of writing a pop song with enough rock punch to appeal to those of us who prefer a fist in the air to a waving lighter. That isn’t the case here, none of these songs have that hook. Even after a few playthroughs, not even lead-off single ‘Run’ lingers in the mind for long. It does have its moments; the McCartney-driven ‘Sunday Rain’ is a fine late-era Beatles pastiche, with Taylor Hawkins coming out from his drumkit to take lead vocal to good effect. The slower ‘Happy Ever After (Zero Hour)’ also provides a change of style from the rest of the album, reminiscent of ‘Blackbird’ (by The Beatles, not Alter Bridge!) It all sounds big; ‘The Line’ creeps close to Killers territory for instance. It all sounds mighty and impressive, but half an hour later you won’t find yourself humming much of this. The title track closes things; it is meant to be a brooding epic, but merely plods along to its concluding powerchord. (There is an extra ‘bit’ after the track concludes, but not much to get excited about).

It isn’t a BAD album, but it isn’t a great one either. When we are talking about the biggest rock band in the world, it isn’t enough to listen and think, mmm, that wasn’t bad. The Foo Fighters are now heading up the very same rock establishment that Grohl’s previous band was credited with dismantling, and sadly this record does come across as a bit too ‘establishment’. Not one I’ll be rushing out to grab on any physical format, for my Foos fix it’s still the first three or four albums that I’ll be reaching for.

ff-concretegold

A Spotify link is provided below should you wish to listen for yourself:

3 – Decent

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Single: DORJA ‘Far Gone’ (download-only)

Those DORJA girls are adept at generating a buzz alright, with the release of their latest single ‘Far Gone’ after a lengthy teaser campaign involving cover art, snippets of the track and a brief taster of the accompanying video all leaked to social media over the past few weeks. The track itself is the first to feature new guitarist Sarah Michelle, who joined in the summer shortly before the group played a series of UK dates. One of those gigs was a return to PKD Festival, held in Scotland and where DORJA made such an impression upon that event’s organisers in 2016, that they booked the band again immediately for the following year. Footage from their 2017 appearance has been used for their promo video, which is linked at the bottom of this post.

‘Far Gone’ has been part of their live repertoire for some time; I saw them play it back in March, yet was only recorded in the summer while all the members were in the UK. The song is a blues-influenced hard rocker in their now-familiar style, gently led in by Sarah Michelle’s opening guitar and Aiym Almas’s throaty vocal, before the powerchords kick in, in true Whitesnake tradition (‘Break me, or take me as I am, I’m not giving in’). The arrangement is similar to the live rendition save for the absence of the brief drum solo – but they have simply replaced one Zeppelin nod with another, with ‘Whole Lotta Love’-styled atmospherics in its place (kept short).

If you liked the material on the earlier ‘Target Practice’ EP then you should enjoy this too. It wouldn’t surprise me if it were to appear in physical form on a future EP as they have more material ready to go, and have been writing again since Sarah Michelle joined up. She is a perfect fit for this band, and I look forward to hearing how she influences the writing of their future material.

For now though, this will keep we Dorjians going until they reconvene for more live dates, which are planned for early 2018. With the membership scattered far and wide, they have to plan things long in advance, but they’re gaining a loyal following which should mean we see and hear a lot more from them in the coming year.

The video for the single is now available on youtube, to get a high-quality download of this track please click this link to go to their online store.

4 – Deserving

 

EP: Holly Henderson ‘Desert Wax’ (self-released, download only)

When DORJA founding member, guitarist Holly Henderson announced her departure from the all-girl rock quintet earlier this year, one of the reasons she gave was that she was ‘still searching for her musical identity’. There always was more to her than meets the eye (or the ear); even while playing rhythm guitar in a touring covers band she had been writing her own music and putting up demos. The material she wrote herself was often very different from what she was doing in a band situation; she’d co-written three songs in a punky style for a previous band before contributing to the writing of all the material issued to date from DORJA (including that band’s imminent release ‘Far Gone’). Her own stuff however was drastically different; ranging from laidback, late-night listening to more rocking, but alternatively-styled music she has proven to be an artist willing to switch styles and genres, keeping her followers on their toes.

This EP (released in August 2017) is about as far removed as is possible to get from DORJA, it is a full-on dive into experimental, ambient electronic music. As such it was one I had to listen to on numerous occasions to even begin to get it, since I will cheerfully admit to being an unreconstructed, dyed-in-the-denim hard rocker totally set in my headbanging ways. That said, based on what I already know of Holly’s work I believe in her talent unconditionally, so whatever form her music takes I am willing to investigate. (I do not say that for many artists!)

Holly Henderson - Desert Wax

Holly Henderson – Desert Wax

‘Desert Wax’ is a concept EP, the storyline of which she has gone into in more detail about on her own site but is essentially about a group of people so disillusioned with society that they break away in search of their own space. The title track sets the tone, with layered, echoed vocals over an ambient backing track. Her vocal is drenched in effects, so that it becomes another colour on the palette. ‘Not’, the third track does appear to feature a guitar but don’t expect hard rock here – the idea is for this music to take you on a journey, and I found it best listened to as a whole, in one sitting, with headphones to get its full impact. If you’ve got an upmarket hi-fi and have the isolation in which to listen to this properly, you’re more likely to feel this music more deeply.

Standout track for me is ‘Safe Place’ in which Holly duets with herself using two different effects, (one deepened) on her voice to achieve a call-and-response type of song (“Take me to a safe place/I’ll take you to a safe place“).

Holly could probably come up with something distinctive even if you just gave her a paper and comb, but ‘Desert Wax’ shows her in a totally different light to what I’ve seen and heard of her before. If I’m completely honest I don’t think I’d let many other artists take me on the journey I found myself embarking on with this EP, it is so far outside my metallic comfort zone. Once over that mental hurdle however, I found this to be an engaging listen, with more than a hint of prog. She has that knack of drawing you in, just as she did with previous offering ‘Opium Drip’.

Holly Henderson has come a long way in a short time already, it’s almost impossible to believe that this is the same person who wrote three punk rock-styled tracks last year for an EP recorded by another band, but it’s true – she wrote that as well 😉
She has however demonstrated a depth and range to her talent that will take her so much further, and with the release of her first full album of original material still to come, I see only a bright future for this Maidstone miss.

The ‘Desert Wax’ EP is available on CD Baby or Music Glue, as well as from all the usual outlets, and if you want to try for yourself a Spotify link is provided below:

4 – Deserving

 

 

LP: CATS in SPACE ‘Scarecrow’ (Harmony Factory)

Things are certainly different for CATS in SPACE now than they were two years ago, when they announced themselves with their debut album ‘Too Many Gods’. That record got them a lot of attention, most notably from Thunder’s Danny Bowes. In addition to wearing their T-shirt at Thunder gigs, he played tracks from ‘Too Many Gods’ on his Planet Rock radio show and earlier this year, signed them up to be the support act on Thunder’s UK tour. That slot put them before a lot more people, and their fan base has grown exponentially since then.

The guys are of course no newcomers; all accomplished, experienced players who have been in and around the scene for many years. In that respect they’re similar to The Dead Daisies, though that outfit have been through a few personnel shifts before settling on their current line-up.  The CATS’ debut showed obvious musical influences from many 1970s bands (even including a contribution from The Sweet’s Andy Scott) but with lyrical content dealing with more 21st century subject matter. That set them apart from just about everyone else, so what can we expect with this second record?

Simply put, more of the same with knobs on! Like the first album, it’s best listened to right through in one sitting, although the individual tracks are strong enough to stand up to being listened to in isolation. Lead-off single ‘The Mad Hatter’s Tea Party’ deals with the shallow facade of social media (“Conversation’s a no-no, it’s dead as a dodo”) while ‘Two Fifty Nine’ is a cleverly-constructed song about the need to fit into radio formatting – running to exactly 2:59!

The references are many and varied as was the case with the first album; there’s another nod to John Miles in ‘Clown In Your Nightmare’, complete with talkbox guitar from Greg Hart, but once again he and the band demonstrate that they can show their inspiration without resorting to outright lifting. You’ll think of the Beatles, Queen, even Bruce Springsteen (to name just a few) while listening to this album, and if you’re a real anorak like me you might find yourself reminded of The Turtles – or even Petula Clark – in some places 😉

Closing track ‘Scarecrow’ is stated in the lyric sheet as a continuation of the first album’s ‘The Greatest Story Never Told’; the lyric in this song refers to “Cool Britannia’s Great Untouchable” (who could they be referring to, teehee!) Running to 7:26 it is an epic (which reminds me a little of Uriah Heep) with which to end the album.

If you liked ‘Too Many Gods’ you can buy this record with confidence, it is another meticulously-constructed and beautifully-produced album with all the hallmarks present and correct. The band will tour the UK in September, I expect there to be a lot more people present this time around than was the case when they played the halls up and down the country last autumn. The CATS rocket is now in its second stage as it makes its relentless progress into orbit!

CATS in SPACE - Scarecrow

CATS in SPACE – Scarecrow

The album is available on CD, heavyweight vinyl and for the complete 1970s experience, cassette! It’s also available digitally and you can listen to the album for yourself on Spotify here:

5 – Delightful

When you find out that song is a cover

A tweet posted over the weekend sent the Internet into a frenzy, or so many news reports claimed. A throwaway comment about the song ‘Torn’ (a hit for Aussie-born singer/actress Natalie Imbruglia 20 years ago) being a cover provoked the sort of reaction most of us can only wish for:

The reactions ranged from ‘WTF?’ to ‘My life has been a lie’; the song was known at the time to be a cover of another artist, so it came as a surprise to me that so many were shocked to find that out now. (It was originally written by Anne Preven and Scott Cutler of the band Ednaswap, alongside their producer Phil Thornalley.) The song was covered by a Danish artist (Lis Sørensen) in her native language, and retitled ‘Brændt’ (Danish for ‘burnt’) before Imbruglia recorded the song, and Ednaswap themselves recorded a version although theirs is a different arrangement.

The reactions interested me as a music fan, especially one who tries to keep informed about whose song that hit actually was. Why would people react so strongly? The song reportedly still earns the writers around $150,000 a year, and there have been many examples of a hit song actually turning out to be a cover originally written and/or recorded by someone else, to far less success.

I can only speculate that a song such as ‘Torn’, Imbruglia’s cover of which made the top five in many countries’ charts, and sold over a million in the UK alone, resonates strongly with people and their memories. Of a time in their life they remember fondly, perhaps, and with a song such as that being a huge part of that memory. When you find out years later that the song you associate so strongly with a particular artist, turns out not to have been their song in the first place, it does jar with people. Perhaps it’s a case of ‘cognitive dissonance’; they have it fixed so firmly in their mind that say, ‘Torn’ is Natalie Imbruglia’s song and nobody else’s, that it is uncomfortable to discover that is not in fact the case.

It’s an interesting phenomenon, and one that’s far from restricted to one particular song. It may depend on how much the song resonated with your memory of a fondly-remembered time of your life, if it did then it must feel like part of your memory has been reset, or wiped. Another great example is the song ‘I Love Rock ‘n’ Roll’; you could ask ten people in the street whose song that is and it’s a safe bet all ten will say ‘Joan Jett’ (and the Blackhearts, if we are being strict!) However, tell them that it was actually written and recorded some years earlier by a band called The Arrows, and you’ll struggle to convince them. The song’s writers were Arrows members Alan Merrill and Jake Hooker, their version was originally showcased on a British television programme in 1975, which is where Joan Jett (then on tour in the UK with The Runaways) discovered the song.

For a song which spans generations, it is often the case that the version heard first is the ‘definitive’ one; Slade for example scored a huge-selling UK number one hit in 1973 with ‘Cum On Feel The Noize’. Ten years later, and the song crossed the Atlantic to be re-recorded by LA ‘hair metal’ band Quiet Riot; their cover was a Stateside smash but to this day many in the US consider it to be Quiet Riot’s song exclusively. The songwriting royalties from that cover must have been nice for Slade’s Noddy Holder and Jim Lea, although they could be forgiven for scratching their heads wondering how they could not succeed in the US themselves when they made their concerted bid to break through over there, just a few years before.

Essentially, once a song becomes a hit, whoever made it so seems to ‘own’ that song as it were – even if it had been written some time before, even if it had actually been a hit for another artist once before. There are numerous examples of this on TV Tropes under the entry ‘Covered Up’, and it amused me to find from that page that no less than David Bowie used to get kids come up to him and say how cool it was that he was ‘covering a Nirvana song’. (Nirvana performed Bowie’s ‘The Man Who Sold The World’ on their MTV Unplugged appearance, despite Kurt Cobain stating clearly whose song it was, that went over many people’s heads and they considered it a Nirvana track.) Bowie’s reaction was as understandable as it was predictable (!)

To close, here are a few songs you may or may not realise are the original versions, not the one more widely known:

Festival fiasco in Liverpool as day 2 of Hope & Glory is cancelled

‘No festival today’

The curt message posted on social media by the organisers of the first (and increasingly likely, only) Hope & Glory Festival was the coup de grace for this event, plagued by logistical problems on its first day and cancelled altogether on the second, leaving many bands who had been booked to perform high and dry.

The event, which has been advertised for several months, was something I had not taken a great deal of notice of, as the bill featured mainly indie fare which wasn’t my cup of tea. One or two acts looked interesting but I thought at £55 for a day ticket and £85 for the weekend was a bit much to see maybe a couple of bands I might like. The event did however generate interest nationally and internationally, with fans coming from across the country and some had flown in from other countries. Held in St Johns Gardens, behind the neoclassical St Georges Hall in the centre of Liverpool, the organisers promised a range of bands playing across three stages, which right there should raise red flags to anybody who knows that part of the city.  A video that the event organisers released on Facebook shows the intended layout of the site, which they claimed would be suitable for up to 12000 attendees:

Hope & Glory Festival site layout

Hope & Glory Festival site layout (screenshot from organisers’ promotional video)

One glance at that layout makes it clear that there’s no way that site could accommodate 12000 fans comfortably. For those not familiar, the garden area is set from the street to the right (William Brown Street, site for the main ‘Great Exhibition Stage’) by a wall, accessible only by steps in one or two places.

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Location for main stage (screenshot taken from organisers’ promotional video)

Straight away that creates bottlenecks, if people wished to go from one stage to another. In addition, the main stage being set on that narrow street would create yet more overcrowding. The site was just not big enough to hold three stages – one would have been enough, and sure enough on the Saturday (the only operational day), reports of sound from one stage bleeding over to the other stages were coming in via social media. (There was a third stage, set aside for smaller acts).

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Second stage location (screenshot taken from organisers’ promotional video)

On the day itself there were enormous queues snaking down Lime Street, around the corner into St John’s Lane (to the left of the picture), leading to what appeared to be the only entrance into the site. Tickets had been on sale right up to the day of the event and reportedly also available on the day itself, going off what took place it is clear the festival was massively over-subscribed. Questions on facebook before the day were asking about wristband pass-outs, a system which was initially going to be put in place but had been withdrawn at the eleventh hour, leading to some frustrated comments even before the event began. As it became clear that nobody was getting into the site anger grew, and before long the police arrived on the scene to deal with the massive overcrowding. Some disgruntled fans gave up altogether and headed for the bars instead, while the schedule was thrown out by the disruption with acts coming on up to two hours later, playing truncated sets. One big name (singer Charlotte Church) was axed from the bill altogether, presumably in a bid to get the event timescale back into some sort of order, but she was left stranded, having travelled from South Wales with her band only to find she had no slot in which to perform. In a prelude to the next day’s events, she put out an appeal on social media for any venues in the city who might be able to put her on. That was answered by Liquidation at Heebeejeebees, who hastily arranged a gig for her within the hour.

The scale of the problem on the Saturday is illustrated by this video from the Liverpool Echo:

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Bands such as The Fratellis, Razorlight and James did get to play, however by this time many fans had abandoned hope of getting in and had left the site, leaving those already there to queue for the bars and for the toilets, neither facilities were sufficient for the amount of people there leading to yet more overcrowding. The set by James appeared to save the day for many, but a barrage of criticism on their Facebook page and by the number of tweets condemning the organisers for what appeared to be a shameful lack of organisation followed.

Instead of trying to appease or placate disappointed fans, or even showing that they might at least have taken some of the criticism on board for the Sunday, the next day the cancellation was announced on social media with those three words ‘no festival today’. That was it, no explanation, no apology, nothing. With more ‘name’ bands scheduled to play on the Sunday including Ocean Colour Scene, the Lightning Seeds and Space, that left all of those acts in the lurch. Tim Booth of James was also scheduled to play again, as part of ‘Hacienda Classical’ but after he posted a tweet slamming the organisation, they gave only a spiky response instead of the expected contrition:
Screenshot from 2017-08-07 01-10-42

By midday on the Sunday the stages were being dismantled, as the tag #HopeAndGlory Festival began to trend and venues across Liverpool were already mobilising to do what they could to put on stranded acts, or make some sort of goodwill gesture to the people who found themselves in the city centre with their event cancelled. Another event (Liverpool Loves) was also taking place elsewhere in the city centre, their organisers were swift to invite would-be Hope & Glory attendees to their stage. Some of the bands did get to perform; the Zanzibar put on the Lightning Seeds at short notice while other venues including Magnet, and Hangar 34 also tweeted that they would make themselves available for acts who wished to play there.  The fact that these venues had to pick up the pieces after the festival descended into chaos was reminiscent of the scenes a decade ago, when the outdoor stages at the Mathew Street Festival (a free, annual event that took place across several stages in the city centre, featuring mostly tribute bands) were suddenly cancelled with days to go by their organisers. That year, bars and venues went out of their way to accommodate bands and this cancellation prompted similar scenes.

Cancellation notice (pic: David Munn/Liverpool Echo)

The whole debacle does little for the image of the city, other than to show that there is still a defiant spirit among the bars and clubs to make something of a bad situation and try to give something to those who’d wanted to spend the weekend watching live music. Those venues deserve bouquets, while brickbats are fully merited for the organisation behind Hope & Glory, a PR company called tinyCOW based in the Midlands.  This would appear to shatter that company’s credibility once and for all, however over the course of the weekend stories emerged that the people behind tinyCOW have previous history of staging events which went wrong. In a particularly disgraceful twist, their twitter account not only passed all blame onto a production manager, condemning him for not installing walkways in time and – worst of all – publishing an email address for all complaints to be directed to him as opposed to the organisers themselves. This was rightly condemned on social media by fans who saw it as the buck-passing exercise it was. Meanwhile, the fire was turned up still further on Tim Booth who got a post from the festival organisers’ account telling him to ‘go back to your yoga’ – a bizarre comment from the organiser to one of their main acts:

Screenshot from 2017-08-07 01-46-50.png

When the dust settles on this debacle, there are questions to be answered. First of all, did anybody do any due diligence on this company who arranged the festival? It has emerged that they have a track record of disputes for previous events, were no questions asked of these?  Secondly, how did they get a licence to stage this event in a space so obviously unsuitable for the amount of people who came? The site was far too small for a projected 12000 people, there were bottlenecks owing to the layout of the land, there were obstacles everywhere and getting around must have been nigh-on impossible. With all that in mind how could it possibly have been passed as safe? Linked to that, and thirdly, who signed it off? Presumably the city council must have cleared it, questions must be asked about their role in this fiasco. On the evidence of the reports, it must be considered miraculous there was not a disaster at this event, which would have been catastrophic for this city. At the very least there should be a resignation from within the council department who passed this event as safe to go ahead.

As said at the top of this post, the musical fare offered at this event was not to my taste, nevertheless when live music events are staged here I want them to pass off well, leaving visitors with good memories – not the frustration and anger which must be felt by visitors after this fiasco. The tickets were not cheap – unsurprisingly there are many calls for refunds, which have also been batted away by organisers referring people only to their ticket agents. That, like so much of the attitude from them, is insufficient and insulting. It is to be hoped this has not caused lasting damage to the city’s hard-won reputation for staging events, nor the ability of the city to attract name acts to perform in Liverpool.

As it was, there was better and more effective communication from artists performing at the event than there was from the festival organisers, which should mean that this company will never be trusted again to deliver a large-scale event in this, or any other city.

Dio back on the road – as a hologram

It used to be said death was a great career move for musicians; at least for those who still stood to gain from the music they left behind that was certainly the case, as albums would be repackaged over and over again with ‘unreleased’, ‘demo’ or ‘rare’ material often added. Until now it was never considered that the deceased artist could actually be sent back out on tour, but that’s all changed now with the news that a holographic recreation of Ronnie James Dio is to go on the road, backed by a live band featuring musicians part of the last Dio line-up to tour while he was still alive.

Perhaps presumptuously, this tour is called ‘Dio Returns’ and several dates across Europe have already been announced for November/December this year. The holographic recreation of Dio made its ‘live’ debut last year at Wacken Open Air festival in Germany, at the end of a performance by Dio Disciples (formed from the surviving members of the last Dio line-up), with a rendition of ‘We Rock’ using vocal taken from a DVD issued in 2002. The hologram is the work of Eyellusion who collaborated with Wendy Dio (Ronnie’s widow/former manager), and it made a further appearance at this year’s Pollstar Awards with the band performing live alongside the hologram.

At the time of writing there haven’t been any further dates confirmed, although the camp have promised a ‘world tour’ taking in many countries including the UK. I consider myself one of Dio’s long-time fans, having first seen him with the original incarnation of his own band at the 1983 Donington, going on to see many performances afterwards including three occasions with Black Sabbath/Heaven and Hell. The blurb promises a set taking in his spells with Rainbow and Sabbath, as well as his own band, and they have created a stage set reminiscent of the tours in support of the ‘Sacred Heart’ and ‘Dream Evil’ albums. This, then is surely a must-see for a fan such as myself?

Well, no, not for me thanks. I was fortunate to see Dio on what I estimate to be 17 times, over a period spanning almost 30 years and nothing these technowizards can do will come remotely close to what I got from seeing that guy perform live. He wasn’t just a great singer (he was arguably the best), he could deliver the goods every single night and even in his latter years, with the songs taken down a step, he still astonished, and had the energy of a man at least twenty years younger. That’s why it was such a sad day when he was unable to play that last tour in 2009 having been diagnosed suddenly, and worse when that illness finally took him in 2010. He was irreplaceable, a total one-off, and until now the Disciples have paid tribute by using current singers inspired by his music such as ‘Ripper’ Owens. They don’t try to BE Ronnie James Dio, they interpret his songs their way, but most importantly of all, they are performing LIVE. Behind the technological magic that has made this possible, what we’re still dealing with here is a recording of Dio played over a band on stage. Despite Wendy’s repeated assurances that Ronnie ‘would be giving this his blessing’, I’m unconvinced. Surely he’d want his fans to see live bands giving all they have to an audience, the frontman and the band feeding off the crowd energy in the same way he did? You can’t replicate that with a 3D image.

Another thing which has raised red flags with me is this: what if this tour actually is successful? Will audiences accept this more willingly as time goes on, and will that mean Eyellusion or another company will produce holograms of say, Lemmy, or Bowie? This technology is in its infancy and will only improve, so I fear this is the thin end of the wedge. Even as I type I can imagine Sharon getting Ozzy to stand in a studio somewhere and re-enact his stage moves so that they can be recreated for a similar project once he’s no longer here. The same with other classic bands nearing the end of their careers; surely KISS will have taken note and Gene is already looking into how to apply this technology to his own band/brand. Then there’s the ultimate long-standing rock band: this idea would allow the Rolling Stones to keep going long after all the members have left us, so you can bet somebody somewhere is working on this idea for every big-ticket rock star still capable of pulling an audience.

With that in mind, where will that leave REAL live bands, those coming up and hoping to reach the same status as those that came before? In a pickle, that’s where. If the future of ‘live concerts’ is holographic recreations of major names, then there’s only so much disposable income to spend on shows and it is those smaller bands, the ones your friends tell you ‘I’ve never heard of them’ as though that renders them non-existent, who will take the brunt of this hit. I would like to think the likes of Iron Maiden (a band who have historically tried to do right by their fans) would have no truck with this idea, but I can think of many veteran bands who may well be tempted to go down this route for when they are no longer here, yet still want to generate income for their estates.

I’m not a fan of this idea at all, despite being as amazed as anybody else at the work that must have gone into making this possible. Consequently I shall be sitting out the ‘Dio Returns’ tour when it does come to this country, and will look instead for gigs by real, live musicians standing on that stage playing and singing in front of me, not a fancy projected image going through all the motions while an archived vocal recording plays.

Perhaps in an ironic twist, it is the other Dio offshoot band (Last In Line, featuring original members, guitarist Vivian Campbell and drummer Vinny Appice; bassist Jimmy Bain was also involved until his death last year) who appear to be the preferable option for Dio fans who still want to see that music performed live. Campbell was of course infamously canned from Dio’s band in 1986, causing a rift between him and the singer which never healed, and he spent years distancing himself from his time with Dio after he reappeared, first with Whitesnake and then Def Leppard. However, since Dio’s death he has come to terms once again with the material he had a hand in writing, and has performed with Last In Line whenever possible between Def Leppard tours, and of course around his own treatment (Campbell was himself diagnosed with Hodgkin’s Lymphoma in 2013). These shows, despite some criticism, cannot be lucrative for the Leppard man so his motivation must be to reclaim his right to that music.

Speaking as a Dio fan since the 1980s however, I’d have to disagree with Disciples guitarist Craig Goldy; this new show cannot be the same as experiencing Dio ‘live’; those ‘poor quality youtube videos’ are all we have left.

To close this post here is one of those videos – there are several officially-released shows from the 1980s which have appeared on youtube and this one from 1986 shows Dio in top form, complete with stage show – including Denzil the Dragon! (A show I was lucky enough to catch twice when they came to this country in May 1986) 🙂