Ronnie James Dio’s death left a deep void in the metal community. While fans can take solace in the fact Dio’s recorded music will continue to be played, the joy of seeing him live was gone. So when a group of former Dio band member’s announced they were forming a band called Dio’s Disciples to continue Dio’s legacy, many fans rejoiced. There were, however, many others who raised doubts.
The common criticism was that Dio’s Disciples was merely just another tribute band. Supporters countered that actual members of Dio play in this project including Craig Goldy on guitar, Simon Wright on drums and Scott Warren on keyboards. What also made Dio’s Disciples unique was their announcement that they were recording original music for BMG. The band would get media attention by following the hologram trend when they performed a world tour with a Ronnie James Dio hologram. Critics took umbrage with what was seen as cheap gimmicks, but Dio’s widow/manager Wendy gave the band her blessing and functions as Dio’s Disciples manager as well.
So when Dio’s Disciples played their only NYC show at the Blackthorne 51 recently, there was a sense of curiosity. Would Dio’s Disciples recreate the magic of seeing Dio live? Are they their own band whose original material that stands on its own merits? After touring with such high production value such as holograms, could Dio’s Disples adapt to a smaller club such as Blackthorn 51?
Dio’s Disciples decided to play it safe and not play any new material. The setlist at Blackthorn 51 stuck to Dio covers and a few songs from Rainbow and Back Sabbath. That was more than fine for the crowd who were there to hear classic Dio.
Considering Ronnie James Dio was such a legendary vocal talent with great range, Dio’s Disciples made the decision to have two vocalists. To match Dio’s vocals the band hired Tim “Ripper” Owens. Due to his experience fronting Judas Priest for a time, Owens no doubt had the right experience to tackle this current project. Complimenting Owens is Oni Logan formerly from Lynch Mob.
Both singers would be the first to tell you that they cannot replace Ronnie James Dio, but both provided their own spin on the classic songs. Owens stuck to the traditional metal vocals for great anthems Dio wrote, while Logan’s blues style of singing brought out the emotional depths of Dio’s lyricism.
The band itself was tight. Goldy’s guitar solo was a particular highlight. The band has been playing these songs for years on the road with Ronnie James Dio and it showed at Blackthorn 51. Dio standards such as Holy Diver, Stand in Line and Egypt (the chains are on) were surefire crowd-pleasers. And any hardcore Dio fan would enjoy that the band played songs from Ronnie James Dio’s other bands such as “Stargazer”, “Long Live Rock and Roll” and “Man on Silver Mountain” from his days singing for Rainbow. Dio’s underrated work as Black Sabbath frontman was recognized by the inclusion of great songs “Living at the Edge of the World” and “Heaven and Hell.”
The downside of the performance was that the sound at a small club like Blackthorn 51 doesn’t really do a band who had been used to performing at arenas any justice. For a band playing the tunes of one of hard rock’s great showmen, there was indeed a lack of flair in sound despite how well they played.
Owens sponsorship by Monster Energy drink led to unfortunate wardrobe choices. In nearly every public appearance, Owens is decked out head-to-toe in Monster Energy gear. He looked less like a rock star than a member of a street team handing out free cans to teenagers.
For the fans in attendance, none of that mattered.
They raised their hands in the sign of the horns and sang along to their favorite songs. Dio’s body is dead, but his spirit and music live on. As for Dio’s Disciples, it shall remain to be seen if they can continue on their own out of their mentor’s shadow.