Stand up and shout

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

At a mere five feet and four inches, Ronnie James Dio was the definition of tiny but mighty. Arguably one of the most influential forces in heavy metal music, Dio’s powerful voice and larger-than-life persona rendered him a force to be reckoned with—despite his small stature.

The bands he fronted—Elf, Rainbow, Black Sabbath, Heaven & Hell, and Dio, among them—are some of metal’s most revered. And while all bands share similarities, it is Dio’s instantly recognizable voice and his love of all lyrical content having to do with the mythical—he is frequently credited with unabashedly bringing what author Chuck Klosterman called the “Dungeons & Dragons” ethos to heavy metal—that tie his musical projects together.

But there was more to Dio than just his being a tiny man with a giant voice who loved to sling the devil horns (another thing he’s credited with popularizing). He was a guy who, like so many other rock musicians, started out as a band geek of sorts, playing trumpet and French horn. He even earned a scholarship to Juilliard at one point, but wanted to be a rocker far more than he wished to be a classically trained musician, and turned the scholarship down to start his own bands.

But all those times he was strutting his stuff onstage, wowing millions of people the world over with his incredible voice and astonishing stamina, he wasn’t merely doing it to entertain. Dio also had an ulterior motive, and it was a charitable one. Whether he was raising millions for famine relief in Africa, helping to save young girls from lives of prostitution or assisting animal rescue organizations, Dio’s philanthropy was as strong and as steadfast as his legendary voice. Although he died of stomach cancer in 2010 at the age of 67, Dio’s philanthropic legacy lives on through the Ronnie James Dio Stand Up and Shout Cancer Fund.

Even before his death, various Dio tribute bands were in existence. And while all of them no doubt try and capture his singular vocal style and throw the horns nonstop, not many of them embrace Dio’s dual mandate of rocking out while giving back.

This is where Rising comes in.

Reportedly five years in the making, Rising is one of those Dio tribute bands—but instead of simply performing the songs of Rainbow, Black Sabbath, Elf, et al, Rising also embraces Dio’s charitable outlook, donating proceeds from every show to various nonprofits. In fact, Rising itself operates as a nonprofit—Rising, Inc.—for the sole purpose of spreading both the music and what they see as Dio’s philanthropic message. Toward that end, the target their donations to cancer-research organizations, music-education programs for young people and organizations that address youth homelessness—the very programs and people Dio also provided outreach to, both musically and financially.

Of course, a charitable mandate is nice, but without the ability to re-create Dio’s distinctive music, Rising would be just another Dio tribute band (and there are a few of them out there). Fans of the diminutive rocker will be happy to hear that Rising promises a “note-for-note reproduction of the songs the way you remember them” and their May 11 show at the Mount Baker Theatre will feature “epic stage props and professional production” that will “take you back to the magic of an ’80s-era concert experience.”

Better still, 100 percent of the proceeds from their two-plus-hour Baker show will benefit Northwest Youth Services, which has been providing assistance and support to at-risk youth for almost 40 years.

Something tells me, that between the music and the charitable mandate, Dio himself would throw Rising his fiercest devil-horn salute.

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