No matter how large or small the audience is, playing in front of people has its challenges. There’s always a lot of pressure involved in the process. After all, there are so many things that can go wrong, including yourself making embarrassing mistakes. That’s exactly what happened to guitarist Rowan Robertson while playing live with Ronnie James Dio for the first time.
Robertson isn’t exactly one of the best-known names in the world of metal music. At the age of only 17, he joined Ronnie James Dio’s band in 1988, replacing Craig goldy. Robertson stayed with Dio for about a couple of years, recording guitars on the “Lock Up the Wolves” album and touring in support of it.
In a new interview with Guitar World, Rowan looked back on a pretty awkward on-stage moment when Dio was opening for Metallica back in the late 1980s. To make things worse, this was Rowan’s first gig with the singer and he was the one supposed to do the big opening. He recalls:
“We were supporting Metallica, who were touring on ‘…And Justice for All’. It was such a cool time to be touring with Metallica; I love that album and I was hanging out with Kirk and Lars a lot, and they were really cool to me. The first show out, I actually felt completely relaxed and totally confident.”
“The lights go down and there’s this big buildup to the opening song, ‘Wild One’, with a long intro tape being played, and then there’s a big drum fill and I run out on stage. Before the gig, my guitar tech, ‘Pops,’ had asked if I wanted him to turn my distortion pedal on and have it ready to go. I said, ‘No, I’ll do it when I get out there.'”
“So I ran out there and – of course – I hit the ‘off’ switch and the whole rig went completely silent and 10,000 people started booing me! I was pretty nervous for the second show, but I got over it. Ronnie wasn’t happy after that first show, but there wasn’t any conversation and I just didn’t go near him that night. The first thing with Ronnie was you had to do your job well.”
Here’s Rowan doing the song right while playing with his band in 2022.
Elsewhere in the interview, Rowan remembered what Ronnie James Dio was like to work with. There was certainly a wide gap between the two, with the legendary singer being almost three decades older than him. Robertson said:
“I was so green that I couldn’t tell you if he was handling me more gently because I didn’t have a gauge, but he was 100 percent supportive and in my corner. There were times during the writing process when he was frustrated because there were things he wanted that I couldn’t deliver, but he worked with what I could do, and he really did roll the dice on me and stood by me.
“He certainly could have replaced me if he was unhappy. It was such a privilege to make that album with him. He’s a legend and was great to hang out with and was always holding court. And he was funny! Ronnie liked it to really be a band. He was there for the Beatles and Led Zeppelin, and he never wanted it to be a one-man show with a backing band – we were a band. We’d go out to the pub as a band and we’d hang out and it sounds cheesy, but it was all about rock ‘n’ roll and that bond.”