With the arrival of holographic performance technology, these days an artist doesn’t even have to be alive to sell concert tickets. After lip-syncing and Autotune, will holograms hammer another nail into the coffin of authentic live shows? Come inside to join the debate.
By Martin Kielty
He stopped the show when he shouted: “How the fuck are you, Coachella?” It wasn’t the language – it was the fact he was dead. Rap star 2Pac was making his first stage appearance since he was buried in 1996 – and the audience weren’t entirely welcoming.
Hologram performance is yet another great leap of technology that looks like it could hammer another nail into the coffin of live shows. We already contend with lip-synced appearances: the Sex Pistols are rumoured to have refused to play this summer’s Olympics because they wouldn’t be allowed to do it for real. We live in the era of Autotune where more than one pop hero would find himself mortally ashamed if his real voice was pumped through the PA.
Now it seems you don’t even have to be alive to sell tickets. So what does that mean for the future of the live scene that spawned so many great classic acts?
Could Led Zeppelin have played their celebrated 2007 reunion with Bonzo behind the kit? His son Jason, who played that London show, has since toured with a hi-tech rig allowing him to “jam” with his dead dad.
Could Jimi Hendrix return to front the swathe of unheard releases his sister promises is in the pipeline? Some have said Janie is determined to jealously guard the memory of her brother – wouldn’t a holographic Hendrix be the way to go?
Elvis “toured” with his backing band a few years ago and the King led the show from giant screens. What’s another dimension between fans?
And why not have a full Beatles reunion? Lynyrd Skynyrd? Thin Lizzy? Bring Ronnie Montrose back to appear at his own tribute show?
Yes, that’s sick. And the Coachella crowd appeared to feel the same way about 2Pac’s appearance with Dr Dre and Snoop Dogg. But the living pair are now discussing the possibility of taking their departed friend on the road with them.
Should we be bothered? Isn’t it another form of a tribute band or cover act? If you have the rights to someone’s music, is it fair enough to use the rights to their likeness in a 3D format? This time next year will anyone care whether they’re watching the real U2, a U2 projected on to a giant screen so they can see the band… or a U2 who aren’t even there while four other versions of the holograms play similar shows in other parts of the world?
Rock music started with an electric device which made a noise unlike any guitar before it. Then there were effects units, then synths, and now full electronic drumkits (surely the most physical of musical instruments). Today you can play to backing tracks, you can mime, and you can sell your music to people you’ll never meet.
Maybe holographic concerts are just another step down the road. But maybe we’re coming close to a time when real live shows won’t happen any more, certainly big-budget ones, because it’s cheaper and safer to let the computers do the work.
Say you’re a big businessman with books to balance. You have the choice between taking a risk between signing eight new bands that might not make it, or putting Kurt Cobain’s 3D likeness into giant stadiums. What would you do?
But… where will the next Kurt Cobain come from? And does it matter if you have 50 years of rock music in a back-catalogue and the ability to digitally tour the original artists for ever?
Holographic future or hollow graphic future? Post your comments!
Above: the holographic version of rap star 2Pac in action.
Above: in Japan, Hatsune Miku – a 3D singing hologram – is a ‘virtual’ star in her own right.
Above: in 2008 X Japan brought their late guitarist Hideto Matsumoto back
to life using early holographic technology. ‘Hide’ commited suicide in 1998.