Roy Orbison hologram tour shows the future of live music is with the dead

April 20 by: Karl Puschmann

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Later tonight, in Britain’s coastal resort town of Bournemouth, Roy Orbison will walk on stage and perform a set of his greatest hits.

And what hits they are! Oh, Pretty Woman, You Got It, Crying, Only the Lonely, In Dreams and the 80s glory of his plaintive cover of the admittedly slightly creepy/stalkerish I Drove all Night.

The Big O recorded that last one in 1987, but confusingly it wasn’t released until 1992. Four years after he had the heart attack that killed him in 1988.

Nevertheless, it’s a terrific cover. So, yes, I am envious that I won’t be in Bournemouth tonight to watch Orbison perform the song live with the Royal Philharmonic Concert Orchestra. It’ll be a hell of a show.

Not least because, as said, Orbison has been dead for 30 years.

But rest assured, when he goes on stage this evening it will not be as a shuffling zombie.

Instead, he will appear dressed in an immaculate grey suit, holding his fire engine red Gibson ES-335 guitar and, of course, wearing those iconic jet black shades.

Through some unholy alchemy of technology and black magic the Big O has been resurrected as a hologram. While he’s not the first deceased hologram performer - Tupac, Elvis and Michael Jackson amongst others have performed - it is the first tour of this scale ever undertaken by a hologram.

But more than that, it’s the first time the underlying tech has been good enough to convince or fool. Jackson and ‘Pac looked like video game graphics, glowing with a bluish hinge similar to R2-D2’s projections of Princess Leia in Star Wars.

This does not look like that. What it looks like is that Roy Orbison is right there on stage performing in front of you. If you didn’t know any better there’s no way you would know that he wasn’t really there. It is, in every sense of the word, incredible. But don’t take my word for it, look it up on YouTube.

But is it right? Having found myself returning to think about the deceased Roy Orbison’s tour all week the answer I’ve come up with is; ‘dunno’.

It’d no doubt be a fun night out. After a few drinks I sincerely believe it’d be easy to suspend disbelief and get caught up in the whole thing. It looks so believable that you’d quickly forget you were watching a hologram.

Regular readers may recall a column a couple of years ago where I moaned about missing out on tickets to Prince’s last concert here. Little did we know it would be one of Prince’s last concerts anywhere.

But if Holo-Prince was to roll in to town to play a set of his greatest hits at Spark I don’t know if I’d go. If Nirvana reformed with Holo-Kurt I’m not entirely sure I’d dust off the flannel shirt. I’d get a kick out of seeing Frank Sinatra perform sure, but Holo-Frank feels like it’d be a hollow experience.

I think it depends on how cheap these sort-of-gigs were. Because I can see it being fun. I mean, I’ve rocked out to good covers bands on occasion. And this is the real thing!

Kind of.

Sadly, it’s not likely to be cheap enough. Holo-Orbison tickets are a whopping $120 NZD and that’s enough to see me pause for thought.

No matter what you think of holo-gigs best get used to them. More holo tours are coming. Holo-Abba are hitting the road on tour next year and the real ABBA are very much alive. Just obviously quite lazy.

So with the living getting in on the act as well it’s safe to say these holo-gigs aren’t likely to be a fad. Especially with heritage or nostalgia acts. Really, it’s the emergence of a new form of entertainment.

Yet… I still find the premise a little off. Is it ethical? Credible? Or is that just stuffy-duffy thinking?

The future is now. Why not see everyone you never could while you still can?