Don’t use holograms of dead stars on stage because playing God won’t work
The ghost of Roy Orbison may be added to the Glastonbury 2019 line-up (Picture: David Redfern/Redferns)

The family of iconic musician Roy Orbison hinted that they would ‘love’ to see the Only The Lonely creator playing at Glastonbury 2019 in holographic form.

For some the chances of seeing an all time musical hero is the stuff of dreams – even if they are dead.

Imagine if John Lennon, Jimi Hendrix, Tupac, Biggie and many more had not been taken at such an early stage in their lives. They would have, undoubtedly, had much more to give us in terms of their music. Oh, how we would have all LOVED to have seen them play, performing in an era when they were at their best, and at the height of their powers.

Don’t use holograms of dead stars on stage because playing God won’t work
Reborn or repackaged? (Picture: Artur Widak/NurPhoto via Getty Images)

But does that mean we should ‘roll out the dead’ and ‘play God’, all for what is under the guise of our listening and viewing pleasure?

While the thought of reviving a superstar for a gig sounds jaw-droppingly amazing in practice, it certainly raises many questions about technology, their limits and who is using it – and the reasons for undertaking such an endeavor in the first place.

Don’t use holograms of dead stars on stage because playing God won’t work
holograms aren’t a good idea (Picture: Reggie Lewis/NBC/NBCU Photo Bank)

Of course, holographic versions of humans are being used for a variety of functions. For example, the French elections in 2017 saw President Macron appear at two campaign rallies in Lyon and Paris at the same time.

Clever stuff for sure. But in terms of the deceased, maybe we should let them rest in peace.

In music, the obsession with the posthumous all started years back with ‘unearthed’ releases and recordings. Singles, archive footage and then whole albums, sold to fans long after an artist had passed over.

Then, at Coachella Festival in 2012, Tupac joined Snoop Dogg and Dr. Dre on stage for a performance, with the holographic version of the rapper emulating him to his movements, his mannerisms and his vocals. It was the Death Row Records gang back together and kicking it hard – well, kind of, anyway.


But unfortunately a main problem is that it’s all just emulation. Taking it one step further into a full hour’s performance rather than a featurette, Roy could appear at Worthy Farm next year. On stage, his ghost belting out some of his finest hits, with sound and vocals layered from live recordings on top and his movements, gestures and quirks pre-programmed.

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Roy tragically died in 1988 following a heart attack, aged 52. But the Crying writer’s son, Alex, has endorsed a possible addition to the Glastonbury lineup when it returns from a break year, hailing the technology as a marvel (since Tupac appeared, the advances in holographic technology have been fast).

The Roy hologram, which has already seen ‘the light of day’ (pun), is reportedly now able to shine bright in broad daylight and adapt to a range of environments.

And it’s just as well, as the deceased songwriter is about to embark on his own stand-alone tour, from beyond the grave. Glastonbury is being tipped as the icing on the cake for his ‘reborn’ adventure.

For the Orbison offspring, who have undoubtedly given their permission to use Roy’s likeness (the copyright issues that could emerge from a project less endorsed would be mind boggling), the new technology poses a whole new posthumous career for the iconic musician. But for who’s benefit – us, or the record labels?

Don’t use holograms of dead stars on stage because playing God won’t work
A hologram depicting Roy playing could destroy the legend that has surrounded his name since he passed away in 1988 after suffering a heart attack (Picture: Rebecca Sapp/WireImage for The Recording Academy )

Perhaps, as a novel, one-time event it could work, especially at Glastonbury. The demographic is perfect; adults who fondly remember dancing to Oh, Pretty Woman the first-time around. Nostalgia is a key component of our beings and it’s fun to miss things and remember times past.

Then there’s the youngsters, who didn’t have the chance first time round and grew up listening to mum and dad’s Orbison records and let their imaginations run when they heard music they loved from another era.

Finally, there’s those looking for the unusual and the out-of-the-ordinary as part of their personal festival experience. And (in principal) how f****** cool is a holographic guitarist?

Don’t use holograms of dead stars on stage because playing God won’t work
How would a holographic Roy Orbison go down in front of the crowds of Worthy Farm? (Picture: Glastonbury)

But the many creases and personality of a person’s show will be missed. Those clumsily hit chords; the clearing of the throat; the band banter; the sound check; off the cuff audience engagement; playing LIVE. Would it work as a headline act? Definitely not.

All the things that happen around the music at a gig and a musician’s responses to those incidents – they are, at best, going to be pre-programmed in. Those moments that are unscripted can’t be replicated with any authenticity at all by a light show.

How are you ACTUALLY going to feel if a hologram asks you on stage to perform along with him on the Pyramid stage? It’s going to be strange, not having interaction, quirks and a general lack of authenticity behind a ‘fake’ show – especially one that the crowd is aware of.

So, as novel and amazing an idea like this is, and even with the best intentions at heart, the holographic, epic performance at Glastonbury whiffs of a greedily capitalist society that has ramped up focus on music’s shallow heritage industry. Like every other major label in recorded music history, they want a performance by a star, to make money off their well-known songs.

Recreating Roy Orbison won’t deliver the musical authenticity and it won’t recreate a moment in the history of music. It will not be the same, simply because the kind of magic they want to revive is near impossible to copy without a pumping heart and a real soul.

Unfortunately a holographic version of anyone is missing those two vital ingredients completely.

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