Holograms of old rock stars are keeping their legacies alive
We spoke with The Sydney Morning Herald’s Richard Jinman about how hologram-based touring is keeping artist legacies alive and changing the way fans experience music. Richard got to check out the London Dio Returns show and perfectly captures this new experience in his article.
Alex Muneghina has just seen a ghost and couldn’t be happier. “It’s great,” he yells to me across the foyer of the rock venue in north London where his idol has just performed a song called Heaven and Hell. “It’s like he’s here.”
The 54-year-old was among hundreds of heavy metal fans braving a cold winter’s night to see the American singer Ronnie James Dio. Not in the flesh – the former Black Sabbath and Rainbow singer died of stomach cancer in 2010 – but in the form of a life-sized hologram backed by members of his band. The digitally resurrected star performed half a dozen of his best-known songs to an audience that showed its appreciation by raising a sea of devil’s horns salutes.
Muneghina saw Dio in concert many times and admits he had doubts about the hologram. But after witnessing it first hand he’s a believer. “I wouldn’t mind seeing other musicians like Jimi Hendrix the same way,” he says.
There is every chance he’ll get his wish because hologram rock stars are on the rise. Fans of Roy Orbison – the American master of the keening ballad who died in 1988 – are being reacquainted with their bespectacled hero this year when his hologram takes to the road on an international accompanied by a symphony orchestra. A Frank Zappa hologram is in the works and other dearly departed stars rumoured to be in line for digital resurrection range from Whitney Houston and Notorious B.I.G to Billie Holiday and Judy Garland.
“There are no limits,” says Jeff Pezzuti[, the chief executive of Eyellusion, the Los Angeles-based firm that created the Dio hologram. “We don’t want to be a company that only focuses on deceased artists. Look at those bands that are close to retirement, whose members are closing in on 70. We can get them in to a studio and create shows that are new and exciting for fans to see.”
Pezzuti can imagine the Rolling Stones recording a performance of their seminal album Exile on Main Street in front of a live audience. Then, with the band’s permission, technicians could “de-age” the holographic rockers to make it appear the gig was recorded in 1972, the year the album was released. It’s a “win-win”, he says because “we could have that show in multiple countries at multiple times.” Unencumbered by jet lag, boredom, infighting and infirmity the holographic Stones could perform in every corner of the world leaving Mick, Keith and Charlie free to sip margaritas in their mansions.