Sure, the laser Pink Floyd show is totally awesome and the Beatles cover band totally nailed “Penny Lane.” But after the rapturous response to the Tupac Shakur hologram at Coachella, you can be sure phones are ringing off the hook this week all over Hollywood with calls to the Digital Domain wizards behind the stunt.
Think of the possibilities: The Doors resurrected with a young Jim Morrison, Nirvana on tour with a virtual Kurt Cobain or a resurrected Tupac and Biggie sharing a stage for a greatest hits show. But does the success of the Tupac mini-set mean that holograms are the touring industry’s version of 3-D movies?
“I thought it was great in that particular moment,” said veteran manager Danny Goldberg, who has worked with everyone from Nirvana and Led Zeppelin to Sonic Youth and the Hives, who he was on hand to see at Coachella. “They were evoking a certain nostalgia for [the era of] gangsta rap and I thought it worked in that context and was exciting and special. I think it’s not something that would be particularly easy for another artist to emulate.”
Goldberg said certain things work best the first time and if someone else was to try a holo-show they would have to find a way to make it new again, otherwise it might just seem cheesy and derivative. Part of that potential pitfall is the legacy of the artist. For example, if Paul McCartney announced a tour with a virtual John Lennon, Beatles fans would likely see that as being in bad taste and not show up. “It’s another tool in the toolbox of technology, but some tools should only be used sparingly,” he said, adding that he thought the execution at Coachella was stellar.
Making the trick work on a larger scale, or even on a full-blown tour is unlikely given the unique aspects of the Coachella gig. “Part of what made that effective was that it was a surprise, coupled with authentic living, breathing superstars in Dre and Snoop and not over-relying on it,” said Goldberg. “I wouldn’t look at it as the beginning of a big trend, but as an amazing moment.”
Fans may get another chance to experience the trick when the upcoming Cirque du Soleil-created Michael Jackson show in Las Vegas opens next year. While a spokesperson for the Jackson estate would not confirm that the MJ show would use similar technology, when MTV News spoke to Cirque President and CEO Daniel Lamarre in 2010 he said that, “The new technology that we want to bring to [the permanent] Vegas [show] will be more theatrical,” promising that fans “will see Vegas become the home of Michael Jackson and people will come from all over the world to experience the uniqueness of the technology that we want to bring there.”
At the time, Lamarre hinted at the use of “3-D technologies and hologram technologies to allow people to see Michael Jackson onstage.”
Also on hand to watch holo-Pac at Coachella was Dave Brooks, managing editor of live entertainment trade magazine Venues Today. He said he could definitely see the technology employed in several ways. “Obviously the posthumous thing is one idea,” he said. “Think about the Michael Jackson Cirque tour, or the Who bringing back a hologram of [late drummer] Keith Moon. [Bringing back] dead band members could be a way to enhance the show and plenty of people would be impressed to see a hologram of Keith Moon.”
As for whether an all-hologram tour could win over audiences, based on what he’s seen so far, Brooks said it wasn’t likely … yet. “Anything is possible, but from that one glimpse of the technology I can’t say it’s enough to make a whole tour of just that.” In fact, he said having the hologram Tupac on stage for two songs was great, but it would likely have gotten tired if the West Coast legend had hung around all night.
Given the amount of all-star collaborations among pop and hip-hop stars these days, Brooks said the other way he could see the technology deployed is to briefly bring some of those one-off singles to life in concert. “Because of the nature of pop music these days, with collaborations like Calvin Harris and Rihanna and Alicia Keys and Jay-Z, this could definitely add a ’wow’ factor,” he said. “It’s one thing to have [the other singer] on a screen, but if you could have them there in 3-D it would impress more.”
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