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While many of us remember the unsettling feeling of seeing a virtual Tupac come onstage at Coachella five years ago, it seems that with the growing sophistication of digital imaging and machine learning technology, posthumous holographic performances are something we’re going to be seeing more of.
The late Roy Orbison, for one, has a hologram tour coming up with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra. Approved by the Orbison estate, the tour will feature the holographic likeness of the star who has, after all, appeared… only in dreams… since his 1988 passing. Here are 10 more artists we’d pay to see perform “live” in ghostly holographic form, along with two who will probably never appear as holograms.
1. The Beatles
It almost goes without saying that when it comes to high-tech nostalgia, The Beatles are on the short list. The 3D imaging and light-projection technologies currently in development might give Paul and Ringo the opportunity to perform alongside avatars of John and George. Certainly investors and tech entrepreneurs have been tossing the idea around for at least a few years now.
2. Michael Jackson
No stranger to augmented reality, the Michael Jackson estate has flirted with projection and virtual performance tech for a while now, too. (Right now, the closest thing you can see is a trippy Cirque du Soleil tribute to MJ in Vegas). There are definitely legions of fans out there though, who would pay to see the King of Pop’s hologram moonwalk across a futuristic stage. Perhaps Michael Jackson’s presence could appear as a very literal “man in the mirror.”
3. Jimi Hendrix
Those of us old enough and lucky enough to have ever seen Hendrix live pretty much universally call the experience a life-changing one. It’s a stretch, but if holographic projection tech ever got to the point where future generations could experience some echo of that almost-mythical performance, it would be worth considering.
Speaking of artists whose legends far outlived them, Nirvana’s Kurt Cobain may have died in 1994, but the reluctant “voice of a generation” is now an icon of culture with an influence far beyond even the reach of the grunge aesthetic and style that Nirvana popularized. While we’re sure many of the millions of Nirvana fans born too late to have seen Kurt perform live might be down for a holographic rendition of “Smells Like Teen Spirit,” we’d be sure to leave the matter up to Frances Bean Cobain, a visual artist who has, in a sense, lived under the all-but-inescapable, metaphorical hologram of her father much of her life.
5. David Bowie
David Bowie’s career was always marked by the artist’s uncanny grasp of metamorphosis, shedding and taking on personae successively more original and iconically “Bowie.” Even going back to the days of Ziggy Stardust, Bowie was also no stranger to cutting-edge technological stage presence, and his fans today, many of whom were not yet born when most of his records came out, might appreciate a ghostly reprise of the Stardust character, or hearing “Major Tom” as if in a Star Wars-style holographic projection from space itself.
6. The Mamas and the Papas
One of the most influential bands of the psychedelic 1960s is also one that only a few had the chance to see live. The Mamas and the Papas, famous for “California Dreamin’” released seventeen singles and five albums, all of which made the Billboard Top 10. The band broke up in 1972 and Mama Cass died 3 years later. Old tapes of the band performing on the Ed Sullivan show have been the closest most of their fans can get to seeing them live since then. If the technology gets to the point where it’s feasible, a hologram just might be able to reproduce some of the eerie, swooning, captivating charm of the Mamas and the Papas in their heyday.
7. The Doors
While the two surviving members of The Doors did reunite, along with Exene Cervenka and John Doe of the great LA Punk band X, in a 2016 concert to honor the late Ray Manzarek, Doors keyboardist and long-time producer for X, a holographic performance is all the rest of us will get as far as seeing The Doors play with their original frontman. Jim Morrison was, famously, a founding member of the “27 Club.”
8. Buddy Holly
One of the first long-departed stars to be considered for holographic tours, the rock ’n roll pioneer who died tragically in a plane crash (along with Richie Valens and the Big Bopper) is definitely one whose 3D-projected presence will be appreciated. Far enough in the past to avoid the ghoulish aspects of the uncanny valley, Buddy Holly’s music remains iconic enough and relevant enough that a holographic performance could be easy to fall in love with.
9. Elvis Presley
The performer who can count, among his numerous other claims to fame, an ongoing legacy of impersonators. seems a natural choice for Holography. After all, who better to take the stage and impersonate the King than a reconstructed and 3D-ified footage of the King himself? (Eds note: it’s been done once already, when Presley “stood” next to Celine Dion as they performed a duet on American Idol).
10. Nina Simone
Not only one of the 20th-century’s most beloved voices but a towering figure whose influence has touched just about every point on the musical spectrum, Nina Simone is a natural choice for holographic representation. As the controversy over casting in the singer’s biopic shows, there’s no substitute for the spirit of the original. The music will always have it, but a holographic image, if done right, could be a beautiful tribute to the artist whose story and voice bear a power that time only amplifies.
Bonus: Not Prince
While there’s definitely a great many of us who wish we could have seen Prince live, (the artist passed away in 2016) he made his own views on the subject of holographic posthumous performance clear in a 1998 interview. Prince’s friend Sheila E confirmed the artist’s wishes and a planned holographic Super Bowl appearance alongside Justin Timberlake was pulled this year. As is the case with Amy Winehouse, whose estate likewise decided against holographic representation, it’s always important to consider first the wishes of those close to the artist, and the wishes of the artists themselves, if known.