When the first holograms of dead musicians started making appearances, I was as skeptical as, well, everyone else.
It seemed like an unnecessary money grab, a way to take advantage of a musician’s legacy and potentially turn a good profit in the process. It also seemed…well, really dumb. Why would someone want to pay to see a hologram? The experience of live music is so exciting, and a hologram just wouldn’t capture that. So why bother?
I love Buddy Holly. Despite the fact that his career was cut far too short when he died in that infamous plane crash, his legacy is undeniable. Of the musicians who pioneered rock music, Holly is my favorite. I love the sweetness of “Everyday,” the fun of “Rave On,” and the rhythm of “Bo Diddley” and “Not Fade Away,” not to mention one of my top favorites, “It Doesn’t Matter Anymore,” which I never get tired of hearing. (Holly is also one of the many, many artists that my brother and I share a mutual love for.)
I would have loved to see Holly perform live — I often say that my idea of heaven is just me concert-hopping in the afterlife, going from one long-gone musician’s show to the next. A hologram is the closest I can get, and suddenly, the whole idea seemed a little less contrived and greedy.
The video of the demo helped.
For some reason, despite the technology we have, when I pictured these musical holograms, especially of musicians whose careers began decades ago, I thought of a low-quality, grainy, black-and-white projection, like something lifted from archival footage and just projected onto a stage. For some reason, I was surprised to see that the demo showed a crisp, clear image of Holly in a brightly colored suit “in his prime,” as the CEO of BASE, the company behind the hologram, put it.
Okay, fine. Ya got me. I figured if the tour came near me and the price was right, I’d go. After all, it may look and sound great, but it is still a hologram. And I’m not alone in that — ticket prices vary by venue, of course, with a wide range starting from around $20 and going all the way up to over $100 for club-level seating in some venues, but a common complaint was that the tickets were, for the most part, too expensive. I agreed.
And then I thought about it a little more.
Clearly, work has been put into these holograms. Not only does it look great, but the tour features remastered audio and, perhaps most importantly, backup singers and a live band. Just like I expected low-quality visuals, I also expected that the audio would be entirely recorded, rather than just the vocals. What I had in mind was almost a glorified movie, whereas the reality sounds like it’s as close to a proper concert experience of Holly and Orbison as BASE could get.
The effort alone makes the ticket price fair, but above all, the singers and musicians participating in the tour deserve to be paid.
As for whether the prices are worth it, that remains to be seen. Critical reaction has been mixed — while Vulture called a previous Orbison hologram tour “breathtaking,” the London Telegraph, like some of the public, called it “creepy,” also referring to it as an “illusion” with a “limited bag of tricks.” And it certainly has the potential to be creepy, but whether or not that’s the case might depend on one’s age. For older audiences who remember Holly and Orbison, the concert might be strange. I can easily consider acts I’ve seen live being reimagined decades from now, and it is admittedly bizarre and even a little uncomfortable. But for those of us who were born decades after the musicians’ prime and have only discographies and archival footage as a basis, the holograms present an opportunity for a taste of an experience we never got the chance to have.
Should the tour come near me, I’ll gladly give it a chance, and other fans should, too, keeping in mind that although it isn’t the real thing, the cost of admission is paying for more than just a projection.