Music News

Roy Orbison's Hologram Might Be the Future of Nostalgia Tours

In Dreams: Roy Orbison in Concert at the Eventim Apollo April 19, 2018, in London.
In Dreams: Roy Orbison in Concert at the Eventim Apollo April 19, 2018, in London. Photo by Tabatha Fireman, © 2018 Base Hologram
If you could see any musical act — from any time — perform live, who would it be?

What was once a fantasy scenario saved for hazy late-night banter and dreadfully long concert queues is now becoming a profitable digital reality.

It was spring 2012 when a computer-generated Tupac gratuitously joined Snoop Dogg at Coachella and prompted mixed reviews. What was meant to be a touching tribute disturbed many viewers. Reactions aside, Tupac’s so-called resurrection sparked a new wave of possibilities in the touring industry.

Six years later, the sentence “Roy Orbison’s hologram is on tour," though odd, doesn't elicit gasps.

In Dreams: Roy Orbison in Concert is a 28-date, 65-minute show in which the likeness of the winsome crooner — who gave the world heartfelt anthems such as “Crying” and “Only the Lonely” — is accompanied by a full, 29-piece orchestra. Sunday, November 18, the show will stop in Fort Lauderdale for afternoon and evening performances.

Base Hologram, headquartered in Las Vegas, is the growing company behind the project. It's also responsible for bringing Maria Callas back to life this year and for an upcoming tour with the late Amy Winehouse.

With the help of a body double and CGI, Base faithfully captured not only Orbison’s jet-black hair and fringed jackets but also his taciturn stage presence.

“We could have Roy doing backflips during the show, but we would never do anything like that,” Marty Tudor, the company’s CEO, said in an interview with the Pennsylvania newspaper the Intelligencer. “We intend this to be as much like a concert by Roy Orbison as possible. Roy’s family loves the production and worked on this with us every step of the way.”

An element of absurdity underlies these newfound hologram tours, which only creates more questions about the lengths to which this seemingly limitless concept will go.
“As the technology refines itself, these could take the form of not just people who have left us,” John Procaccini, Base's vice president of touring and productions, says.

So, could New Kids on the Block send their younger selves on tour for them? Could Zayn Malik have been zapped into One Direction’s concerts following his untimely departure from the boy band? After 30 years of playing nearly 3,000 shows as part of his Never Ending Tour, should Bob Dylan commission a one-of-a-kind hologram of himself and take a well-deserved break? And most important: Where is the book on hologram ethics?

Procaccini stresses that the holograms are painstakingly made to meet the expectations of the artists' estates. With more than 40 years of experience in entertainment touring, Procaccini has worked with the likes of Jefferson Starship, REO Speedwagon, and Boston.

For Orbison’s tour, Base Hologram collaborated extensively with his son Alex Orbison. Speaking to Fox News, Alex said witnessing the emotional effect of his father’s work on the audience during the concert's opening show was “overwhelming” and brought him to tears.

“I started seeing these tender family moments... [while] watching the audience around me. There was a father and son and then another couple... their hands floated up, and they held each other’s hands as the song ["Crying"] went in, and then they gave each other this look. That part of it touched me.”

The hyperrealism of Orbison's and Callas’ holograms, Procaccini says, creates an illusion strong enough to immerse spectators.

“When the house lights go down and the curtain opens, Maria walks across the stage, and you can actually hear her steps as she walks across the deck... It’s quite something,” he says. “If you let yourself go at that moment and realize you are witnessing a wonderful performance, you forget about the technology.”

Although he's unable to disclose any upcoming projects, Procaccini confirms the company is developing more tours.

And behind these simulations is a side that taps into the hearts of the yearning and nostalgic, allowing fans to connect with cherished figures in history.

“You’ve seen the reactions when people who are deeply loved pass away,” Procaccini says. “People get absolutely devastated by it. But knowing you have something to hold onto moving forward and that this is available to people could very much be a means to honor that memory in a very special way.”

In Dreams: Roy Orbison in Concert. 4 and 8:30 p.m. Sunday, November 18, at Parker Playhouse, 707 NE Eighth St., Fort Lauderdale; Tickets cost $37 to $77 via
KEEP MIAMI NEW TIMES FREE... Since we started Miami New Times, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Miami, and we'd like to keep it that way. With local media under siege, it's more important than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" program, allowing us to keep offering readers access to our incisive coverage of local news, food and culture with no paywalls.
Patricia Cárdenas is a Colombian-American arts and music journalist. She loves '80s pop, bike rides, and thrifting.