The Implications of New Holographic Stage Technology in Performance
By Ben Dale
I was sitting alone in a dark and dank basement on the East End, half-drunk and hoarse-voiced, listening to Blizzard of Ozz, which, for those who don’t know, was The Prince of Darkness’ first post-Sabbath record, and also one of two albums Ozzy recorded with his self-described muse — guitarist Randy Rhoads. Ozzy said on many occasions that Rhoads was the greatest musician he ever worked with, and that the period of time they spent collaborating felt like the longest part of his life, before or after.
In my slightly rockin’ state, I realized that with the aid of holographic technology, Ozzy might one day be able to reunite with his beloved Rhoads, and perhaps make considerable profit in doing so.
With the fanfare surrounding the Tupac Shakur’s recent Obi-Wan Kenobi moment at Coachella, holograms might be exactly what the music industry needs in order to revitalize itself. The Internet has all but destroyed such notions as “artist development” and “brand recognition” within the music industry. Why should the business continue to operate on such antiquated models when all the music gets stolen online anyway?
Rock’n’roll (like the culture it inhabits) has always valued image over substance. Personages such as Lady Gaga would not perform to sell-out crowds if this were not true. We can decry such shallowness in our culture, or we can simply take a Valium and talk about it with objectivity.
What the hologram enables is that the image of a performer can be used in a live setting to garner profits for whoever owns the rights to the material and likeness.
There will never be another Beatles. But what if Paul and Ringo could reunite with the late George and John for a performance, mind-blowing in its absurdity, and yet wholly representative of what we as a culture value: the image? In fact, a reunion might be less profitable than simply conjuring all the Beatles’ holograms (including the human Paul McCartney) in the ever-evolving stages of their career — matching gray suits for “I Wanna Hold Your Hand” all the way to beards and psychedelic garb of “Sgt. Pepper’s.” Surely that would make for a better show.
No one will ever play guitar like Jimi Hendrix in 1969. Or Jimmy Page in 1976. Or Eddie Van Halen circa 1982. Neither Page nor Van Halen plays with such gusto today. It is simply impossible to re-create the magic and charisma of youth. Youth over Wisdom. Image over Substance. USA! USA! But a hologram might capture the essence of those performers in their primes.
The thing is — the Rock Gods have already been established. Just as the Greek gods of yore vanquished the Titans, the last of the Rock deities died in this realm with a shotgun blast to the face in a Seattle greenhouse in 1994, pronouncing the firm end of the Rock Canon. Ever since then —rock, and popular music in general — hasn’t pushed any boundaries, sonically or visually, and certainly not in terms of personalities or legends. Indeed, to stand up and declare oneself the next Cobain or Elvis is akin to heresy among true believers. We are content with our Gods, and to abandon them would necessitate a cultural revolution as great or bigger than the one that happened from 1964-1994. In our lifetimes, that is about as likely as a Second American Civil War.
There is only so much that musicians can do with two electric guitars and a drum set. It seems, increasingly, that the limit is nearing or has been crossed. Today’s youth, for the most part, have no interest in musicianship at all. What music will mean to those born post-9/11 will be electronic drum and bass beats looped around retarded sing-along jingle choruses. I do not wish to bemoan this trend, only point it out.
What we rockists still possess, and will always possess, is the music left behind by the Gods. What we didn’t have, until now, was the ability to see said Rock Gods performing live, in their prime, just as it was for the generations before us. With the advent of Holographic technology, now we have that capability.
This may not be good news for bands trying to make it on their own original material in the 21st Century, but it’s hella good news for rock fans and record labels alike. Who knows? Maybe the revenue generated by the holographic bygones could actually put the record labels into a state of solvency to once again enable them to entertain concepts like artist development, and ushering in a revitalization of Rock’n’roll. Or maybe the holograms will trap us in a past, re-imagined by holographic engineers, and an image of a time, a sound, and a feeling that never really existed at all. Only time will tell.
At least Tupac’s hologram is bulletproof.
Reach DCP freelance writer Benjamin Dale at BenDale@DaytonCityPaper.com.