Saturday, May 5, 2012

Rock ‘n Roll Heaven

If you believe in forever
Then life is just a one night stand
If there’s a rock ‘n roll heaven
Well you know they’ ve got a helluva band
     - The Righteous Brothers

Last month at the Coachella rock festival in California, the crowd was awed by a live performance from the late Tupac Shakur, a hip hop superstar who has been gone for 16 years.  No, this wasn’t a true life The Walking Dead episode.  Tupac was digitally present as a life-sized hologram singing and moving onstage with Dr. Dre and Snoop Dogg.  Even more amazing, this was not a projection of a former concert performance by Tupac.  It was an entirely new and unique animation technique that allows for customization of the image with cutting edge technology for sound and motion. 

Life after death.  The power of creation.  The human race has arrived.  S‘cuse me while I kiss the sky.  We can now pluck the greatest musical performers of our generation and generations past from their lofty cloud perches and place them back on an earth bound stage. 
The advancement from the physical concert performance to metaphysical has been foreshadowed by the decline of physical music sales.  Albums are dead and now compact discs are on life support.  In 2011, digital music sales surpassed physical music sales for the first time in history per Time magazine.  The enjoyment of music has been reduced to a complex series of 1 and 0s.  Programming nerds rock. 

This entire development begs the question for me – who should we digitally resurrect via the hologram?

First I have to eliminate any performer for whom we do not have video images.  A concerto featuring Yo Yo Ma and a digital visage of Mozart is off the table.  Next I would pass on adding one missing band member to a group whose living members appear to be close to becoming holograms themselves.  Conjuring up Keith Moon and John Entwistle to pound out a set with the aging Pete Townsend and Roger Daltrey would only reinforce how close to the end the remaining two Who founders are.  No one goes to see The Who to get depressed.  That’s why we have Pink Floyd and Radiohead.  Finally, there are some performers from the past that will never be done justice by a computer generated remake.  If you didn’t see Janis Joplin the first time, you are out of luck.  No projection can capture and recreate that life force without diminishing its original power.

One more thing – no Beatles.  I don’t think the true fans will not support such a stunt, and let’s face it.  Haven’t we had enough Beatles tribute events to last 10 holographic lifetimes?

Here’s my list:

Elvis – He has become bigger in death than he was in life, and the millions who pilgrimage to Graceland each year to commemorate his birthday and deathday would line up from here to Memphis for a chance to see the King in concert.  I’m all shook up just thinking about it.  The event could singlehandedly revive the Nevada economy.

Michael Jackson – I’m not convinced that he hasn’t been a hologram for over 20 years already.

Bob Marley – Bob Marley, the legend, left us far too soon.  His music has a spiritual element that would only enhance the meditative ambiance of seeing him as a translucent ghost on the stage.  Match the image with his old band the Whaler and son Ziggy, sprinkle in some recreational pharmaceuticals, and you have a concert happening for the ages.

Pink Floyd – Known for their fantastic techno shows, a hologram on stage accompanying the band would work seamless with the eerie hypnotic sounds.  Founding member keyboardist Richard Wright passed in 2006 and could be digitally reunited with the band.  In fact, if Roger Waters and David Gilmour can’t learn to get along, the group could still tour with holograms and those two can remain mad at each other.  See Bob Marley above for the other reason it would work with Floyd’s core loyalists (hint: rhymes with “hugs”).

Hendrix – In life, he seemed otherworldly on the guitar.  An entire generation missed his live performances.  Now it doesn’t need to stay that way.

Who would you pay to see?  Any other suggestions?

After live shows with holograms become passe, the next generation enhancement (H2.0 for Hologram 2.0) would have to be the ability to jam at home with a holographic projection of your favorite performer.  Let’s add hologram capability to the Wii.  How about playing along to Hey Hey My My with Neil Young in the comfort of your basement?  How about jamming the bass track while the holographic members of Led Zeppelin accompany you through a concert worthy rendition of Dazed and Confused in your garage?  After Tupac’s appearance in California, it’s not that far-fetched, and personally, I can’t wait.

Rock and roll heaven on Earth, brought to you by computer nerds.  Sweet irony.

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