NJ.com: “Thirty Years After His Death, Roy Orbison Is Touring Again”

November 2 2018

Read NJ.com’s feature story on Roy Orbison in Concert – The Hologram Tour, coming to MPAC November 12!

 

NJ.com: “Thirty Years After His Death, Roy Orbison Is Touring Again”

By Natalie Pompilio

Alex Orbison was apprehensive when, last month, he joined an audience of 3,000 people to watch his father take the stage for the first time in almost 30 years.

“Just like the other fans, I just wanted to see him perform one more time,” Orbison said. “I wanted them to love it because they love my dad and I love my dad and if they didn’t like it, it would have been devastating … And then he unleashed the beast on the song ‘Crying’and as his voice got louder and louder, it got more and more emotional for me and for them.”

Roy Orbison – the legendary singer whose classics include “Only the Lonely,” “In Dreams”  and “It’s Over” – is currently on tour. Or more precisely, a hologram of Orbison is. The singer died in 1988.

The production, which has a live orchestra on stage, comes to the Count Basie Center for the Arts Nov. 2 and the Mayo Performing Arts Center Nov. 12.

It arrives as Orbison’s career is enjoying a bit of a resurgence with his song “Oh, Pretty Woman” being featured in “A Star Is Born” and a biopic about his life tentatively slated to begin production.

“There’s such a buzz around my dad right now,” Alex Orbison said. “I ran into one of my parents’ old friends at a coffee shop and she was going on and on about how much my dad would have loved this.”

Holograms are the newest frontier in entertainment, said Martin Tudor, CEO of BASE Hologram Productions.

“This is fresh. There hasn’t been anything new in the live entertainment space in hundreds of years,” Tudor said. “We do believe in this as an art form going forward.”

Opera legend Maria Callas is also currently performing thanks to Tudor’s company, 40 years after she “shrugged off the earthly binds of temporal life, leaving a bereft world longing for her presence, her performances, her voice.” Next year, BASE will bring Amy Winehouse, who died in 2011, back to the stage with some tour proceeds going to the drug and alcohol awareness foundation that bears her name.

“People have asked, ‘Isn’t it a little eery, bringing a dead person back to life?’ And my answer is, ‘When you watch a movie, like ‘Star Wars, and Peter Cushing‘s character is on screen, do you think it’s eerie?'” said Tudor, referring to the British actor who played Grand Moff Tarkin and died in 1994. “This is sort of like  watching a movie. It’s a hybrid between a concert and a show.”

Holograms may be hot but they’re also controversial.

Remember the backlash that followed after “Tupac Shakur” performed with Snoop Dogg and Dr. Drew during Coachella in 2012–12 years after Shakur’s death?

As Billboard magazine writer Jason Upshutz wrote afterwards, “The crowd had no idea what to do with the hologram. … When the shirtless 2Pac re-creation shouted “What the f— is up, Coachella!” — mind you, the real Tupac would have never yelled this, since he died three years before the Coachella festival even existed — the crowd yelled back at him… but there were also a lot more uneasy looks than blissfully excited super-fans.”

Michael Jackson, who died in 2009, “performed” at 2014 Billboard Music Awards. More recently, Jackson’s brothers said they might tour again as the Jackson 5 — with Michael’s hologram.

In 2015, Whitney Houston‘s estate said the late singer would take the stage again as a hologram. That tour was cancelled because of a dispute between the estate and Hologram USA, the company creating the show.

Hologram USA recently announced it had created holograms of Billie Holliday and Jackie Wilson that will be available as part of “Hologram Karaoke Wars,” a new  weekly feature at is eponymous Los Angeles theater.

And it’s not only dead celebrities who are getting in on the action: Rapper Chief Keef is working with Hologram USA to launch his own hologram tour.

Tudor, of BASE Hologram, said that while some may still balk at the idea of a hologram on stage — some Winehouse fans took the Twitter after learning of her upcoming tour to denounce the idea — he’s seen happy concertgoers at Orbison and Callas shows.

“With all respect to reviewers, the audiences have a blast at these shows and that’s what really counts to me,” he said. “They’re dancing in the aisles and having a good time.”

In many ways, Orbison is the perfect candidate for a hologram performance. The singer didn’t move around a lot on stage, preferring to stick to his standing microphone. He kept his banter to a minimum. He didn’t go in for costume changes and his eyes were always covered by his sunglasses.

“I could have had Roy do back flips if I wanted to, but that’s not who he was. What’s critical to us to being authentic,” Tudor said. “We try to give you as much of a true to real performance as we can. When you see Roy, you see Roy like he  really performed.

Alex Orbison — who runs Roy Orbison Productions and manages his father’s legacy with brothers Roy Jr. and Wesley — said he was intrigued by the idea of a hologram concert when someone first mentioned it to him a few years ago but he wasn’t fully on board until he saw how life-like the projection of his father could be.

“At one show, a guy got into an argument with his wife because he insisted there was a stand-in on the stage, not a hologram,” Alex Orbison said. “He didn’t believe it even when the BASE guys talked to him and he definitely wasn’t listening to his wife.”

Orbison said his father was always looking forward and he believes he would approve of the use of his image. As the elder Orbison once famously said, “People often ask me how would I like to be remembered and I answer that I would simply like to be remembered.”

“He was very modest that way,” Alex Orbison said. “That’s the axiom we work off of as we promote him and remind people how wonderful he was and is still.”

IN DREAMS: ROY ORBISON IN CONCERT – THE HOLOGRAM TOUR

Mayo Performing Arts Center

Tickets: $69-109, available online at https://www.mayoarts.org. Nov. 12.

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