Live After Death

Dave Iannacone

There are very few rap acts who have had as much influence as Tupac Shakur, who was shot dead in 1996, and his legacy has only grown in the years since. On April 15, while performing at the Coachella festival, Dr. Dre gave hip-hop fans a surprise that is still sending waves through the music industry when a hologram of Tupac joined him and Snoop Dogg on stage for a mini-set. The extremely life-like projection of the rapper has been making headlines ever since. If we can bring back Tupac, why can’t we bring back a host of other dead musicians? How about a Beatles reunion? Why not James Brown or Marvin Gaye? There’s even talk of taking a holographic Michael Jackson on tour with his brothers on their reunion concerts. The possibilities really do seem endless, but the question really is, should they be?

Some artists, such as Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin, and Kurt Cobain, passed away so young that millions of fans all around the world never got the chance to see them in concert. The idea of these “holographic shows” opens the door for fans to experience, or re-experience, these legends, amongst others, in a live venue. Is this a good idea, though? Maybe for certain occasions, like Coachella, or maybe something like bringing on holographic Freddie Mercury to do a song or two with the surviving members of Queen, but as far as full shows or tours go? That would probably be a bad idea. For one, we may have the technology to create a life like visual representation of an artist, but the vocals and/or instruments would have the pre-recorded. For someone like Jimi Hendrix, this wouldn’t particularly make a show all that exciting. What would really be the difference from a video playing of the actual Jimi in this cause, outside of an “ooh” and “ah” audience reaction?

Tupac’s feigned re-emergence was perfect because it was a novelty. This was the first time something like this has happened, and for a deeply missed artist, the reaction has been overwhelming. Even if the hologram were taken on tour with Dr. Dre, it would still be pretty cool. However, an entire Tupac show would only be so exciting after a while; the novelty would wear off. Ok, so how about Michael Jackson then? Being so known for his dance routines, iconic images, and live presence, why wouldn’t a tour work? Well, quite frankly, it just wouldn’t be authentic. These artists are so legendary because of what they did when they were alive. Despite so many acts passing before their time, and even many that lived full lives, their time to perform happened when they were alive. The idea of getting a short ode to their work is really great, but if bringing artists “back to life” through holograms gets taken too far, lip-syncing could be one of the smallest complaints about performances today.