Coachella; one of the hottest tickets of the festival season. This year saw established artists such as The Black Keys, Swedish House Mafia and Florence and The Machine play with hot young talent Azealia Banks and The Weeknd. But there was one special guest that surprised us all. Appearing on stage alongside the hip-hop heavyweights Dr Dre and Snoop Dogg on their Sunday headlining slot was an artist nobody could have predicted; Tupac Shakur – sixteen years after his death.
The stunned crowd witnessed a life-size 3D image of Shakur take to the stage, seemingly interacting with Snoop Dogg, Dr Dre and the crowd while performing ‘Hail Mary’ and ‘2 of Amerikaz Most Wanted’. Shakur opened his set by shouting “what the fuck is up Coachella”; a festival that didn’t begin until three years after the rapper’s death. With the looks, the moves and the voice, this virtual image was convincing, if a little eerie.
The image of Shakur was resurrected by AV Concepts, who digitally pieced together physical and characteristic movements from previous recorded performances. The image was then projected onto a highly reflective film stretched over a clear frame. While not technically a hologram, the performance, made even more realistic through Snoop Dogg’s treatment of him, or rather it, stunned the crowd.
Of course, Shakur isn’t the first mourned celebrity to receive the holographic treatment. In 2003, Frank Sinatra was ‘brought back to life’ for a full length concert in New York while in 2007, Celine Dion duetted with Elvis Presley on the American Idol stage. Even the living are no stranger to appearing as projections. Kate Moss floated above Alexander McQueen’s 2006 catwalk in the wake of a cocaine scandal, resurrecting her image rather than herself.
So what lies in the future for holographic performances? We have, unfortunately, a wealth of deceased singers. The screamingly obvious next move would be to see Michael Jackson moonwalk once again, but opinion is polarised. While some believe these holographic style projections give new and old audiences a chance to see their heroes, it is slightly unsettling to see someone, especially Tupac, whose murder has never been proved, work the stage in 3D. The opportunity for exploitation is also tempting industry executives, who could cash in on the cremated. However, the steep cost of these works means that a guaranteed audience is needed. But the moral question is should we let our celebrities rest in peace? Let’s leave the last word to Tupac; “My biggest fear of death is to come back reincarnated”.