What is the point of hologram concerts?

This type of show, such as the one ABBA has announced to end its meeting, continue to generate discussions about its ethical and artistic dimension.

Carlos Benito

The last time ABBA went on tour was in 1980, which is almost like saying in another era, so fans who attend their reunion concert in May are going to fulfill one of those dreams that seemed impossible, hopelessly doomed to failure. . In fact, the experience will be very sleepy, dreamlike in consistency, since the members of the Swedish quartet will appear as we all remember them, without the wrinkles, the changes in silhouette, the loss of vigor and the creaking of joints that brings with it the age: there you will be able to see, yes, the glorious ABBA of that time, because the stage will actually be what they have ingeniously baptized as ‘abbatares’, projections that create a three-dimensional illusion. The authentic ABBA, the flesh and blood seventies, will also be in the venue, but as part of the audience, contemplating themselves in one of those logical curls that give our times a certain dystopian air.

“It is not a version, nor a copy, nor people pretending to be ABBA: they are really them”, has emphasized Ludwig Andersson, son of Benny (one of the boys or, rather, gentlemen of the group) and one of those responsible for the initiative, in an unexpected overlap between the entertainment industry and philosophy. Are they? Certainly, the figures that will ‘occupy’ the stage are based on the bodies of the four musicians, who spent five weeks recording their evolutions dressed in tight motion capture jumpsuits, the same as those used in the cinema to give life to characters such as Gollum. “We looked ridiculous,” admitted Björn Ulvaeus, the other male component. They will be them in the same sense that our image in a photo or video is us.

The debate has accompanied hologram concerts for a decade, which is how these projections have been called, no matter how much they strictly use other technology. Almost a century ago, when the tenor Enrico Caruso died, his record company inserted advertisements explaining that, yes, he had died for the theaters, but not for “gramophone art”, and now we can finally update that publicity, since some singers They continue to act despite their status as deceased: we have seen Tupac Shakur, Michael Jackson, Ronnie James Dio, Roy Orbison, Frank Zappa or Maria Callas in the ghostly version, and Whitney Houston is about to start a multi-month residency in October in October. Las Vegas.

All possible Elvis

The controversy that surrounds this practice has an ethical and an artistic aspect: on the one hand, it is questioned to what extent it is legitimate to exploit artists in this way beyond their death, just as the old circus entrepreneurs did when they embalmed their ‘ more successful freaks’ to continue showing them and making them profitable; on the other, it asks to what extent these shows trivialize and dilute the impact of a real performance, and also whether they will end up monopolizing the market and stifling the growth of future stars.

«Obviously, the great plus point is that they allow you to see, for example, Elvis even if he died 30 years before your birth. What’s more, in a single concert you can see all possible Elvises, their entire career. It puts at your disposal things that, in ‘carnal’ mode, are no longer within your reach. With ABBA it so happens that they are still alive, so it seems to me the latest twist to what the Beatles did with ‘Sgt. Pepper’s’: instead of us going on tour, let the album go on tour or, now, the virtual performance. But you have to get out of the logic that you are going to a concert: it is another type of event », analyzes Héctor Fouce, professor at the Complutense and director of the research group ‘Semiotics, communication and culture’. He links this burgeoning market to other recent practices, such as the sell-off of rights being carried out by some of the world’s biggest artists: “It’s a new model,” he says.

Among critics, in general, holograms are not viewed with much enthusiasm: “Ghost Slavery”, as defined by the prestigious British author Simon Reynolds. «I think it has little to do with the experience of a concert. As a show I think it’s a great idea, but as a concert? It already has its own that seeing the Stones on a stadium screen because, from where you are, you can’t distinguish more than nativity scene figurines », reflects the music journalist Rafa Cervera. “Having said that – he adds – I am convinced that it will be a success. People are less and less interested in reality. They want to see Queen without Freddie Mercury, they want to see tribute bands … Within that commercial context, it seems like a master move. They are going to cover themselves, it is something very of this century ». Of course, it is shocking to think about the number of historical figures that will be incorporated into that holographic afterlife in the coming years: today’s obituaries may be the agenda for the day after tomorrow’s shows.

“I already saw some fictional Beatles in a fictional Cavern”

In the end, it all depends on the extent to which fan status allows us to suspend disbelief and embrace illusion. Would our experts attend any such show? Rafa Cervera has it very clear: «No, never. In fact, I’ve long preferred to watch concerts on my home TV, it’s more comfortable and you don’t have to put up with the rest of the audience. The holograms, as a public, I am not interested in anything. Héctor Fouce, on the other hand, gets more doubts the more he thinks about it: «I was going to say no, but I remembered that I was in the fictional Liverpool Cavern watching some fictional Beatles. So I’m going to leave it in that maybe yes, it will have a lot to do with how they package it. ”

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