Showing that in the wrong hands hologram technology can do more damage to a legendary singer’s reputation than good, Base Entertainment’s botched Roy Orbison show was previewed at Lincoln Center to an insider crowd. The verdict? The band struck up a few notes, Roy appeared, and, after a litrle initial excitement, my seatmates began to shuffle in their seats. The music honcho who snuck me in as a guest checked her watch. Second song: A Wallace Shawn look alike in a tweed coat fell asleep two rows in front of me.
It was a snooze. Hologram Roy never moved from behind the microphone, he never interacted with the live orchestra. (And honestly the strings kind of killed my buzz — do they remember he’s a rock star and not Engelbert Humperdinck?)
The image had the weird feel of having been cut and pasted on to the stage–like it was a slightly more luminous and mobile cardboard cut out. Only the Lonely indeed. News reports show that Base Entertainment’s Brian Becker and Gary Shoefield do not have the rights to use the patented technology that made the most famous celebrity holograms: Tupac Shakur at Coachella, Michael Jackson at the Billboard Music Awards, and Bart Simpson at Comic Con. Instead they’ve jerry-rigged a bunch of Epson Printers. Still they’re actually facing huge lawsuits that could shut their whole shady operation down. They have somehow managed to talk music “journalist” Cherie Hu into writing a glowing review in Billboard that doesn’t mention the lawsuit despite massive coverage across all media–perhaps it was a bribe?. Judging from the weak production at Lincoln Center–Base Entertainment should have just spent that money toward going legit.
Next up was Maria Callas. Nice idea–again, weak output. Top classical music critic of the New York Times, Anthony Tomsasini, was completely freaked out when he reviewed it and said, as much as he loves Callas, he can’t recommend anyone go to see this. Again, Callas stayed in one spot—unlike Tupac, MJ and others who roam the stage freely in the after life. And the audience drifted off. Not to mention, it really looked nothing like her. My music honcho pointed out Base Entertainment’s Brian Becker pacing nervously in the aisle looking like he might wet his pants. Shoefield had bailed two songs before.
Sleep seemed like sweet relief when my lids finally fell shut after the initial strains of “Habanera” from Carmen began.
Likeness wise, the Orbison hologram had it slightly easier–though he’s next to Elvis on easiest celebrity to impersonate with the right wig and sunglasses. In terms of being life-like? I give the stiff apparition a 1 out of 10.
The future for hologram entertainment is huge–The Hollywood Reporter has called it the next billion dollar business. But with pretenders like Base Entertainment, aka Base Hologram, running around, with Brian Becker and Gary Shoefield pretying on artists’ families and estates with misleading promises and tainting the waters for this new medium, media and the public need to be careful.
The Orbison and Callas estates should ask for their money back.
Luckily, I didn’t have to pay to get in.
[Note: Please forgive the quality of the photo–Base is keeping imagery underwraps but I snuck this shot with my iPhone.]