Whitney Houston will be back on stage soon. Tickets are sold for what is announced as the first world tour for a decade of the talented but troubled singer.
The first concert takes place in Sheffield on February 25 – less than 40 miles from Manchester, where her last world tour ended in 2010 amid criticism of stumbling performances.
“Swollen, ruffled, and false,” gave an unfriendly review of the London stage of her tour.
But fans are divided over the new tour. The beautiful star with such a glorious, gospel-tinged voice died at the age of 48 in 2012 – so this tour includes a hologram from the singer who radiates those famous hits.
The 90-minute show, complete with full band, backing singers and dancers, is in final rehearsals in Los Angeles and will include 17 of her songs, including I Wanna Dance With Somebody, Greatest Love of All and Saving All My Love For You.
Whitney Houston, pictured in 2004 in Las Vegas, was found dead at the age of 48 in her hotel room in 2012
Some critics claim that the concept is scary. Others have condemned it for cashing in the dead.
“I hope nobody attends this … let her rest,” said the American writer and cultural commentator Frederick Joseph.
But the resurrection of Houston is the most important step so far in a new trend in music that uses laser technology to nostalgically revive the live performances of dead pop stars.
The hologram will appear in a 90-minute show, complete with a full band, background singers, and dancers, who will be in Los Angeles in final rehearsals. She is pictured on the left in an Oscars section in Hollywood in 2001 and on the right in a concert in Rome, Italy, in 2010
It comes after a South Korean documentary that shows the disturbing image of a surviving mother being ‘reunited’ with her deceased daughter.
Using a virtual reality headset, the mother touches a computer-generated image of her daughter, who died four years ago at the age of seven.
Houston’s re-appearance follows in the artificial footsteps of Buddy Holly and Roy Orbison, hip hop legend Tupac Shakur, stranger rocker Frank Zappa and even opera singer Maria Callas.
Music is of course an industry in which many of the biggest earners died too young. Houston can therefore be followed on stage by Amy Winehouse, whose hologram show is being developed in collaboration with her family.
There has been talk of Abba having a chance on such a tour, although all four members of the Swedish band are still alive.
Fans can already sing along with their avatars in the Stockholm Museum of the pop group.
Many of the other biggest stars are now old enough to collect their pensions – such as The Rolling Stones, Sir Elton John, Cher, Bruce Springsteen and Sir Paul McCartney.
Champions of rapidly evolving technology predict that soon it will be possible for fans to download such “artists” into their living room when they want them to perform, or that lazy stars can sit by their pool and send their avatars on tour.
“This is the future,” says Fatima Robinson, a choreographer who has worked with Houston and directs the new production.
“After a while you can get tired of the road. Technology takes us to some interesting places. “
She rejects doubters. “This is a good way to pay tribute to Whitney Houston’s legacy and enjoy her music. You can dance and cry and relive the songs you’ve heard at weddings and graduations. “
Laser technology is used to recreate the world famous celebrity. It is after a South Korean documentary showed the disturbing image of a mother being reunited with her dead daughter with the help of technology
Buddy Holly, pictured in 1957, was also recreated. This was a challenge, according to the makers, because there are no color photos or films available from him
Certainly, the show is a daring move. Houston, a scion of music royalties whose cousin Dionne Warwick was, sold 200 million albums during her amazing career. Even her reproduction of the American national anthem became a hit.
Behind the golden facade, however, is a story of alleged child abuse, a secret lesbian relationship, domestic violence and drug problems.
She drowned in a foot of water in her bath in February eight years ago, her death from cocaine and heart disease.
Warwick has called the idea of the hologram tour of her cousin “surprising” and “stupid.”
But an experienced tour manager told me that a big advantage of hologram singers is that they always arrive on time, perform to perfection and behave on the road.
“They would never even have a cold, let alone a hangover or worse,” he said. These shows are an attempt to resuscitate her reputation and revive sales after her career was clouded by controversy. But Robinson believes that Houston would have supported the idea. “I knew her, I worked with her and she would have loved it.”
She completes the show in rehearsal with a body double that will be replaced by the hologram image. It comes from a recording of a 1986 performance, specifically chosen after the team had listened to more than 100 concert recordings from Houston.
The hologram – in fact an ultra-advanced light projection – is accompanied by 12 live artists.
The challenge is to mimic Houston’s charisma and ability to transform a song – while producers on a practical level must ensure that no one gets behind the screen because they are seen by her body.
The concept dates from 2012 when rapper Tupac Shakur – who was shot 16 years earlier – unexpectedly appeared to sing two songs alongside the living hip hop stars Dr. Dre and Snoop Dog at a music festival.
His hologram included a body double and was based on a trick popular with Victorian entertainers called “Pepper’s Ghost” where a highly illuminated image is reflected on oblique sheets of plastic to produce a wraith-like image on stage.
Among the 70 million people who watched the rapper performance on YouTube was Marty Tudor, a figure from the early music industry.
“A hologram is just light that looks 3D,” he said. “I thought this was really cool and there might be something special here.”
Tupac Shakur, pictured as a hologram on the left and performing at the Regal Theater in Chicago in 1994, was also recreated with the technology
Whitney’s return follows in the footsteps of the hologram for Roy Orbison (left) and pictured right during a TV program
He formed a two-partner company called Base Hologram and secured the rights to create holograms from Orbison and opera singer Callas – who launched their shows two years ago.
“We thought that because these artists were so iconic, the audience might still be there.”
Despite skepticism from some critics, Tudor’s premonition proved to be right. The Orbison shows sold an average of 1,800 tickets per night – and a new branch of the music business was born.
“This is not a tribute band because you hear her real voice with Whitney,” Tudor said. “The illusion becomes very real because of all the live elements in the show.
After about 10 minutes you forget that this is not a real artist on stage. People say this is weird, but how is it different from when they recreate actors like Carrie Fisher and Peter Cushing in Star Wars? “
Both appeared posthumously in the films using computer-generated images.
The Tudor company tries to add extra personal elements to enhance the feeling of live performance.
The hologram of Callas, which died in 1977 for example, catches her dress as she passes the first violinist and then stops, in true diva style, in the middle of the song to reprimand her conductor.
“She looked a bit pale, a little spectral,” wrote Anthony Tommasini, critic of classical music for The New York Times.
“It was great, but also absurd; strangely fascinating, but also campy and ridiculous. “
Hologram by opera singer Maria Callas who has been on tour, is pictured above
Maria Callas has also been recreated. She was shown during a rehearsal at the Royal Opera House, London, in 1959
The idea of a similar Amy Winehouse concert tour has proved more controversial. Complaints that it would be too soon after the singer’s death in 2011 and faced with “unique challenges and sensitivities” last year’s forced delay.
However, the show continues to evolve, and Tudor insists that his company take great care and work with the estates and families of stars to get details right.
“We try to be authentic because we are music lovers and respect their creative process.”
Buddy Holly, who died in a plane crash in 1959 at the age of 22, turned out to be a challenge to recreate as a hologram because no color film images could be found, but help was provided by the singer’s widow.
“Everyone thinks he had black hair because of what was on his photos, but it was really brown,” Tudor said.
Regarding the Roy Orbison hologram, his son Alex – who was 13 when his father died in 1988 – told me he felt that something was wrong when he first saw the hologram of the Only The Lonely singer.
“The way the glasses were on my father’s nose was wrong, so I adjusted them. It was an incredible moment. “He admitted that he shed tears when he saw his father’s hologram crying his national anthem.
“The impression that I was at a Roy Orbison concert again was so real, so tangible, with all the things I was used to seeing my father play.
Most people may think that my father died 30 years ago, so that’s why I cried. But it wasn’t sad.
I was just so proud that his songs had bought 3,000 people together. That is the magic of the hologram. “
I asked if there was anything sacred about recreating dead stars. Orbison quoted his father who, when asked how he wanted to be remembered, said, “I just want to be remembered.”
Whitney Houston and Bobby Brown shown during the 1993 MTV Movie awards at Sony Studios in Culver City, California, USA.
Tudor would prefer to choreograph a Beatles reunion – simulating their famous latest performance on the roof of their Apple Corps headquarters in London before the release of Let It Be, using holograms from John Lennon and George Harrison alongside the real Paul McCartney and Ringo Starr. Others cash in too.
A former New York financier named Jeff Pezzuti has a company called Eyellusions that has made shows around heavy metal singer Ronny James Dio, who died in 2010, and Frank Zappa, who died in 1993.
The Zappa show played guitarist Mike Keneally, who played on the artist’s last tour.
“I remember that I thought this could be creepy. And then I saw the images and I found it strange to move, “Keneally said afterwards.
After a concert in New York, Rolling Stone magazine reported that “the crowd of mostly older men buzzed with excitement” and gave the show a standing ovation – and added: “During the show, people shouted with praise. “You still have it, kid!” a fan shouted at the hologram! “
Holograms may not be the future of rock’n’roll, but they can just be a smart way to tap into nostalgia by extending the career of dead artists in an aging industry, especially as technology gets smarter.
“I understand why some people may be concerned about taste, but I know people who went to the Orbison shows and really enjoyed it,” said Paul Craig, manager of rock band Biffy Clyro and chairman of the 500-member Music Managers Forum .
“Ultimately, the best judges will always be the fans.”