5 min read

The rise of a concert hologram: 6 mind-blowing examples

Written by
Pavlo Fedykovych
Published on
December 30, 2023
May 29, 2024

We live in a fascinating and bizarre time. A time of a concert hologram. You’ve probably heard about it already. From the long-dead performers to alive-but-not-willing-to-tour pop legends, hologram performances have suddenly become omnipresent. It’s not the Star Wars level of holographic technology, but we’re getting there. One 2Pac projection at a time. That’s why it seems like it’s high time to make a list of mind-blowing examples of concert holograms. So here you go.

1. Whitney Houston Hologram Experience


Why: “and Iiiiiiii,” goes Ms. Houston, shivers down your spine, the famous song from the 1992 film The Bodyguard hits hard. While the voice is there, Whitney Houston isn’t. The stage is inhabited by her hologram and it’s all a part of the “An Evening with Whitney: The Whitney Houston Hologram Tour” that went from 2020 to 2023. Starting with dates in the UK and Ireland in 2020, the tour entirely focused on visual performance-loving Las Vegas for all the remaining concerts.

In a three-star review, The Guardian said that the hologram’s mouth “doesn’t always seem quite in sync with the vocals. Holo-Whitney certainly doesn’t appear to open its mouth wide enough to emit the gigantic whoa-oh-ohs that are supposedly coming out of it.”

Still, making a hologram sell Las Vegas venues and entertaining people singing 16 songs in total is quite a feat of sci-fi-reminiscent entertainment. The whole thing is a partnership between The Estate of Whitney E. Houston and BASE Entertainment with GFour Productions.

As for the technology behind Whitney Houston's hologram, it’s “a computer-generated face of the singer in her prime that has been digitally grafted to an actress body-double, choreographed and shot months ago and now projected onto a scrim.”

2. Tupac Hologram at Coachella


Why: the OG of all the holograms and one of the first-ever applications of technology in concert. The year was 2012, the concert in question was Dr. Dre and Snoop Dogg. Lights go off, something special is about to happen, the Coachella Valley desert air is tense. And then Tupac Shakur appears to the wild cheer of the fans. Again, it was 2012, people weren’t ready for this kind of technological stuff.

The reactions were… confused. Forbes reported that the people were astonished at first, but then the reviews were “mixed” afterward. The digital resurrection of the world-famous rapper took the globe by surprise.

Questions arose about how Dr. Dre and Snoop were able to pull it off. The projection was created by a company called Digital Domain and it wasn’t a hologram, but an optical illusion.

Digital Domain’s spokesperson El Ulbrich told the Wall Street Journal that the rapper's appearance became possible using a 2D image and that “Shakur's likeness was projected onto an angled piece of glass on ground, which in turn projected the image onto a Mylar screen on stage.”

3. MJ hologram performance at Billboard Music Awards


Why: Billboard Music Awards 2014 was a triumph of Justin Timberlake who won 7 awards out of 11 nominations. Also, the show became memorable for a live performance of… Michael Jackson. That took place thanks to the hologram version of the famous American pop artist.

After Tupac the music industry went all in with holographic projections and the award show was a great time and place to showcase yet another “resurrected” celebrity. Again, it wasn’t a hologram as in Star Wars, but an illusion called Pepper's Ghost from 1862. However, this time technique was perfected with the help of the digital.

Michael Jackson's hologram performed “Slave to the Rhythm” accompanied by a five-piece band and 16 dancers. The whole thing was a bit bizarre and one hundred percent “uncanny valley”- like. But there was a holo-moonwalk and fans were completely satisfied with that.

4. Callas In Concert: The Hologram Tour


Why: no music genre is safe from holograms. Opera included. BASE Hologram, the company responsible for Whitney Houston's holographic tour, brough another diva to virtual life.

In 2019 American-Greek soprano (that passed away in 1977) gave a series of performances across the concert halls worldwide. The Guardian (that for some reason really loves giving opinions on hologram concerts) has recently called the show “ersatz simulacrum of a dead diva is weird and depressing.”

On the other hand, the YouTube comments are full of praise and astonishment. Probably, it’s better to go and see this kind of concert yourself to make any kind of opinion.

5. Roy Orbison hologram performing “Oh Pretty Woman”


Why: BASE Hologram didn’t stop with Houston and Callas. “Pretty woman walking down the street,” sings a man in sunglasses strumming the old-school guitar. Yes, that’s Roy Orbison. No, he’s not alive. And again it’s rather a projection than a full-fledged hologram.

BASE “projects their specters on a translucent screen in front of the musicians” as per a Rolling Stone article.

6. ABBA hologram avatars tour


Why: apart from the domination of AI in the tech conversation, 2023 was also memorable for the global ABBA tour. The catch, though, was that none of the original performers (who are very much alive unlike MJ and Whitney Houston) actually showed up on stage. Their digital avatars, or “holograms” did all the work. The tour is called ABBA Voyage and it’s a new kind of concert experience. But it’s a bit different than the previous entries in this list.

ABBA Voyage does not use the Pepper's Ghost technique, it’s more complex.

First of all, all four members have undergone a motion-caption-enabled transformation into digital avatars. They actually performed all the songs with 160 cameras used to film them doing that. Then, the choreography was created using the younger body doubles. Finally, Lucasart’s very own Industrial Light & Magic donned its magic special effects touch to turn the whole thing into a performance for arenas.

The show is made possible thanks to digital signage. Three 65-million-pixel screens are used to animate the digital avatars and create the illusion of presence.

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