Billie Holiday is the new Tupac Shakur. Not a sentence we ever expected to write in the 21st century. But Holiday is the latest dead artist to return as a hologram for live performances – in her case, at the iconic Apollo Theater in New York, with a run of shows in the autumn. And she won’t just be singing. “Billie is going to be able to talk about the history of the Apollo. She can take questions from the audience… she can sing some songs,” said the theatre’s president Jonelle Procope.
Which in a single quote lays out some of the most exciting, but also potentially controversial aspects of bringing back dead musicians in hologram form – this isn’t just video of Holiday performing when she was alive, but almost a new digital entity that can give the views of its (modern, alive) controller. “We would never do anything that would compromise the integrity of the artists or the Apollo,” promised Procope. The current excitement around holograms was sparked by Tupac’s reappearance at the Coachella festival in 2012, although the company behind it later filed for bankruptcy protection after running out of cash (Bulletin, 13-Sep-12).