The holograms are taking over and it’s bad for Metal

Late 2017 we saw the beginning of the world tour of Ronnie James Dio’s hologram, and there has been reports of plans for upcoming hologram tours for Frank Zappa, ABBA and Roy Orbison. The entrance of holograms into the music scene is bad for the Metal community and for the genre as a whole. There are two main reasons for this; a hologram will never replace the real thing, and it’s competing with up-and-coming bands.

The history of holography goes back to the 1920s, but was spearheaded by the Hungarian-British physicist Dennis Gabor who was awarded the Nobel Prize in Physics in 1971 for the invention of the holographic method. Fast forward to 2012, now the technology was good enough to project hip-hop artist Tupac Shakur’s hologram onto the stage at the Coachella festival. That is considered the breakthrough of concert hologram. Then Michael Jackson’s hologram performed at the Billboard Music Awards in 2014. In 2016 Ronnie James Dio’s hologram appeared on stage with Dio’s Disciples in front of 75000 people at Wacken Open Air in Germany. And just like that hologram appearances had made its way into the Metal scene.

In December 2017 the hologram kicked off its world tour in Europe. The hologram uses Dio’s actual live vocals while the movements of the hologram have been created especially for the tour. Backing the hologram is Craig Goldy on guitar, Simon Wright on drums, Scott Warren on keyboards and Bjorn Englen on bass. Here’s a video clip showing what it looked like when DIO Returns played in Warsaw, Poland:

In the video you can see a miniature version of Dio on a stage behind the stage. Not only is his projection smaller than he was in real life but he is placed behind the band. In the Norwegian capital Oslo, promoters had to cancel the planned concert with Dio’s hologram due to very few sold tickets and a lot of negative feedback.

Dio’s wife, Wendy Dio, as well as the band members have claimed that this tour honors Dio’s memory, that he would have embraced the technology and that it gives younger fans an opportunity to see Dio live. This seems more like an easy cash grab than fan service. I never saw Motörhead live but I will never pay to see the hologram of the legendary Lemmy Kilmister. Dio himself was very outspoken about his concerns for technology in modern society and he thought that the computer had become a god for humans. This is a subject he returned to frequently in his lyrics.

With music sales declining, artists and bands make most of their money from playing live. The money they earn of course makes it possible for them to tour so that we can go and see their shows. What we are seeing now is a way for technology to compete with real musicians about fans and their hard-earned money.

So far, we have only seen holograms of dead artists, but the Swedish pop phenomenon ABBA will tour Australia in 2019 as holograms. None of the members are dead and band leader Benny Andersson is looking forward to walking his dog while his hologram is making him money. Making money as a hologram can only be done if you already are famous. Now up-and-coming bands will have to compete with virtual versions of older bands and artists. Will we see holograms headline festivals in a couple of years while other bands, who are busting their asses to make ends meet, will have to play the 4 pm slot?

I have so many memories from attending Rock and Metal concerts. One of them is the first and only time I got to see Dio live. Dio was touring in support of his 2002 album Killing the Dragon (the dragon is a euphemism for technology) and he played a small arena in a place so aptly called Hell in Norway. Since this was not a seated show I made my way to the front of the crowd, facing the stage. During one of Doug Aldrich’s fantastic guitar solos Dio came to shake hands with the people closest to the stage. I remember extending my index and pinky fingers while holding the middle and ring fingers down with the thumb to form the infamous devil horns that Dio introduced to Heavy Metal in the 70s (yes, I know Gene Simmons will disagree). When Dio saw me, he made the same hand gesture and our index and pinky fingers touched. This is by far my best metal memory and it’s a memory that’s crystal clear in my mind fifteen years later.

You don’t get a memory like that from seeing a hologram on stage. The energy and connection between the hologram and the band is missing, as well as the energy and connection between the hologram and the fans.

If you were too young to see Dio when he was alive then I’m sorry; you missed out. Let the dead rest in peace. And don’t worry, you can still buy live DVD’s to see him performing live AND interacting with the band and the crowd. And if that’s not enough then there are still a bunch of legendary bands and artists out there, as well as a ton of up-and-coming bands and artists that need your support!


  • Kristian Singh-Nergård

    Kristian is one of the partners at Metal Express Radio. He is Metal Express Radio's Marketing and Communications Manager, and on occasions also reviewer and photographer. Based out of Oslo, Norway, Kristian is a bass player and owner of the independent record label Pug-Nose Records. He has been a proud member of the Metal Express Radio crew since 2006.

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