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Concert Reviews:
Hologram show brings Roy Orbison back to life at the Fox Theatre
 

By Gary Graff
ggraff@digitalfirstmedia.com, @GraffonMusic on Twi

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DETROIT -- Given that he died 30 years ago, at the age of 52, the idea of a Roy Orbison concert is, as the song says, "In Dreams."

But technology has made that particular dream come true.

In Dreams: Roy Orbison in Concert -- The Hologram Tour is gimmicky, schticky and even a bit creepy -- as strange and disquieting as it was entertaining. At the Fox Theatre on Saturday night, Oct. 20, it was also crowd-pleasing, at least to the miniscule but enthusiastic group of fans that turned out. As the first full-scale hologram tour on the road, it also may be a harbinger of things to come; the late rapper Tupac, after all, "played" at Coachella while headbanger hero Ronnie James Dio has toured in Europe. It's a vehicle to bring dead icons back to life, and give their fans another chance to "see" them -- or, in many cases, see them for the first time.

And how you feel about that -- and about Orbison "singing" "Oh, Pretty Woman," "Crying," "Love Hurts," "You Got It" and a dozen other favorites on the Fox stage -- depends on just how much you need to have a "live" experience with those stars again. There was no question the gray-suited, guitar-playing Orbison on Saturday was a projection; The shimmering image was unquestionably flat, especially juxtaposed against the cadre of live musicians -- a small orchestra, mostly of local players, that included with string and brass sections and backup singers. (Only the drummer and conductor tour with the production.) And there were points of the show where the stage lighting made the hologram Orbison opaque, with the other players peeking through his body and undermining the effect.

His appearances, too -- rising from the stage when he arrived and subsequently disappearing in a wisp of smoke -- did not exactly enhance the illusion.

All that said, the performance was unquestionably tight, the live playing impressively synced with the recorded Orbison. The projection even swiveled to look at and acknowledge the other players, occasionally accenting the songs with gestures or hitches of its arms and head. It helped that Orbison was never a particularly physical performer, so more motion wasn't required; A static Elvis Presley, for instance, would be more problematic.

The hour-long show also featured a pair of visual montages that were perhaps more satisfying; As the orchestra played instrumental versions of "You Got It," "Blue Bayou," "Leah" and others, footage of recording sessions, photos and testimonials from U2's Bono and the late Tom Petty put some historical context to what was happening on stage. And the two backup singers delivered "Oobey Doobey" and "In Love" before the hologram returned to close out the night with "I Drove All Night" and "Pretty Woman" -- the latter actually bringing some fans out of their seats.

In the end, the show could only be seen as an ambivalent experience. There was no point where you lost sight of the fact you were watching a projection or that the Orbison before us was in any way "real." His vocals were, as always, wonderful -- but on tape. It was as much and maybe more science experiment than rock 'n' roll show, a clearly heartfelt tribute that teetered on cheapening the legacy of the artist it was honoring.



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