Bringing back guitarist Jeff Healey as a hologram may seem like a blasphemy to many of his fans, but that possibility is curious about one of his former band mates.
Tom Stephen, a drummer and manager of Jeff Healey Band, said that he did not like it when an Australian entertainment company approached him a few years ago with a proposal to incorporate Healey's resemblance to blues music.
The event was described as a genre icon celebration, with other names such as B.B. King floated as a hologram that might appear.
The company suggested that two surviving Canadian blues-rock outfit members reunite with their star hologram, who died of cancer at the age of 41. This would give viewers the opportunity to watch Healey's unconventional live performances, which involved putting an electric guitar flat on his lap to play it.
But Stephen is reluctant to ride the hologram bandwagon.
"It feels a bit exploitative," he said of the tone.
"Can you really see the musical experience you missed?"
He imagined without soul doing a series of favorites angel's eyes with the Healey digital version. Friendship will disappear, he decided.
Can you really see the music experience that you miss?– Tom Stephen, one-time drummer and manager of Jeff Healey Band
"How can you interact night-to-night with a band-mate hologram that you spent together for 18 years?" he remembered thinking.
"Personally, I will find it very difficult."
Stephen turned down the company's offer, but acknowledged the possibility of Healey's hologram being revived when technology seeped further into the mainstream.
In the coming year, both musicians and concert audiences will face the presence of "hologram" performances that develop in local concert venues.
This experiment has been dipped into several places in North America where the virtual resemblance of the deceased wizard Roy Orbison received mixed reviews several months ago. Opera singer Maria Callas was also revived in a show, some critics say it looks more like a ghost floating than a physical entity.
3D moving image
Glenn Gould will be added to the hologram circuit in 2019, with the final Canadian pianist accompanied by a live orchestra as part of a tour held in collaboration with his property.
Around the same time, Amy Winehouse's hologram was set to begin a multi-year walk with supporting bands, while Swedish pop star ABBA will launch a digital reunion.
This show is not a true hologram in the technical sense, but a three-dimensional image projected through a mirror to a transparent screen, like a film.
Level of falsehood
And most of the performances are not only illusions on stage, they are also part of complicated studio productions where the faces of the deceased players are transformed into the bodies of living actors. In Orbison's case, other musicians imitated his appearance before the famous singer's face was digitally affixed to the audience's body.
So many levels of falsehood can be difficult to do convincingly, suggests Kiran Bhumber, co-creator of Telepresence, a recent virtual reality experience at the Vancouver West Front art center that combines live trumpet players with visuals displayed on VR headsets.
"[The challenge is] how to create meaningful experiences that remain with the audience, "he said.
"Because it risks being a trick."
Last summer in Toronto's Yonge and Dundas Square the dangers of virtual performance were in full screen. Regular audiences gather to show off famous faces that were turned into holograms, including young Michael Jackson around Jackson 5 years old, Frank Sinatra, Billie Holiday, and members of the Black Eyed Peas.
Most people watch holograms as if they were television screens and occasionally lift their smartphones to capture footage for their social media feeds. But a little applause shows that excitement is muted, even when the real host pushes more energy.
Technological intrigue that is developing
While audiences consider how to respond to the hologram, some players are fascinated by the evolving potential of technology.
Walk Off the Earth singer Sarah Blackwood was interested after she witnessed Feist's projections emitted simultaneously to the crowd in three Canadian cities as part of the launch of smartphones in 2012. She said that moment inspired her to think about the benefits of the holographic future. .
"As an artist, one of the things we always talk about is how we will leave our inheritance," he said.
"I don't want to disappear into a pile of musicians who don't remember. So to have the possibility to go back and share music with people, and live like that, I think it's a very interesting concept."
Serena Ryder said she thought the hologram might have a more practical application for artists living like herself who wasn't a fan of long tours.
The pop-rock singer considers himself a "closed" player, so replacing some of his live shows with his virtual appearance sounds interesting, he said.
But Ryder is not sure the hologram will recreate the sensation of live performances in meat.
"I don't think there really is anything that can replace actual human skin – the real feeling of human emotions," he said.
Even Stephen acknowledged that he was still captivated by the possibility of technology, even if he wasn't warm with the idea of the Jeff Healey Band hologram event.
I don't think there really is anything that can replace real human skin – the real feeling of human emotions.– Serena Ryder
There are some shows he will pay cash to see, if the situation is right, he thinks. One of them will see the Beatles playing their Liverpool hometown, if the hologram is formed.
"I think it will blow my mind up and be a very interesting experience," he said.
Stephen reflected on his experience at Jeff Healey Band in his latest book The Best Chair at Home, but admitted that one day he would not always have control over the band's narrative, or whether it was created as a hologram.
"My suspicion is that when we move into the future this will become public, whether it is true or false," he said.
"I don't know if you can block that."