Smart Financial Centre in Sugar Land
October 26, 2018
When I attended a Bob Dylan concert recently at Smart Financial Centre at Sugar Land they showed a promotional video for In Dreams: Roy Orbison in Concert – The Hologram Tour and I was intrigued; the Roy Orbison and Friends: A Black and White Night Cinemax television special from 1988 is one of the best concert videos I have ever seen and I always regretted not having had a chance to see Orbison in concert as he died later the same year that show was released.
So this hologram show was going to be the closest I ever got to seeing Orbison live and the technological aspect of it intrigued me as well. Some people have commented on social media that they find the whole idea to be morbid and creepy; I went into it with an open mind and thought well, if it does turn out to be a bit creepy it is near Halloween so this is also probably the closest I’ll get to actually seeing a ghost.
When the show started and the hologram of Orbison rose up out of the stage it looked incredible; there were a lot of audible gasps in the room above the sound of the live orchestra playing “Only The Lonely” along with the recorded singing voice of Orbison matched up with the hologram. It is an amazing visual effect and it felt like an actual resurrection for a moment. It didn’t seem too morbid or creepy to me; it felt more like some cool yet slightly weird show you would see at Disney World, or perhaps more accurately a big Las Vegas casino.
All of the biggest Orbison hits were played as expected, including “Crying,” “Running Scared,” and “It’s Over,” as well as some deeper cuts such as “Love Hurts” which was later a hit for Nazareth in the '70s. As an '80s kid I appreciated the performances of Orbison’s comeback songs from that decade “You Got It” and “I Drove All Night.”
There were a couple of breaks from the Orbison hologram’s performance during the show and when that happened his "body" seemed to disappear in a puff of smoke like magic, which kind of reminded me of the death of the superheroes in Avengers:Infinity War except it wasn’t sad like in the movie because we knew the hologram would come back. During the first break a video was shown of Tom Petty, Bono and Jeff Lynne praising Orbison along with vintage videos and photos of Orbison himself; the second break was accompanied by more videos and photos of Orbison along with the orchestra playing by itself.
Orbison of course famously had one of the greatest singing voices in rock history and the audio recording of his vocals at this show sounded great and captured that; they even had audio of Orbison telling the audience thank you several times after the crowd loudly applauded with approval after each song.
The crowd was mostly an older but hip crowd; looked to me like some aging hippies along with people who have money and dressed up for the night. At the Dylan show there were a lot of inconsiderate people talking during the entire show and playing with their cell phones; I didn’t see any of that this night from the polite and well-behaved crowd besides a couple of overzealous fans who took photos of the Orbison hologram with their cell phones only to be told to stop by the security staff. I can’t say I blame them for wanting to capture an image of Orbison, even though it wasn't really him. It just looked so awesome up on stage.
The show ended with Orbison’s best known and probably most loved song “Oh, Pretty Woman” which was fitting; my one gripe about the night is that the concert was just a little bit too short. Okay, more than just a little too short; only a little over an hour long not including the opening act, Julian Frampton. Yep you guessed it, he’s Peter Frampton’s son. I had no idea he was opening up on this tour and I was pleasantly surprised as he put on a competent and energetic acoustic set of originals and cover songs.
He even lightened up the crowd with a few jokes about playing with a hologram; something along the lines of having not met Orbison yet and praising the consistency of Orbison’s performance throughout the tour. The jokes went over well and he got some laughs; one guy in the crowd yelled out a request for "Free Bird" during his performance and Frampton got a laugh out of that himself. Good lad.
Now what would be really cool is if someone can come up with the technology that allows you to play something like this in your living room at home.