Roy Orbison: In Dreams, The Hologram Tour – Eventim Apollo – 19.04.18

Roy Orbison‘s name in lights across the front of the venue formerly known as Hammersmith Odeon. A room full of Roy Orbison fans, eagerly awaiting seeing their idol “live” for the first time in years. It could have been an incredible comeback, had it not been for the fact that Roy Orbison passed away three decades previously.

But despite this, The Big O appeared to rise from the stage like Bey at Coachella. Adorned in tassels and armed with a guitar, the hologram of Roy Orbison allowed the cheers to die down before his backing band – The Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, no less – kicked into their opening number. As a one off, it’s quite something to see, and for a few moments you’re almost led to believe that by some sort of miracle it’s actually happening. Have you driven all night and travelled through time? Slipped and fallen in dreams? By the time the performance comes to an end, and “Roy Orbison” fails to soak up the applause, acknowledge the audience or have any sort of human characteristic, it becomes quite clear that this is in fact nothing like how you hoped a Roy Orbison show would be.

It’s not all bad; the new arrangements (from last years A Love So Beautiful album, produced by 3 of Roy’s children, and 1 grandchild) are exquisite, whether on upbeat tracks like Oh, Pretty Woman or big ballads (Crying), blending his iconic tone and the rock numbers that made him a star with lush strings and movie-score like settings. When a biopic is made of his life – one is reportedly in the works – the tracks alone could quite easily provide heart wrenching scenes based on his losses and loves.

Perhaps the most emotional moment of the night comes when Alex Orbison takes to the stage forĀ I Drove All Night (“performing with his dad for the first time” as the tannoy announces) alongside Ward Thomas. It’s an incredibly confusing tender moment – on one hand the reunion that could never happen actually happening in front of your eyes, on another an emotionally empty stunt. Alex’s gaze is drawn to where his dad should be stood, and the yearning in his eyes says he’d have driven a lifetime to make this bizarre moment a reality.

As Roy continues to enter and exit the stage (as he so frequently does, not that there are costume changes) laughter builds from the audience to the point that the entire show becomes more of a comedy of sorts. Whatever we came to expect – Roy’s return, a reconstruction of what has or might have been – we are in fact listening to an incredible orchestra play along to a vocal track, with some trickery providing an image of what isn’t actually Roy Orbison footage, and without his natural stage presence or charm. To any Beliebers or Directioners who have seen their idols live, treasure those memories – no amount of technology can remake them.

Photo: Tabatha Fireman

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