Victorian visual effect could put Tupac back on tour
MAN OF THE week? That would be Tupac Shakur, or, rather, his 2D image. The highlight of last weekend’s Coachella festival in the Californian desert didn’t turn out to be Radiohead, David Guetta, Bon Iver or any of the other highly paid acts on the bill. Instead, everyone who was there or watching via an online stream was talking about the eeriely realistic visual projection of the rapper, who was shot dead in Las Vegas in 1996.
Thanks to an old Victorian visual effect called Pepper’s Ghost, which was first used in an 1862 performance of a Charles Dickens novella, Tupac appeared onstage at Coachella alongside Snoop Dogg and Dr Dre to perform Hail Mary and 2 of Amerikaz Most Wanted.
Perhaps, though, the man of the week accolade on this occasion can be shared with Dr Dre. While the rapper and producer has not released a scintilla of new music since 1999’s 2001, he has made many millions flogging his Beats By Dr Dre headphones. It turns out that it was Dre’s idea to create a Tupac projection and he approached the Digital Domain tech company about the idea in 2011. The virtual Tupac is estimated to have cost $100,000-$400,000.
The fact that all involved managed to keep it a surprise until the actual reveal meant there was a massive reaction to Tupac’s “appearance” onstage.
Such a buzz has led to widespread speculation about a tour and Tupac could well be coming to a shed (or field) near you.
We’re sure many promoters are currently dreaming of what other dead stars they can resurrect for world tours by projecting their images onto a sheet of Mylar plastic.
Still, given the number of spurious and dodgy posthumous releases dead acts get lumbered with, a hologram may actually turn out to be quite tasteful.
THE FIRST THING you think of is Freud. Then, noticing the relaxed posture, Elizabeth Taylor’s Cleopatra, or perhaps a painting by some Renaissance artist. It’s not quite clear whether Rufus Wainwright is waiting to be psycho-analysed or adored, but stretched out on a sofa in a room of a trendy London hotel, the singer/songwriter certainly looks comfortable.
“He felt like he was coming down with something yesterday, so he did most of his interviews lying down,” his publicist explains. And today? “Oh no, he feels fine today. He’s just relaxing.”
To be fair, Wainwright can afford to loosen up as he talks about his new album, Out of the Game. Despite its apparently defeatist title, the New York-born, Montrealraised singer/songwriter’s seventh studio album is his best in almost a decade, and certainly since 2003’s career-defining masterpiece Want One. Perhaps most surprisingly, it’s what Wainwright himself has called his “most commercial work to date”.
Pop is not a dirty word in his world, although it’s unexpected that he’s chosen to release such a record now – especially given the fact that he has spent the last few years deeply immersed in the classical world. He wrote his first opera, Prima Donna, in 2008 and followed it with a dark, minimalist studio album, All Days Are Nights: Songs for Lulu, in 2010.
“I’m a little shocked at how soon this one came out as well,” he says, running his hands through his hair and leaning back on to a cushion. “When I was very young, I signed a rather dubious deal with Dreamworks that I’m only now coming to the end of – we’ll see if I pick it up again or not – but I knew that this would be my ultimate work for the big boys. I always thought it’d be fun to give them what they wanted all along now, at the 11th hour, ’cos I certainly haven’t in the past,” he adds with an infectiously mischievous cackle.
“I’d done the opera, I’d done the Lulu tour, and I became completely re-enamoured with the pop world. And then Mark wanted to make the album, and the idea of having a pretty hotshot producer wanting to work with you was great.”
The Mark he speaks of is none other than Mark Ronson, and the revelation that he was Wainwright’s newest collaborator struck anxiety into the hearts of ardent fans. Having worked with hugely respected yet low-key producers such as Jon Brion and Marius de Vries in the past, Wainwright’s pairing with a “celebrity producer” seemed odd, but Ronson has treated the songs with subtlety and deference.
“Oh, he did an amazing job, yeah, but part of that, I have to say, is because I allowed him to,” Wainwright says, emitting another of those roguish cackles.
“I approached him, but he immediately got back to me and was interested. It’s funny, because I think both of us tend to have our fingers in a lot of different pies: give me opera, and Judy Garland, and pop music, folk music. He’s Djing, and producing and doing photoshoots and that stuff. I think that we could both sort of see that we had to get back to the business of our day jobs: him as a producer, me as a pop singer/ songwriter. That was really needed in both of our lives – quite intensely, actually – so we both really threw ourselves into it.”
Musically, Out of the Game is Wainwright’s most varied album in years, from the Eurythmics-esque Bitter Tears to swoonsome love song Respectable to slinky pop tune Jericho. And throwing himself into a project was necessary, given that the past three or four years have been
Back from the dead: Tupac Shakur in 2D