Elton John doesn't want to be a hologram

Don't hold your breath on an Elton John holographic avatar coming to a stage near you. But VR? Maybe.

Scott Stein Editor at Large
I started with CNET reviewing laptops in 2009. Now I explore wearable tech, VR/AR, tablets, gaming and future/emerging trends in our changing world. Other obsessions include magic, immersive theater, puzzles, board games, cooking, improv and the New York Jets. My background includes an MFA in theater which I apply to thinking about immersive experiences of the future.
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Scott Stein
2 min read

Real Elton John won't likely be replaced by a virtual performer, even after the end of the tour.

Josh Goldman/CNET

A question comes in from the crowded audience at New York's Gotham Hall, fielded by Anderson Cooper to Elton John: do you want to be a hologram?

"That's the last thing I want," John says.

Elton John is 70, and has just announced the last tour he says he'll ever do: three years long, kicking off in the fall. At the event we've been invited to, the vibe seemed to lean toward future tech like VR and AR. A day earlier, a pop-up event in London's King's Cross station suggested the opposite: a player piano installation could be viewed through a TV screen, making an augmented-reality virtual Elton appear to be playing.

Elton John's retirement announcement and surprise mini-concert was streamed in 3D via YouTube's new VR180 format, stereoscopic cameras studded throughout the auditorium. Everyone in the audience was also invited to put on VR headsets at the beginning (Samsung Gear VR), and a 360-degree 3D video showed virtual Elton at various stages of his career, before the real Elton John appeared to perform a few songs and answer a few questions.

But, the thread from Elton John to future tech, and VR, faded after that. His future doesn't seem to lie in things virtual after all.


Lots of people trying out an Elton John VR experience at the announcement, myself included.

Josh Goldman/CNET

When asked about the VR experience we tried, Elton John said "that wasn't my idea," claiming it was someone from "the office." But, nevertheless, he found the experience pretty special, and was supportive of it. However, no indication was given of where that VR content would emerge again: a free download? A paid download? A concert?

In fact, Elton John admits he's pretty uninvolved in tech. "I'm a Luddite," he says. "I've never downloaded anything in my life. Not even porn."

As far any sort of future involving a virtual Elton being resurrected on stage via holograms, (like Michael Jackson in the Billboard Music Awards, Tupac at Coachella, or Elvis in "Blade Runner 2049"), he says his kids begged him never to do that, and that it's not something he'd ever consider.

So, the door seems closed on Virtual Performing Elton. He talked about how the whole post-death avatar idea seemed completely unappealing.

But, he admitted somewhat darkly about the future, referring to the possibility of a far-future hologram Elton, "Who knows, maybe [they'll] go broke and they'll put me back on the f---ing stage."

Just don't expect it anytime soon.