Since the 2012 We Will Rock You Tour, Brian May has been sharing the stage with a mesmerizing “hologram” of the legendary Freddie Mercury. The presentation of this hologram has remained consistent over the years. Positioned upfront on a stool, Brian May kicks off a soulful solo acoustic rendition of “Love of My Life.” Just as the song reaches its climactic conclusion, an ethereal Freddie Mercury takes over the vocals.
The contrast is striking – Mercury’s powerful and soaring delivery juxtaposed against May’s more understated singing style. As the final notes resonate, Freddie extends his virtual hand towards his guitarist companion. In response, May’s hand stretches outward as if to grasp Mercury’s. Even after numerous performances, the emotional impact on May remains palpable. Occasionally, a heartfelt wave goodbye accompanies the holographic exit; at times, a tear is shed, as movingly captured in a poignant video.
A decade following Brian May’s initial encounter with the holographic embodiment of the departed Queen frontman, a profound resonance emanates from the appearance of Mercury during “Love of My Life” on the Covid-delayed global Rhapsody tour. The convergence of events, including the triumph of the Bohemian Rhapsody biopic and the ongoing pandemic, intensifies the moment’s poignancy. This unanticipated reunion serves as a reminder that grief transcends time. Anchoring the sentiment is the backstory of the song itself – a gem from Queen’s fourth album, “A Night at the Opera” (1975).
The ballad’s origins often lead to the presumption that it was penned for Freddie Mercury’s fiancée, Mary Austin – a portrayal reinforced by the movie Bohemian Rhapsody. However, according to Queen’s manager, John Reid, “Love of My Life” was an ode to Mercury’s clandestine paramour and first serious boyfriend, David Minns. Intriguingly, the band remained oblivious to the song’s resounding popularity among their followers until a transformative Buenos Aires performance in February 1981, captured on film as fans wholeheartedly joined in the chorus.
The Freddie Mercury avatar gracing Queen’s concerts since 2012 is commonly labeled a hologram. Though visually resembling a holographic projection, it’s important to clarify that it isn’t a true 3D display. Instead, it’s a two-dimensional image meticulously designed to simulate three-dimensionality, achieved through an ingenious illusion known as Pepper’s Ghost. This age-old trick, introduced in the 1860s, leverages the reflective properties of angled glass to impart depth to projected images.
In the world of entertainment, Pepper’s Ghost has been employed since the 2006 Grammy Awards. Notably, it featured projected footage of Madonna during a Gorillaz performance. The technique’s grand appearances include the resurrection of Tupac Shakur at the 2012 Coachella Festival and Abba’s remarkable 2022 show.