It’s just before 9 p.m. when it gets particularly loud at ABBA Arena. The show barely ended when the 3,000 or so spectators in London’s newly built modern auditorium experienced a historic moment.
Benny, Bjorn, Agnetha and Frida took the stage together to great applause and loud cheers – for the first time in 40 years. Abba’s brief encounter is an emotional moment for many fans. But many had tears in their eyes.
100 minute live show with “Abba-Taren”
After five years in production, “Abba Voyage” celebrated its world premiere Thursday. However, in the nearly 100-minute-long musical show, it’s not the live members of the Abba on stage, but the “Abba-tare” – their fully animated and digitally revamped versions of the quartet in a ’70s guise, which are accompanied by ten live band pieces. Modern technology from Industrial Light & Magic, the company of George Lucas, creator of “Star Wars,” has made this possible.
The unusual party begins a little slowly with the songs “The Visitors” and “Hole In Your Sole”. But on a giant screen of 65 million pixels, the young Abba members really do seem to live on stage. Only in close-ups, as you know it from real concerts in the stadium and hall, do you sometimes recognize the digital number. ‘SOS’ gets the party going in East London.
King Carl XVI excited Gustav
There is a dance floor in front of the stage, with other back seats. King Carl XVI of Sweden shakes rocks on the runway. Gustav is excited. He sat with his wife Silvia in the middle of the audience. Later they both get up and dance.
In addition to pop star Kylie Minogue, pulp singer Jarvis Cocker, pop singer Winkie Meyer, model Kate Moss and London Mayor Sadiq Khan, real ABBA members also sit in the crowd. Agnetha (72) nervously follows the show at first, but then sings several times. In “Gimme! Gimme! Gimme!” She smiles at fellow Frida (76), who is sitting behind her.
Between them, each “Abba-tar” has a solo performance. “I’m the real Penny. I’m just looking my age well,” said the Digital Penny, with laughter from the audience. “Our last concert in London was in 1979. If I had asked at the time if we’d be coming back here again in 2022, I would have said yes.”
Emotional reactions at ABBA Arena
As expected, hit songs like “Knowing Me, Knowing You”, “Chiquitita” or “Fernando” create a great atmosphere – and emotional response to the Abba Arena. Even seasoned men could not hide their tears because of so much poignant nostalgia.
Songs from the tape, from old Abba studio recordings and from “Voyage,” Abba’s first album in 40 years. Ulvaeus (77) said in an interview with dpa that the ‘old sounds’ were so well built into the sound that it felt ‘completely alive’. Not much anymore. A mix of female singers’ vocals in perfect harmony with the band’s live action.
And it looks amazing. “I actually see myself in the digital persona,” says singer Agnetha. “This is ridiculous, but it is true.” Industrial Light & Magic did a great job. Thousands of old 35mm band negatives and countless hours of concert footage and TV appearances were examined and analyzed. Hair, nails, makeup – every detail should be correct. Digital clothing comes with a ’70s look from many of the top designers, including Dolce & Gabbana.
New songs are also celebrated
It is also celebrated in London with the songs “Don’t Shut Me Down” and “I Still Have Faith In You”. The only drawback to the show is two songs that don’t feature the band, but the animation. Reason for many visitors to have a beer.
When “Thank You For The Music” plays in the final third of the show, many viewers take to the stands to express their opinions. Before playing the Eurovision-winning song “Waterloo,” Bjorn states that Great Britain did not award Swedes any points. Yells could be heard in the hall.
The audience will hear a total of 20 songs on “Abba Voyage”. The evening ends with “Dancing Queen” and “The Winner Takes All”. The applause at ABBA Arena continues for a long time and gets louder as the real ABBA members take the stage together for what might be the last time. 40 years after their last joint debut, the cult surrounding the legendary Swedish pop group hasn’t broken out. (dpa)