LONDON (AP) — “ABBA Voyage” is undoubtedly a trip.
Forty years after the Swedish pop supergroup last performed live, audiences can once again see ABBA’s past and future collide on stage in an innovative digital concert.
The show opened to the public in London on Friday, a day after superfans, celebrities and Swedish kings Carl XVI Gustaf and Queen Silvia attended the red carpet premiere. The guests of honor are pop royalty – four members of ABBA, appearing together in public for the first time in years.
They were in the audience, though. On the stage of the purpose-built 3,000-seat ABBA Arena next to the Olympic Park in east London, by George Lucas, director of “Star Wars”.
The sounds and movements are the real Agnetha Faltskog, Björn Ulvaeus, Benny Andersson and Anni-Frid Lyngstad – choreographed by Britain’s Wayne McGregor – but the performers on stage are digital avatars, inevitably known as “ABBA-tars” “. They depicted the band members in disturbingly realistic detail in their heyday in the 1970s—men with beards, women with flowing hair, and velvet trousers everywhere.
The result is high tech and high camp, shocking technology, 1970s nostalgia and a shining supernova of pop talent.
For many viewers, it was almost like going back in time to watch ABBA perform classics including Mamma Mia, Know Me, Know You, SOS and After the Dance. The exciting 90-minute episode also includes tracks from the band’s reunion album “Voyage” released last year.
It’s a fusion of tribute show and 3D concert film that goes beyond that description. It can sometimes be forgotten that this is not a live show, although the energy of the live music surged across the stage when the backing singer stepped forward to chant “Does Your Mother Know.”
The four band members — two married couples in ABBA’s heyday, though now divorced — ended Thursday’s performance, bowing 50 years after ABBA’s founding and 40 years after they stopped performing live. Got warm applause.
It must have been a strange feeling to watch a younger self perform, but the band members, now in their 70s, said they were delighted with the performance.
“I never knew I had such amazing moves,” Ulvaeus said.
Lyngstad agrees: “I think I’m fine, but I’m better.”
Ulvaeus said the audience’s reaction was the most satisfying part of the experience.
“There’s an emotional connection between the avatar and the audience,” he said. “It’s been fantastic.”
The producers called the show “revolutionary.” Time will prove everything. Like the first audiences to watch a movie with sound a century ago, attendees may wonder if they’re watching a gimmick or the future.
Times of London commentator Will Hodgkinson described the show as “essentially an ABBA single with a sound and light show”, although he called the effect “charming”. Writing in The Guardian, Alexis Petridis called the concert “eye-popping” and said “it was so successful that it’s hard to imagine other artists following suit.”
Gimmick or genius, “ABBA Voyage” will be booked in London until May 2023, after which a world tour is planned.
Fans who attended Thursday’s show were delighted that ABBA was back.
“I was so excited,” said Kristina Hagman, a Swede who has been in Sweden since the 1970s.
“I was bullied so much because you were not allowed to like ABBA at the time because it was so commercial,” she said. “But now we have our revenge.”
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