JIL LAWLESS Associated Press
LONDON (AP) — ABBA Voyage is definitely a journey.
Four decades after the Swedish pop supergroup last performed live, audiences can once again see ABBA on stage in an innovative digital concert where past and future collide.
The show will open to the public in London on Friday, the day after its red carpet premiere, which was attended by superfans, celebrities, as well as Sweden’s King Carl XVI Gustaf and Queen Silvia. The guests of honor were members of pop music, the four members of ABBA, who made their first public appearance together in many years.
But they were among the spectators. On stage at the purpose-built 3,000-seat ABBA Arena next to the Olympic Park in east London, a 10-piece live music band and ABBA digital band, created using motion capture and other technologies, were performed by the special effects company Industrial Light and Magic, founded by Star “. Wars directed by George Lucas.
The voices and movements are real-life Agnetha Fältskog, Bjorn Ulvaeus, Benny Andersson and Anni-Frid Lyngstad, all choreographed by Brit Wayne McGregor, but the performers on stage are digital avatars, inevitably referred to as “ABBA-tars”. In frighteningly realistic detail, they depict the band members as they looked in their 1970s heyday – beards on the men, loose curls on the women, velor pantsuits everywhere.
The result is both high-tech and high-camp, brilliant supernova stunning technology, nostalgia for the 1970s and pop genius.
For many viewers, it was almost like going back in time to watch ABBA perform classics including “Mamma Mia”, “Knowing Me, Knowing You”, “SOS” and “Dancing Queen”. The bouncy 90-minute set also includes tracks from Voyage, the band’s reunion album released last year.
This is a mixture of a tribute and a 3D concert film that is beyond the scope of this description. At times it was easy to forget that this was not a live performance, although when the backing singers stepped forward and sang “Does Your Mother Know”, a wave of live music swept through the arena.
The four members of the group – two married couples in ABBA’s heyday, though now long divorced – received a rapturous standing ovation as they bowed at the end of the show on Thursday, 50 years after they formed ABBA and 40 years after they stop playing live.
Watching your younger self perform must be a strange feeling, but the members of the group, now in their 70s, said they were thrilled with the show.
“I never knew I had such amazing moves,” Ulvaeus said.
Lyngstad agreed, “I thought I was doing well, but I’m even better.”
Ulvaeus said the audience reaction was the most enjoyable part of the experience.
“There is an emotional connection between avatars and viewers,” he said. “It’s a fantastic thing.”
The producers call the show “revolutionary”. Time will tell. Like the first viewers who saw a talking film a century ago, visitors may walk away wondering if they are watching a stunt or the future.
The Times of London reviewer Will Hodgkinson praised the show as “essentially ABBA singing with an added sound and light show”, though he called the effect “captivating”. Writing for The Guardian, Alexis Petridis called the concert “amazing” and said that “it’s such a success that it’s hard not to imagine other artists following suit”.
Trick or brilliance, ABBA Voyage is booked in London until May 2023, with a world tour scheduled after that.
Fans who attended Thursday’s show are ecstatic about the return of ABBA.
“I’m so excited,” said Christina Hagman, a Swede who has been a fan since the 1970s.
“I was bullied so much because at that time you couldn’t love ABBA because it was so commercialized,” she said. “But now we’re taking revenge.”
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