'ABBA Voyage' review — a multi-dimensional pop concert for the ages
No concert was anticipated quite like ABBA Voyage. The possibility to see the iconic Swedish band on stage once more, not only together again, but appearing as their younger selves, boggled everyone’s minds. But can these ABBA-tars (a colloquial way to describe the quartet’s holograms) entertain audiences as much as seeing the real deal in the flesh?
To put simply, yes. ABBA Voyage is a concert for the ages. Over five weeks, 1,000 animators immortalised Agnetha Fältskog, Anni-Frid Lyngstad, Benny Andersson, and Björn Ulvaeus into state-of-the-art digital forms. Add in visual effects from Industrial Light & Magic — the brains behind the Marvel Cinematic Universe — and the end result is sublime, defining the phrase "needs to be seen to be believed."
ABBA are no longer four performers; they’re ethereal beings bounced in from another world, materialising on a 65-metre screen. These highly-rendered beings may not look and feel entirely human: glossy, vacant eyes; a constant beaming smile; and swishing hair can feel disorienting and take a few minutes to get used to.
But it's impossible to take your eyes off them. When there’s a chance to see ABBA “live” and experience the musical euphoria of generations past, it’s easy to forgive any odd appearances. There’s no denying that the Swedish superstars are in the room.
It’s a slow buildup, as the lesser-radio-played “The Visitors” and “Hole in Your Soul” kick off proceedings. Once the crowdpleasers start, the pop-fuelled rollercoaster begins and gets everyone up on their feet. Even the slower-paced songs like “Chiquitita” leave the audience waving, clapping, and stomping their feet.
There’s a 10-piece live band too, including Britpop artists James Righton, of Klaxons fame, and the chart-topping DJ Little Boots (Victoria Hesketh) on keyboards, marrying ABBA and live music. By the time “The Winner Takes It All" hits its crescendo, the audience’s energy could solely power the ABBA Arena’s 291-speaker surround sound system.
It’s not just the music we should thank ABBA for. Matthieu Debay’s futuristic lights and laser shows transform the arena into a disco rave, and when there’s a break to keep up the illusion ABBA are in the building, Shynola’s two short animations following a hero as they find the band’s legend lift the "Voyage" theme into the stratosphere.
There are a few glaring omissions in the setlist, but with producers confirming additional songs were filmed for the concert, it’s only a matter of time before ABBA Voyage changes its course.
Once again, the septuagenerians find themselves leading the music industry in a format that is surely beyond the band’s wildest dreams back when they won Eurovision in 1974. With the flat-pack, purpose-built ABBA Arena’s ability to move around the world, this is a concert that can live on forevermore. ABBA Voyage - douze points.
ABBA Voyage is at the ABBA Arena. Book ABBA Voyage tickets on London Theatre.
Photo credit: ABBA Voyage (Photo courtesy of production)
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