LONDON — After a 40-year wait, Swedish pop sensations ABBA made their eagerly-anticipated return to the dwell stage on Thursday and though not one of the real-life musicians have been really onstage performing, all 4 of them have been current in London, making a uncommon public look on the premiere of their digital dwell live performance ABBA Voyage.
Bjorn Ulvaeus, Benny Andersson, Anni-Frid Lyngstad and Agnetha Fältskog walked the pink carpet and acquired a rapturous standing ovation after they appeared onstage collectively on the finish of the much-hyped present, which options de-aged digital avatars variations of the band – or ABBA-tars, because the present’s producers insist on calling them – and takes place in a brand new purpose-built 3,000-capacity ABBA Enviornment in Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park, London.
Billed as a ‘Live performance Like No Different,’ the launch was attended by King Carl XVI Gustaf and Queen Silvia of Sweden, in addition to a number of music stars and VIPs, together with Kylie Minogue, Zara Larsson, Pulp singer Jarvis Cocker, Kate Moss and Keira Knightley.
For lovers of ABBA, who broke up in 1982 and have frequently resisted profitable affords to reform, ABBA Voyage delivers the kind of jaw-dropping best hits dwell present that almost all followers thought they’d by no means get the possibility to see once more.
For the broader dwell music trade, it represents a captivating glimpse into a possible future the place the world’s largest acts not need to journey and even bodily seem onstage to pack out live performance venues and promote tens of millions of tickets, theoretically extending an act’s touring profession nicely into outdated age and, if demand permits, past loss of life.
The idea shouldn’t be new and variations of 3D hologram dwell music exhibits have been round for a number of years now, with Elvis Presley, Buddy Holly, Whitney Houston, Tupac Shakur and Roy Orbison among the many artists which were recreated digitally for audiences’ leisure, with various levels of success and believability.
ABBA Voyage represents a seismic leap ahead when it comes to expertise and sheer scale to sit down on the slicing fringe of what digital live shows can now ship. Breaking new floor comes at a excessive value, nevertheless, with the Swedish band reportedly needing to recoup round £140 million ($176 million) to cowl manufacturing prices (a spokesperson for the manufacturing declined to touch upon how a lot the present prices to stage).
Work on the manufacturing started in 2016 and went by a number of completely different guises because the pondering and expertise behind it advanced (early on, the present was envisaged as a hologram-type live performance, then a touring live performance sequence, earlier than deciding on a London residency).
To create the digital variations of Benny, Bjorn, Agnetha and Frida, technicians from George Lucas’ particular results firm Industrial Mild & Magic (ILM) spent 5 weeks inside a Stockholm film studio filming the 4 band members – now all of their 70s – performing their again catalog, whereas sporting figure-hugging motion-capture fits.
160 cameras scanned their our bodies, recording their each motion and facial features, which they then used as the premise for the digital avatars that drive the dwell present. Physique doubles have been additionally used within the movement seize course of to provide the digital band – represented of their late Seventies prime, full with glitzy sequinned costumes and winged catsuits designed by costumes designed by B Åkerlund and Dolce & Gabbana — a younger vitality.
Greater than 1,000 visual-effects artists and one billion computing hours went into making the ABBA avatars as eerily real looking and human-like as potential. Throughout the present, they seem on big 65-million-pixel screens, typically as life-sized variations of their youthful selves. At different occasions, the 4 musicians are proven in photograph real looking shut up on the massive screens that loom over the dance flooring and surrounding seats.
The boundaries between the bodily and digital realms are additional blurred by a 10-piece dwell band that energetically performs the group’s hits onstage, merging seamlessly with recordings of Agnetha and Frida’s voices, Bjorn’s guitar and Benny’s piano.
A spectacular gentle present using 20 lighting rigs and over 500 transferring lights mapped to 30,000 factors within the enviornment add to the visible spectacle, serving to create the phantasm that you simply actually have travelled again in time and the 4 members of ABBA are genuinely there acting on stage in entrance of you.
The magic is briefly damaged at any time when the avatars handle the viewers and their pre-recorded phrases are drowned out by the gang (reasonably than pausing and milking the applause as any seasoned real-life performer would instinctively do). However the present strikes at such a quick visually stimulating tempo, these awkward moments are fleeting and shortly forgotten.
There are additionally playful nods to the digital artifice on show with the 4 characters routinely joking about how good they search for their age or pretending to battle to get into their costumes. Two animations by U.Okay.-based visible artists Shynola successfully act as massive finances intervals between the digital avatar performances, whereas the manufacturing workforce – led by Ludvig Andersson, son of Benny, Svana Gisla and director Baillie Walsh — correctly avoid making the avatars’ dancing too slickly choreographed and synchronised, replicating the quirky homespun appeal of the unique performers.
“With ABBA Voyage the band have created their very own monument which is as sensible and timeless as their music,” says Frank Briegmann, chairman & CEO Common Music Central Europe and Deutsche Grammophon.
For now, the live performance runs to simply over 90 minutes and 20 songs, spanning a few of ABBA’s largest hits (“Mamma Mia”, “Thank You For The Music”, “The Winner Takes It All”, “Figuring out Me Figuring out You”) alongside fan favorite album cuts (“The Guests,” “Gap In Your Soul,” “When All Is Stated And Completed”) and two tracks from final yr’s comeback album, additionally referred to as Voyage (“Don’t Shut Me Down” and “I Nonetheless Have Religion In You”).
Though it’s a secure assumption that the set checklist will change over time with new songs dropped into the manufacturing at common intervals all through its run to encourage repeat visits. The mannequin behind ABBA Voyage is expressly constructed to maximise these income producing alternatives, with the present booked to run on the London ABBA Enviornment for least the following 12 months, internet hosting between seven and 9 gigs every week, together with two weekend matinees. (In an interview with Selection earlier this week, Andersson mentioned they’d bought round 380,000 tickets up to now).
Past that, the purpose-built venue — a futuristic-looking metal construction which loosely resembles a 70s spacecraft, homes 291 audio system and has LED lights spelling out the band’s title on its outer pores and skin – has a four-year lease settlement with London council in place, which means that greater than 5 million individuals may cross by its doorways by the point the present leaves the U.Okay. in late 2026 (primarily based on full capability exhibits operating seven occasions every week).
The place ABBA Voyage goes after that’s open to all potentialities with the band’s international reputation – enhanced by the 2 Mamma Mia characteristic movies, spin off Mamma Mia! The Social gathering eating expertise and ongoing reputation of the group’s evergreen catalog – which means they might theoretically pack up and transport the ABBA Enviornment, and even function a number of variations of the identical immersive live performance expertise, anyplace on the planet.
“To be or to not be,” smart cracks Benny’s avatar throughout the present “That’s not the query.” ABBA Voyage makes these phrases a actuality