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Tuesday, December 06, 2022

Celebs and royalty exposed at the opening of ABBA’s digital stage show

LONDON (AP) – “Abba’s Journey” is certainly a journey.

Four decades after the Swedish pop supergroup performed live, viewers can once again witness ABBA in an innovative digital concert venue where past and future collide.

The show opens to the public in London on Friday, a day after superfans, celebrities and Sweden’s King Carl XVI Gustaf and Queen Sylvia attended a red carpet premiere. The guests of honor were pop royalty – four members of ABBA, appearing together in public for the first time in years.

Although he was in the audience. On stage at the specially built 3,000-seat ABBA Arena next to east London’s Olympic Park were a 10-piece live backing band and a digital ABBA, which “promotes motion capture and production by Industrial Light & Magic, the special effects firm founded by Starr”. The other was made using technology from Wars’ director George Lucas.

The voices and actions are the original Agnetha Faltskog, Björn Ulvaeus, Benny Anderson and Annie-Frid Lingstad – choreographed by Britain’s Wayne McGregor – but the actors on stage are digital avatars, essentially referred to as “abba-tar”. . In precariously realistic detail, they portray the band members as they looked in their 1970s – beards on the men, flowing locks on the women, velor pantsuits all around.

The result is both high tech and high camp, a brilliant supernova of silly tech, 1970s nostalgia and pop music brilliance.

For many in the audience, ABBA was taken back in time to perform classics including “Mamma Mia,” “Knowing Me, Knowing You,” “SOS” and “Dancing Queen.” The 90-minute active set also includes tracks from “Voyage”, the band’s reunion album released last year.

It’s a fusion of tribute act and 3D concert movie that goes beyond that description. At times it was possible to forget that this was not a live performance, however when the backing vocalists went on to belt out “Does Your Mother Know”, a surge of live-musical energy swept through the arena.

The four band members – two married couples during ABBA’s heyday, though now long-divorced – at the end of Thursday’s show, 50 years after ABBA was formed, and 40 years after they stopped performing live, took a bow. , then he received an encouraging acclaim.

It would be a strange feeling to see little kids perform, but the band members, now in their 70s, said they were happy with the show.

“I never knew I had such amazing moves,” Ulvaeus said.

Lingstad agreed: “I thought I was good enough, but I’m even better.”

Ulvaeus said the audience reaction was the most gratifying part of the experience.

“There is an emotional connection between the avatar and the audience,” he said. “It’s a wonderful thing.”

The producers call the show “revolutionary”. Time will tell. Like the first audience to see a talking motion picture a century ago, attendees may wonder whether they are watching a gimmick, or the future.

The Times of London reviewer Will Hodgkinson judged the show as “essentially an ABBA singalong with added sound and light shows”, although he called the effect “adorable”. Writing in The Guardian, Alexis Petridis called the concert “jaw-dropping” and said “it’s so successful that it’s hard not to imagine other artists.”

Gimmick or Genius, “ABBA Voyage” is booking in London until May 2023, with a world tour planned after that.

Fans attending Thursday’s show are delighted that ABBA is back.

“I’m so excited,” said Christina Hagman, a Swede who has been a fan since the 1970s.

“I was bullied because at the time you weren’t allowed to like ABBA, because it was too commercial,” she said. “But now we are taking revenge.”

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