thu 07/07/2022

ABBA Voyage, Abba Arena, London review - technical mastery and musical joy | reviews, news & interviews

ABBA Voyage, Abba Arena, London review - technical mastery and musical joy

ABBA Voyage, Abba Arena, London review - technical mastery and musical joy

Pioneering avatar act brings a whole new meaning to the phrase 'this is unreal!'

'Give up your imagination, go with it, thank them for the music, and for giving it to us in such a uniquely experiential way'

The first part of one of ABBA’s most famous lyrics, “You can take the future, even if you fail”, has been bought to life in Pudding Mill Lane, in a musical event that has completely re-defined the possibilities of the future of live music – and has put to bed the latter part about failure.

Because the band who effectively birthed pop music as we know it today, who embody the idea that "fail" stands for first attempt in learning, who have made generations of people laugh and cry and sing and dance, are here with us in the room. Not exactly in the flesh, but when the screen rises, we are genuinely baffled because there are actual people on an actual stage looking as real as you or I, and not only are they performing our favourite hits, they are interacting with us too.

Aping the gig situation and keeping the concert in a stadium at 8pm is key to the experience – there is an excitement that comes alongside the expectation of knowing you’re at a live event. If the producers had sold out and run this back to back as a planetarium style attraction, it would have lost its value.

Each band member gives a little monologue between songs and it’s Benny who’s first up to introduce us to what’s actually going on, with his real life voice if not his real life body. He makes a joke about the band being time travellers, and I for one am sold. It’s the only logical explanation for what’s going on here, because at this point it is absolutely inconceivable to me that these are holographic projections seamlessly blending film and technical effects and not real people. But then I start to realise that his face is CGI and I'm almost reassured because otherwise I’d be convinced that the circular mirrors on the ceiling are actually little spaceships and we’re all being hypnotised. Thoughts about imminent abduction from these musical space invaders are put on hold though, as we’re hurled into “SOS”, “Knowing Me, Knowing You” and “Chiquitita” which mostly call for dancing and entrancing from the kaleidoscopic laser light show.The holographic projections of ABBA

Frida dedicates a song to “all the women who have built themselves up after having everything taken away”; that song is “Fernando” and I’m back to believing that we’re in a room with the band and I won’t hear a word of it that we’re not. This is the success of ABBA. Watching the crowd is as moving as hearing the music – they have the power to unleash some serious joy that taps into the feelings and experiences of all kinds of people, from kids to OAPs. The music is upbeat, they don't take themselves too seriously, they spread a message of love, and have fun and a connection with each other and with their audience. Plus, their flares and sequins are fabulous.

The live band is wonderfully vibrant, carrying the energy with “Mamma Mia” and “Dance with Me Honey” showcasing some amazing bongos and saxophone alongside the vocals before a Tron-stye extravaganza for “Lay All Your Love on Me” and then we’re all dancing again (ceiling mirrors included) for “Man After Midnight”.

A Ghilbli-esque animation plays images of an ancient civilisation in which an intrepid voyager finds the giant faces of Benny, Frida, Bjorn and Agnetha carved into ancient stone, and they come together to split the cosmiverse into rainbow crystals. I wonder if we're being brainwashed again and decide I’m totally into it if we are.

How they’ve done it and whether that’s really them at the end, ends up as irrelevant – the magic here isn’t just in the incredible technical wizardry – it’s in the band’s message, their legacy and their cataclysmic creation of abso-joy. Give up your imagination, go with it, thank them for the music, and for giving it to us in such a uniquely experiential way.

They somehow encapsulate a mood, or a moment that rings true for the times - for all of the times, given the last time they did this was 1979

rating

Editor Rating: 
5
Average: 5 (1 vote)

Share this article

Add comment

newsletter

Get a weekly digest of our critical highlights in your inbox each Thursday!

Simply enter your email address in the box below

View previous newsletters