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Entertainment review: ABBA Voyage

ABBA-Voyage-review

There has been some scepticism regarding ABBA’s latest venture into transforming their 1970s selves into performing digital avatars.

Amy Lawrence went to experience it at the ABBA Arena in London’s Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park.

I myself was a little suspicious. I love live music, particularly the energy and power of bands and audiences feeding off one another in a connected space. Part of me wondered whether the concept of holograms performing ABBA’s hits would lack humanity and be a little cheap – not to mention slightly creepy.

I shouldn’t have worried. ABBA Voyage is genuinely a mind-blowing feat of what entertainment and technology can achieve today.

And rest assured, the “ABBA-tars” inspire wonder and joy rather than relentless nightmares.

Prior to the beginning, there were strict instructions of no camera usage for ultimate immersion and secrecy. In the spirit of such directions, I’ll try not to analyse everything in minute detail to at least preserve some air of mystery.

ABBA Voyage delivered the expected realism

Lights faded to black and the scene of an ethereal Scandinavian Forest dropped to reveal four eerily life-like avatars. Bedecked in a campy jumpsuit ensemble of jewels and swirling capes, Frida and Agnetha twirled, sang and danced with more enthusiasm and pizzazz than some sentient artists. Benny and Björn played the piano and guitar with realistic ease, flashing cheeky grins to the crowd below. The realism and constant battle with the mind to disprove that ABBA hadn’t actually time-travelled from 1975 to Pudding Mill Lane was nothing short of trippy.

And this was what was so overwhelmingly impressive – the realism. Even in moments where the avatars did interluding speeches between songs, there were natural pauses and vocal hesitations to create a natural rhythm of regular human communication.  Every single detail was accounted for in order to create the most authentic experience.

The audience response to songs such as SOS and Mamma Mia was simply electric as generations of fans grooved on the dance floor and boogeyed in their seats. Knowing Me, Knowing You saw the avatars seemingly disappear backstage in favour of a huge immersive music video on the screens. With such a wide view of the avatars, it became a little easier to sense their digital origins – which to me looked like an incredibly elevated version of The Sims.

Outstanding special effects really took us on a voyage through ABBA’s songs

The special effects were simply sublime and were a real testament to the talent and creative forward-thinking of the team behind Voyage. Lay all Your Love on Me transitioned so beautifully into an 80s futuristic explosion of luminosity and colour with Summer Night City. Beads of rainbow lights dripped from the ceiling like exquisite jewellery during Dancing Queen. It was clear that there was such a conscious effort to expand and deliver the lighting and effects in such a way that propelled the intensity and emotion of ABBA’s back catalogue further than ever before.

Speaking of Dancing Queen, this was clearly the song of the night. It seems to have an innate hypnotic influence over every ear it enters as 99% of the audience were up on their feet and fully living their Dancing Queen fantasy.

The last time ABBA came to London was 1979. And although they never technically stepped a real-life foot onto their own purpose-built stage, it certainly felt like they were there again. Voyage is a masterclass in blurring illusion and reality to craft the ultimate form of contemporary entertainment that has never been witnessed before. It’s entirely plausible to think of the likes of Cher and Elton John aggressively taking notes on how to fabricate themselves into avatars performing in their own extravagant spheres.

Scepticism is expected with something so fresh and experimental – humans are famously cautious of the unknown after all. Yet ABBA Voyage showcases how the technology worked to their immense favour rather than a detriment, propelling the music and band to a new intense level of spectacle and sentiment.

And that’s surely a voyage worth taking.

For more details and tickets see abbavoyage.com

 

Read also our review of Goldplay’s concert and hospitality at Club Wembley