Archive for the ‘Review’ Category

ABBA Voyage – a concert like no other

9 June, 2022

Photo: 30 May

“People everywhere, a sense of expectation hanging in the air”

WARNING: this post contains major spoilers about ABBA Voyage, including the full set list.

As any reader of this blog would be aware. ABBA’s spectacular Voyage concert opened at the purpose-built ABBA Arena in London on Thursday 26 May to critical acclaim, fan rapture, and near universal five star reviews. And it brought ABBA together on the red carpet, and later for a brief appearance on stage.

Photo: @abbavoyage 26 May

I had intended to write this blog the day after the premiere, but between being overwhelmed by what I’d just seen, an extremely busy two weeks in the UK, and seeing the show several times from different viewpoints, it has taken till now to get it together.

ABBA Voyage defies description. It’s not a concert but it is. It’s not a sound and light experience yet it is. It’s definitely not old-style holograms.

Photo: 3 June

The avatars are seen on a screen that wraps around almost half of the arena. The illusion is amazing – the avatars look, move, and feel like the real ABBA. They interact with each other and also the audience with some pre-recorded dialogue. Most often they are portrayed life size, sometimes also projected in larger-than-life close-ups, just like any modern concert.

At times there are larger scale projections, which doesn’t actually detract from the conceit that the avatars are real. The entire arena is filled with lighting and sounds enveloping the entire space, not just focused on the stage. The arena is rarely fully dark, and seeing the rest of the audience becomes part of the experience.

Photo: 3 June
Photo: 4 June

The set list is a surprise, with several album tracks mixed in among the expected big ABBA hits. As announced last September, the first two new ABBA songs recorded in 2017, I Still Have Faith In You and Don’t Shut Me Down, are a highlight.

Vocals are from ABBA’s original studio recordings, remixed at times. A few songs appear to feature live vocals from the 1977 and 1979 concerts (discussion is still ongoing in fan forums on exactly what vocals may be live). A major shock is the inclusion of the previously unreleased fourth verse of When All Is Said And Done. Another surprise is a choir that joins in at the end of The Winner Takes It All, which sings new lyrics to the backing vocal melody.

Music is provided by a ten piece band on stage, which gets its own feature spot during the show. Though personally while I think it is worthy to introduce the band to the audience, I feel this goes on half a song too long.

Photo: 30 May

I was lucky enough to see the show a total of six times from different locations in the arena, including opening night on May 26th and the first performance on the 27th. A couple of personal highlights: seeing Agnetha clapping along during Chiquitita, and watching the King and Queen of Sweden, plus their security and military escorts, up and dancing during Dancing Queen.

There really are no bad views, though if I were to suggest best locations it would be either dance floor, towards the centre but about halfway back from the stage, or the centre block of seats. What I found to be the worst spot was front and centre on the dance floor. Way too close, the avatars almost lose that sense of reality, while it’s impossible to see anything else in the arena without turning.

Photo: 3 June

Once the show has bedded in and proven to be a long-running hit, there is no reason that ABBA Voyage could not spread to other parts of the world. I think it would be the ideal show for Las Vegas, where artist residencies have been big for over a decade, and The Beatles Love with Cirque du Soleil (a spiritually similar show to Voyage) has been playing since 2006.

Hopefully some time in the near future the ABBA Voyage will be released on audio formats, so listeners around the world can experience the brilliant new arrangements of the songs.

Photo: 30 May

ABBA Voyage is amazing, brilliant, beguiling, astounding.

Tickets are now on sale to the end of May 2023 at abbavoyage.com

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Voyage – a quick review

6 November, 2021

“It will be in prose that chimes with me”

First impressions of the ten tracks in ABBA’s new album Voyage.

1. I Still Have Faith In You

Glorious, majestic, emotional, melancholy, joyous. We heard this one on the Voyage launch in September. It sounds like a culmination of what Benny, Frida, Agnetha, and Björn have been doing since 1982. The lyric is about ABBA reuniting after so many years – do they have it in them? They do!

2. When You Danced With Me

Frida and Agnetha lead us on a Celtic dance. ABBA’s ‘Safety Dance’? Shades of ‘The Piper’. This will be popular at ABBA dance parties from now till the end of time.

3. Little Things

A gentle song from Frida about Christmas morning, parents staying in bed before the children wake up to open their presents. A little hint at ‘Twinkle Twinkle Little Star’ between verses. Ends with a verse by a children’s choir. A nice touch. Not the future Christmas number one people have been anticipating.

4. Don’t Shut Me Down

The lyric could be about either the avatars or ABBA themselves reunited. Or both. Another one we first heard in September. Agnetha leads. Hints of ABBA-esque motifs throughout.

5. Just A Notion

The vocals were originally recorded in 1978. We heard a half of this in ‘ABBA Undeleted’ on the Thank You For The Music box set in 1994. The boogie-woogie piano backing is all new (I miss the electric piano in the original though). Björn says this gives an idea of what the Voyage avatar concert will be like, with original ABBA vocals and a live band. This came out in late October as another taster for the album.

6. I Could Be That Woman

The story of a woman suffering addiction trying to reconcile with her man, while the dog tries to calm things between them. An unusual subject choice for ABBA. A slow, almost soft-country ballad. Agnetha sings “screw you”.

7. Keep An Eye On Dan

A burst of 80s synth-pop-rock. Another song to join the ranks of ABBA’s divorce classics, sung by Agnetha. A woman drops off her son with her ex-husband for the weekend, and warns the father to keep an eye on their troublesome son Dan. Björn and Benny pop in with a backing line towards the end, reminiscent of ‘Knowing Me, Knowing You’. Ends with an “easter egg” you’re sure to spot.

8. Bumblebee

A gentle ballad from Frida about the state of the world and the affects of climate change. What happens if the bees disappear? Thoughtful. The song opens with ‘Fernando’-like flutes. Not a revamped version of the demo ‘Free As A Bumblebee’.

9. No Doubt About It

A rocky one from Frida, from the point of view of a woman who has “messed up” her relationship. An early stand-out track. Ends with the line “this isn’t where it ends”. No it’s not, there’s one more song to go.

10. Ode To Freedom

An ode not to freedom itself but about creating a song that can be an ode to freedom (like ‘King Kong Song’ and ‘I Let The Music Speak’ it’s a song about itself). Frida sings in low register and Agnetha sings an octave above. There’s a very strong classical influence. A beautiful, mournful, majestic ending to the album (and to ABBA). It will make you cry.

Overall verdict: there’s not a bad song on the album. Early favourites are ‘I Still Have Faith In You’, ‘When You Danced With Me’, ‘Keep An Eye On Dan’, ‘No Doubt About It’, and ‘Ode To Freedom’.

Listen to Voyage now Amazon Music Apple Music iTunes Spotify YouTube YouTube

Go to ABBA Omnibus for a detailed feature on all things Voyage. Click on the four eclipses icon.


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