Do you know what comfort is? ABBA may open multi-million pound stage show full of fancy tech. You can build a purpose built stadium. They can return to the stage as state-of-the-art avatar versions of their younger selves. And yet people will still react like they’re 12 gins deep at a wedding disco. On Thursday night, as the opening bars of each song began – the setlist had remained a surprise – all around me erupted ‘OH! OH!!!” That’s a compliment, by the way. ABBA do something for the people.
This is not to downplay what a groundbreaking company this is. There’s a 10-piece band, a 20-song setlist, and strobe lights, beads, and dome lights keep the crowd immersed. It’s an incredible spectacle. Everything has obviously been done to inspire awe – so much that it’s sometimes difficult to know where to look. But what about the ABBatars? Industrial Light & Magic, George Lucas’ production company, have created digital versions of a younger ABBA that look frighteningly real. Admittedly, when projected onto larger screens, they have an air of video game character about them. My brain wriggled a bit on whether it could really be fooled into believing I was at an ABBA concert. My conclusion: It’s better to think of this as an incredibly first-class play. It still looks like… the future.
The setlist is largely crowd-pleasing: “Dancing Queen”, “SOS” and “Waterloo” are all there, with a restrained number of songs from the new album. The bland costumes got a shine from Dolce & Gabbana, and choreographer Wayne McGregor helped recreate the band’s original moves, which are endearingly low-energy. ABBA’s stage presence is docile, and I don’t think it’s just because they’re holograms.
There are short periods of dullness when the holograms disappear and a confusing anime movie plays. Why are the holograms gone, I wonder – are they getting tired? I suddenly start thinking Clare and the sun, Kazuo Ishiguro’s novel about robots that might have a soul. I decide it’s best not to think about it too much.
There are oddly intimate moments when each ABBAtar appears alone to speak to the crowd. In their younger bodies they speak with their older voices – Anni-Frid pays tribute to her grandmother, Agnetha thanks the fans for the years of support. It’s a reminder that this isn’t just a major technological leap, but something deeply personal for these four people. ABBA Voyage will forever cherish their achievement as the world’s greatest pop band, and fans can put their senses away from the chorus of “Gimme Gimme Gimme” for as long as they like.
There is a certain moment that convinces me. I’m past the point of no return. The ABBAtars joke about a quick costume change, then reappear in velor jumpsuits embellished with their own names in rhinestones (these would fetch a lot of money if sold in the store) and perform “Mamma Mia”. , complete with deeply uncool dance moves. It’s camp. It’s knowledge. It’s great fun.
If I have one caveat, it’s because the show lacks the emotional connection. After all, the ABBAtars don’t know that we clap or sing along; You can’t reply to the man who ends up practically frantic and shouting “More! Hooray!!” But actually it’s not about that. The true alchemy is happening all around you here. It’s a concert where everyone knows the lyrics to every song. It’s an appearance where the person sitting next to you becomes your best friend. It’s a haven for endorphins, a safe haven for people who want to dance badly and enthusiastically and sing “Chiquita” at the top of their lungs. I am among my people.
https://www.independent.co.uk/arts-entertainment/music/reviews/abba-voyage-review-tickets-holograms-b2088805.html ABBA Voyage Review: Camp, fun and low energy… and not just because they’re holograms