Much has already been said and written about the show "ABBA Voyage", with which the Swedes are setting their own monument in London. Now the time has come: On Thursday evening, the concert event will premiere, with "ABBA-tare" slipping into the roles of Agnetha, Björn, Benny and Anni-Frid.
Björn Ulvaeus has nothing to do with nostalgia. "I prefer to look ahead," says the ABBA star, who recently celebrated his 77th birthday. "At my age, I much prefer to live in the here and now and in the immediate future." But for the Swede, the present and the future are inextricably linked to his musical past and his legendary band, with pop classics like "Dancing Queen", "Waterloo" or "Mamma Mia". ABBA fans can now experience these songs in concert for the first time in 40 years.
"ABBA Voyage" is the name of the new show, which celebrates its world premiere in London on Thursday evening at 8 p.m. and for which tickets cost between the equivalent of around 25 euros and 169 euros. The four ABBA stars are not on stage themselves, but their so-called "ABBA-tare". These fully animated, digitally rejuvenated versions of Agnetha, Björn, Benny and Anni-Frid are accompanied by a live band of ten. "It's incredible," enthuses Ulvaeus. "It's pretty live."
The vocals and some of Ulvaeus' guitar harmonies are off tape and taken from the earlier studio recordings. "The old voices are so integrated into the sound that it feels like it's live," assures Ulvaeus, who put on the show with fellow ABBA fellow songwriter Benny Andersson and also has the two ABBA Singers Agnetha Fältskog and Anni-Frid Lyngstad won.
All four had to slip into motion capture suits and move to their old songs for weeks in front of 160 cameras that recorded every movement. The rest happened on the computer. The company Industrial Light
"Ever since we broke up, I've been constantly confronted with my younger self," jokes Ulvaeus, who has gotten used to seeing old pictures or concert videos of himself almost every day. But experiencing the "ABBA-tare" on stage is not the same. "I see this young guy on screen and I feel like he has a personality of his own. That's me. But there's something else there too. It's very interesting."
Altogether, ABBA only toured for a few months during their almost ten-year active career. The quartet made little of live concerts. "We were always much more interested in writing songs and recording new things," Ulvaeus recalls. Accordingly, a reunion tour was never an option, despite lucrative offers. The "ABBA-tare" are catching up on that now.
The fact that the show takes place in London and not in Stockholm is due to space reasons. The technology behind "ABBA Voyage" is so complex that a separate theater had to be built for it. "Stockholm was too small," reports Ulvaeus. "So the question was more like: London or the Ruhr area. We needed a place where the show could stay for a long time." London then turned out to be a suitable place. The ABBA Arena now stands near the Olympic Stadium in Stratford.
After the band ABBA recently released their first studio album in 40 years, also called "ABBA Voyage", the cult surrounding the Swedish pop icons has reached a new level with the concert show. This is not only a reason for joy for ABBA fans. The busy Björn Ulvaeus, who will stage the musical "Pippi Longstocking in the Circus" in Stockholm this summer, is at least as enthusiastic. "These are two really exciting projects," he enthuses. "It's a really cool time."