Sure Abba’s virtual concert series is fake, but surrendering to it is easy


From left to right: Björn, Agnetha, Anni-Frid and Benny.Image Getty Images

But Abba is also pop royalty. And as befits a royal party, there is also room for the ‘ordinary people’. Hundreds of members of the Abba fan clubs worldwide are invited to this spectacle, with the honors being performed by the digitized versions of Agnetha, Anni-Frid, Benny and Björn, affectionately called Abbatars. In an Abba Arena built especially for that purpose, the virtual, younger versions of the Abba members have to live up to something. The question hanging in the air: will it be convincing?

As the Abbatars rise from the stage, it appears that since the first hologram concertos some ten years ago, the semi-transparent, luminescent apparitions of that time have been evaluated as figures that can withstand the flesh-and-blood test at a distance.

Only their behavior betrays something of their flat existence: they mainly move in a plane from left to right. In addition, the ten-piece band is positioned all the way to the side of the stage: if the musicians were to go behind the invisible screen on which Abba is projected, they catch part of the projected light and become visible, right through the Abbatars.

It doesn’t matter, because everything is really pulled out to give an essentially two-dimensional film, a spectacular depth. Close-up images on video screens compensate for the small figures in the distance, all the effects and the impressive light show of George Lucas’ Industrial Light and Magic serve the illusion.

Bee SOS Columns of light beams from the stage cut right through the audience and you immediately feel involved in what is happening on stage. During the day Lay All Your Love On Me on the video screens you can see close-ups of the singers in their futuristic Tron-packages filmed from above. When transitioning to Summer Night City the statue tilts and the Abbatars appear as if by magic, now seen from the front, on the podium. As if the ladies themselves have been flung across the room.

There is even room for a chat. A virtual Benny concludes that ‘to be or not to be‘ is no longer the issue, prompting laughter from the audience. When he subtly mentions that the English jury at the Eurovision Song Contest once gave Abba zero points, it evokes a loud boo from a hall that sings along and waves its arms throughout the concert. Who said that there is no interaction with the audience at a virtual concert?

Sure it’s fake. But that’s a well-executed magic trick too. If during Fernando a starry sky lights up that involuntarily reminds you of the video from back then. Those stars were nothing more than holes punched in cardboard that was exposed. Undoubtedly there was more technology involved in the stars of Fernando 2022. But for both, you can get there with a minimum suspension of disbelief can surrender.

And just as Abba has been a historical benchmark for everyday yet brilliant pop music, the band could just become another benchmark for future ‘hologram concerts’.

Abba Voyage

pop music

by Abba

26/5, Abba Arena, London

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