Words: Simon Button; Images: Johan Persson/ABBA Voyage
Reviewing ABBA Voyage without giving away its many mind-blowing surprises is tricker than getting the reclusive Agnetha Fältskog to appear in public.
The 20-song setlist omits a couple of really big hits, yet it ticks nearly all the boxes as it opens with a deep-dive album track and ends with… well, not the most obvious choice but the one that musos rightly cite as the prefect example of their songwriting genius.
The staging is as phenomenal as the songs. Not just the 3D recreations of the foursome themselves (which we’ll get to in a moment) but also the groundbreaking use of lighting and screens. Even Madonna at her peak never put on such an amazing spectacle.
I can’t overstate how much ABBA’s music means to me. As a child of the 60s, it was the soundtrack to my late childhood, adolescence and early adulthood, and iTunes tells me The Visitors is my most-listened-to album ever. When I came out two years after the album did, at the then-legal age of 21 in 1982, I recall the brilliantly downbeat ‘The Day Before You Came’ spinning in the background but in my head I heard the celebratory ‘Dancing Queen’.
Seeing them perform live on one of their rare UK appearances was a dream that never came true as I didn’t have the money, money, money (sorry, couldn’t resist!) for a trip to Wembley Arena.
Of course, the Voyage show isn’t technically ABBA live. It’s ABBAtars live - digitals renderings of Agnetha, Benny, Björn and Anni-Frid that were captured by 160 cameras over five weeks before VFX experts spent a billion computing hours fully fleshing them out. And so good is all this state-of-the-art technology that you’d swear they were there in front of your very eyes.
Doing trademark dance moves and bantering between songs, they look like their best-ever selves, scrubbed of wrinkles and preserved for all eternity in a show that could play for as long as there are enthusiastic ticket buyers.
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There are other impressive technical statistics: The purpose-built 3,000 capacity arena has 291 speakers, 500 lights and a 65 million pixel screen. The ten-piece band are all there in person, under a roof that apparently weighs 745 tonnes.
Agnetha, believe it or not, was also there in person on opening night, joining the others for a curtain call that sent fans into a frenzy, as indeed did the show itself.
It’s part concert, part theatre and all ABBA - a time capsule of their legacy as the greatest pop band ever. You’ll come out thanking them for the music with your jaw on the floor.
ABBA Voyage is at the ABBA Arena, London. For more information visit abbavoyage.com.