Abba 'live' Voyage show review: here we go again

Abba return to the stage after 40-year wait ... albeit as holographic avatars

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When Abba announced a comeback after 40 years, but as holographic avatars, many wondered if this brave world-first would live up to expectations.

But this is Abba.

The highly anticipated concert features younger "Abbatars" of the group performing songs from their back catalogue with a live 10-piece band.

And with a specially built arena and more than 1,000 people globally working on their £140 million ($176m) show, the super troupers did not disappoint.

Performing their hits to a packed London arena, the Abbatars looked incredibly realistic onstage at the premiere of Abba Voyage on Thursday.

The team harnessed the technology used in the Star Wars films and for the audience, it looked as if the Swedish band were actually there in person.

The Abbatars were created through months of motion-capture and performance techniques with the four band members and an 850-strong team from Industrial Light and Magic, the company founded by George Lucas, in its first foray into music.

Bjorn Ulvaeus, Benny Andersson, Agnetha Faltskog and Anni-Frid Lyngstad were last together in the capital for an appearance on The Late Late Breakfast show, hosted by Noel Edmonds in 1982. It was the last time the Eurovision song-winners performed together.

The band spent five weeks last year performing their hits in sensor-covered outfits to create their digital avatars for the new show.

The four-year project came to fruition on Thursday night at a 3,000-capacity arena in East London.

'Hole in Your Soul' being performed as part of the Abba Voyage show in London. Photo: Johan Persson

In a cheeky nod to the location, they opened the set with the theme tune of British soap opera EastEnders.

The digital band delivered a hit-filled set featuring tracks such as Knowing Me, Knowing You, Fernando and Mamma Mia while the real-life Abba watched on from the stands.

And during Chiquitita, the band played against a backdrop of a giant sun that was slowly eclipsed.

Several outfit changes had the band don sparkly dresses and cowboy boots, denim jumpsuits and futuristic spacesuits with neon detailing.

During their version of Waterloo, Ulvaeus jokingly recalled how the UK jury awarded them no points at the Eurovision Song Contest in 1974.

An amazing spectacle and light show followed, as fans were wowed by their incredibly realistic stage presence.

The 95-minute show met all expectations, as fans stood in the aisles welcoming their return.

The band closed with The Winner Takes it All — before the real-life Abba took to the stage, flanked by the show's director and producer, and embraced each other to loud applause.

Taking a well-earned bow, they were forgiven for the world’s four-decade wait.

The king and queen of Sweden, Carl XVI Gustaf and Silvia, Kylie Minogue, Keira Knightley and London Mayor Sadiq Khan were among those on the star-studded guest list on the night.

The Abbatars perform 'Gimme Gimme Gimme'. Photo: Johan Persson

Speaking on the red carpet outside the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park, Faltskog said: "It's amazing to see all the English fans."

Andersson admitted he expected himself to cry during the concert, saying: "Oh definitely, all the time."

Lyngstad said she was most looking forward to seeing the band perform their hit Mamma Mia.

"I think the most exciting thing about this project was to come together as a group again after so many years of not doing anything as a band together," she said.

Ulvaeus praised Abba's British fans for their support throughout their career.

"The UK has always been close to our hearts and the Brits have always taken us to their heart, and also the infrastructure for a huge project like this is here in London."

Asked if this could be the start of a movement for other bands, he replied: "It could be, yes."

London Mayor Sadiq Khan said: "I am incredibly proud that, more than 40 years since their last concert, one of the greatest pop groups of all time have chosen London as the destination for their ground-breaking new show, Abba Voyage."

He said the show helped to provide a "boost" to the capital's economy through ticket sales and created thousands of jobs in building the arena and running the night, reinforcing that London "remains a global hub for innovation and culture".

Abba were catapulted to worldwide success after winning Eurovision with Waterloo when the event was held in Brighton in 1974.

They have since sold more than 400 million albums and singles. The popular quartet parted ways after a successful 10-year stint.

In 2018 they announced they had recorded new material and it arrived in November 2021.

Updated: May 27, 2022, 1:39 PM