Voyage, the long-awaited digital tour by Abba, had its premiere last night in London.
At the venue in Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park, where it will remain in residency until early 2023, the four band members — Bjorn Ulvaeus, Agnetha Faltskog, Anni-Frid Lyngstad and Benny Andersson — took to the stage for the first time together in 40 years.
Except, of course, it wasn’t them, but rather sophisticated digital avatars, dubbed Abbatars. Miraculously de-aged back to their 1970s heyday, the band performed in custom looks by Dolce & Gabbana and Manish Arora.
Having worked with celebrities including Beyonce, Lady Gaga and Madonna, designer B Akerlund was enlisted to oversee the look of the stage show, and she reached out to Dolce & Gabbana, Manish Arora and Erevos Aether to create designs befitting of Abba's long-awaited return.
From London, Erevos Aether, who creates "wearable art" for Lady Gaga and the Black Eyed Peas, among others, designed futuristic jumpsuits for the show that are edged with multicoloured light strips. Indian designer Manish Arora, meanwhile, brought his lavish excess, crafting colourful kaftans and capes covered in swirling embroidery of peacocks and phoenixs.
For a different note again, the Italian luxury house Dolce & Gabbana created outfits that echoed Ancient Greece, wrung through with white and gold. For Faltskog, this was realised as a simple white shift dress held at the waist with a gem-studded belt, while Lyngstad's digital version was given a gem-encrusted body suit, that shows off Dolce & Gabbana's love of intricacy.
Six years in the making, Voyage heralds a new era of concert presentations. The show is completely digital, blurring the line between what is real and what is computer generated.
Attempts have been made in the past to conjure digital concerts, mainly using footage of dead musicians to create holograms. Now, using cutting-edge technology, the show has been created based on hours of work from the very much still alive band members.
To help create the show the four bandmates, who are all in their seventies spent weeks zipped into special motion-capture suits, with 160 cameras cataloguing their movements from every angle.
In a statement, event producers Svana Gisla and Ludvig Andersson explained how it was important that this new concert felt contemporary, not pastiche.
"Rather than recreating a 'nostalgic' 1970s look for Abba Voyage, our vision was to dress the band as the contemporary pop stars they are. Akerlund was the perfect collaborator for this project, bringing together styles ranging from high fashion, to fantasy, to futuristic."