ABBA Voyage: The Virtual Show Unexpectedly Soars

A ‘Voyage’ of nostalgia

ABBA have done the impossible. Despite virtual reality concerts having a bad rep, the creators have managed to put on a spectacular show that beautifully marries the old and the new on ABBA Voyage.

ABBA Voyage

ABBA displaying the technology, from the Rolling Stone

ABBA Voyage, as it’s called, will be housed in a purposefully built arena in the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park. The show is made up of state-of-the-art holograms which projects delightful moving images of the four members, that is made up of Agnetha Fältskog, Björn Ulvaeus, Benny Andersson, and Anni-Frid Lyngstad. ABBA Voyage and its “ABBAtars” will reside in East London until the end of May 2023, before embarking on a three year world tour with a 10-piece live band.

But I know what you are thinking, ‘who would pay an arm and leg to watch a projector?’ Well, it’s more than a cartoon. In fact, the band members were immersed in the creative process, and their movements were captured by 160 cameras, as they performed songs over and over again. The band wanted to create a realistic representation of ABBA, in their prime, and in order to accomplish this, the technology needed to capture every minute detail, from facial expressions to their individual quirks and mannerisms. And in this sense, it was a job well done!

ABBA Voyage

ABBAtars from Noise 11

Putting a show together of this scale is a financial and reputational risk. In an interview with the Sunday Times, the band (minus Agnetha) talked about the pressures surrounding Voyage: “It’s an immense risk, and most people I talk to don’t appreciate that,” said Ulvaeus. “Sometimes I wake up at four in the morning and think, ‘What the hell have we done?’” he said, possibly in relation to the whopping £15 million price tag associated with the production costs, which is rumoured to have come out of the personal pockets of the band members. On the other hand, the potential profits are too massive to miss out on.

Voyage is over 5 years in the making. It was produced by a skilful team, led by Svana Gisla and Ludwig Anderson. In an interview with the Daily Express, a grateful Ludwig confesses, “we did all the technical legwork, but it only works because of them.” He continues: “It’s their souls infused in every aspect. It was their desire, their ambition to do this. It moves me to watch it, you can feel what they feel, all the soul behind their eyes. If you go away thinking it was an impressive scientific feat, we will have failed. It has to feel real” – and the team achieved just that.

“A dazzling retro-futuristic extravaganza,” says the Guardian; “the band’s virtual concert needs to be seen to be believed (BBC)”; “Spectacular London Return of ABBA After 40 Years,” reviewed Forbes. It is clear that Voyage achieved a landslide of positive reviews, which will no doubt help keep the magic alive for their one year tenure at the venue, dubbed, “ABBA Arena.”

The opening night was attended by an array of famous faces, from Kylie Minogue to Kate Moss – as well as members of the Swedish Royal Family. The fact that ABBA themselves were in attendance, added a sort of emotion to the evening, as the famous four joined fans in a nostalgic sing along.

ABBA

ABBA at the opening night, from BBC

As we are entering an age where immersive technology is progressing at a rapid pace, its no surprise that music fans are hesitant about the future of gig going. Of course, no amount of technology can recreate the same energy that comes about when watching your musical heroes perform right in front of you, in the flesh. But for ABBA, there is a general feeling that holograms were the right approach. Voyage sees the future beautifully intertwined with nostalgia. This is how you do it.