ABBA Voyage: Avatars of Agnetha, Benny, Bjorn and Anni-Frid are astounding, blissful, brilliant and astonishing
It takes a lot to get me emotional but this week, as the world descended on London’s docklands for the biggest pop event in four decades, it was hard to hold back the tears as all four members of ABBA made a rare public appearance together for the opening of ABBA Voyage.
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Kylie might have been there, Jarvis Cocker too as well as a whole slew of boy bands, even Sweden's King Carl XVI Gustaf and his wife Queen Silvia were in attendance but the main attraction were the Swedish pop royalty and until the second they stepped onto the red carpet, everyone was holding their breath to see if Agnetha would join Bjorn, Benny and Anni-Frid. She did.
On an evening when even the star names were fanboying and fangirling in the presence of the global icons, the arrival of the quartet, reunited in public once more, became the ultimate equaliser – a historic sight that had everyone, whether fan or famous, reaching for their phone to capture the occasion.
Relaxed and smiling, the four wowed the crowds that lined the street outside the purpose built 3,000 seat ABBA Arena on Pudding Mill Lane before disappearing into the press enclosure where the world’s media awaited, a new question now on their lips, would they appear on stage together? Again, no one was saying.
In the end, they did, walking on stage led by Benny, followed by Agnetha, then Anni-Frid and finally Bjorn, to take a bow, but only after 100 minutes of Abbatastic avatars.
Or Abbatars as they have become known. It’s strange, watching the digital versions of the world’s greatest pop band, your brain tells you what you are seeing is not real, yet your heart insists it is. These avatars are alive, they charm and beguile much as the originals did all those years ago (and still do), and very soon common sense is over-ruled by the other senses.
Within minutes, these digital doppelgangers had the crowd worked into a frenzy, thanks in part to a blistering opening number, which will remain unnamed for fear of spoiling the event if you have tickets.
Nearly a decade in the making, ABBA Voyage is an incredible triumph on so many levels - musically, technically and staging-wise. It’s at times an over-whelming barrage of stimuli and one that is unexpectedly emotional. It's hard not to shed a tear as memories of times and people, some long gone come flooding back – the incredible power of music and nostalgia married perfectly together.
While the avatars themselves may look exactly as the band did 40 years ago, they speak as the members are today. It is a masterful stroke, combining past and present to furtherthe emotional impact, which veers from viscerally poignant to pure fun, when they sing Gimme Gimme Gimme it’s like being at the biggest family wedding party ever.
Backed by a tight live band and trio of backing singers, the avatars work their way through many of ABBA's greatest hits, each one staged to ensure you are not just at a concert but at the very heart of it, but then, ABBA always did know how to make magic.
ABBA might stand for Agnetha, Bjorn, Benny and Anni-Frid, but it also stands for... astounding, blissful, brilliant and astonishing.