It’s a time that no one thought would arrive…
…the return of ABBA. 🤩
Over four decades later – Agnetha, Björn, Benny, and Anni-Frid released their ABBA Voyage album in November 2021.
And while most other musicians would launch a world tour after an album release, ABBA decided to do things differently.
Backed by their dream of performing for fans one last time while capturing themselves at the peak of their career - the ABBA Voyage Concert was born.
Through six challenging years in the making, this futuristic, never-before-seen digital spectacle was created to embody the band in their most enchanting performance to date.
Launched to the public in May 2022, with the projection of running until October 2022, the show's remarkable success has extended the running time until 2026.
So, how is ABBA Voyage strides ahead of the holograph concerts that came into popularity back in the 90s? And could this be the future of music for ageing legends?
Here’s an insider review of my experience at the ABBA Voyage Concert in London.
The ABBA Arena 🎪
What makes this experience feel unique and exclusive is the purpose-built arena that the concert resides.
Situated at the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park, the ABBA Arena is constructed of mass timber and can be transported to another location if the concert moves elsewhere outside of London.
The arena's retro yet futuristic feel welcomes you into a night ahead of nostalgic ABBA classics.
Unlike visiting another arena (like the O2) – this arena has been entirely ABBA-fied and purpose-built for fans to become immersed.
Since the concert has been pre-produced (apart from the live band), the show leaves little room for fault.
Through this digitised approach to virtual concerts, musicians and artists can become immortal rockstars.
One of the biggest causes of scepticism around the success of ABBA Voyage is what the band calls their ABBAtars.
How can fans expect to enjoy ABBA in all their glory when they aren’t even there?
Will it just feel like watching robots on stage?
Have their six years of effort been wasted on a weak attempt at reviving ABBA?
ABBA no longer believe they can perform for fans how they used to – and why would they, 40 years later?
As the show began and the four ABBA members raised to the stage – I have to say, I got goosebumps.
Their life-like silhouettes, the swish of their hair strands and the reflective glimmer from their costumes – everything felt so real – even when I knew it wasn’t.
The choreography was carefully considered to include the most humanistic movements as they walked, sang, and danced across the stage – their actions were perfectly imperfect.
With outfits designed by Dolce & Gabbana and painstakingly developed by the special effects team at Industrial Light and Magic – founded by George Lucas (creator of Star Wars) – the efforts were reflected (literally) in the details seen on the ABBAtars costumes as they owned the stage.
The ABBAtars took turns talking in between songs – sharing insights into their thoughts and feelings behind the show and how grateful they are to bring the experience to fans.
It was an engaging aspect of the performance - mystifying the line between digital and the real.
The only time I felt the show reminded us that we were watching an animation was when the ABBAtars appeared close-up on the big screens.
The digital aspects of their characters were certainly more evident from this view. In my opinion, this didn't take away the magic.
I knew it was a virtual concert when I arrived, so for those moments when the animation was more obvious - I was simply appreciative of the admirable efforts that went into the CGI production.
The Crowd 🙌🏼
One of the most brilliant parts of the ABBA Voyage experience is the variety of people the concert attracts.
From 18-80, there is no limit on who this experience is for.
Other Voyagers have also mentioned that non-ABBA fans can enjoy the concert, too – and I wholeheartedly agree.
It was heart-warming to watch the older generation pile in to relive their youth and capture the sweet nostalgia of the 70s.
For the younger fans (like myself), it provided a chance to see a performance by ABBA that wouldn’t have been possible otherwise.
Among the social media ads, I’ve seen comments from the baby boomer generation stating that they wouldn’t waste their money on the virtual concert since they saw ABBA in their youth.
And fair enough – if you got the chance, and that’s how you want to remember ABBA, then I don’t see the problem in saying no to this experience.
But as I mentioned earlier, ABBA Voyage is entirely new and revolutionary – not to be compared to a live show from the 70s.
But for those that did turn up to the show, every person was captivated by the stage. You could feel the excitement and anticipation before the start, just like at any other concert.
We chose dance floor tickets, which I was initially sceptical about.
Not because I didn’t want to dance but because I was curious why these tickets were the cheapest and last to sell out.
After seeing that the older generation made up a large percentage of the crowd, it made sense that they’d want to sit...
... but most people ended up on their feet anyway.
How can you resist a dance to ABBA?
The Production 🎹
The production of ABBA Voyage can’t be compared to anything else.
With all carefully considered aspects thoughtfully tied together, this modernistic piece of art created the most showstopping, unbelievable experience.
Even without appreciating ABBA's music, you can certainly appreciate the efforts that have gone into this magical masterpiece.
But if you are a die-hard ABBA fan (like me), this is the ultimate experience.
For the music industry, this will be big.
I know some older artists still have it – but very few have it like they used to.
My partner recently went to see Bob Dylan on his UK tour. Dylan is now 80 – but still my partner’s idol.
So, it was a little heartbreaking to find out that his conclusive words after the show were, “it was utterly appalling – think drunk old man on karaoke.”
Luckily, Dylan is a legend, and this didn’t taint my partner's view of him.
But it does beg the question of why older artists continue until their last breath, tarnishing their reputation and upsetting the magic they once brought.
Not only that – but Voyage gave ABBA new life.
It rejuvenated what we knew and showed us something we didn’t expect.
To give my experience the edge, we shared the arena with ABBA legend, Anni-Frid, as she made a surprise appearance in the crowd.
This wasn’t just a one-off, either.
Each band member has made several appearances at the performances since May – providing some lucky fans with a more whole and authentic experience.
As the show ended, a digital projection of ABBA in their present-day form appeared on stage to take a bow to the audience.
At this point, I didn’t know if it was real or not, but it was a nice touch to conclude the performance and remind fans that ABBA had a considerable role to play, regardless of whether they were there.
If you’re considering getting tickets – I highly encourage you to do so.
You won't regret it!