Abba Ever After

Abba split a long time ago. And when they split I wasn’t that much of a fan anyway.

Abba were on the list of artists I stupidly ignored because they were around at the wrong time for me. And you can add McCartney, Steely Dan and David Bowie to this list of people I once sneered at only to grow to love.

I buy Take A Chance On Me which is still my favourite Abba song, but a single single isn’t really enough for fandom.

Then over the years I’ve come to truly appreciate just how good they were. They have an unimpeachable Greatest Hits setlist that ranks with just about anyone’s and move seamlessly from dancefloor to divorce court in their songwriting without missing a beat.

So having become a fan I’d obviously left it 43 years too late to see them in concert. Or so I thought.

The band’s announcement that they were going to pioneer a new technology-driven performance using their recorded vocals, a live band and 3D avatars of their younger selves created using motion capture suits opened up the possibility of actually seeing `them’ in concert.

My wife, Gill, has smartly always been a fan so was ready and poised when the tickets went on sale for the shows in the specially created Abba Arena in London’s Olympic Park and we obtained two for the first week of its production.

I won’t go into the near desperate state we got into finding the place – it’s a long and involved story – but we arrived with enough time to spare to get settled and take in the marvellous design of an arena built to hold 3,000 people but with everyone in close enough proximity to the stage for it to feel quite intimate.

We were ready to be excited, but we weren’t ready for quite how much.

The `Abbatars’ emerged from below stage level at the conclusion of The Visitors -played to herald their arrival – and the collective gasp at the sight of four pop superstars looking exactly like their peak late-70s selves was something to hear.

They were staggeringly lifelike. Almost worryingly lifelike – Benny and Bjorn especially, and for three songs I think my mouth just hung open while I struggled to find something to say other than Wow!

The excellent live band and backing singers gave it an extra authenticity but you couldn’t take your eyes off `Abba’. The slightly clunky dance moves, the audience interaction and the between songs patter looked and sounded as real as if you were watching genuine flesh and blood human beings.

If their band had been on the stage around them rather than on a platform at the front of the stage, nothing would have convinced me that I hadn’t seen a `proper’ gig.

If you’re a fan then you know how good the set was so I don’t need to list 90 minutes’ worth of pop gems, but even if you’re not I’d urge you to see this show. It’s too good to miss.

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