LISTENING IN: Mamma Mia! Live from London’s amazing ‘ABBA Voyage’
It’s a shame that ABBA never sang “The Time Warp” as it would be the perfect intro to the “ABBA Voyage” show now playing in London – a concert performance that transports concertgoers back to the 1970s via incredible avatars that are indistinguishable from the real members of the Swedish pop super troopers.
“You think your eyes are playing tricks on you,” VisitBritain CEO Patricia Yates told me as I headed off to the smash show, which takes place Thursday to Mondays at a purpose-built venue located in Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park in London’s East End (DLR station Pudding Mill Lane).
Indeed. Through a technical process that saw the members of the band – Agnetha, Bjorn, Benny and Anna-Frid (ABBA, get it?) – perform their songs in a studio wearing motion capture suits (banner photo), then digitally replaced with their younger selves.
Beamed to London, the ‘ABBAtars’ perform “live” on stage (to be clear, not on screen), playing close to two dozen songs to a surprisingly all-age audience of 3,000 every night, sweat glistening from their faces on the giant screen backdrop. Bjorn’s guitar strumming, in perfect synch, doesn’t miss a chord. The voices were lifted from the original versions of the songs.
The characters even address the audience, pausing in appropriate places for laughter or applause, though miraculously quick costume changes perhaps give the gig away a little.
A real-live 10-piece band and backup singers perform for real live, even taking centre stage at one point for their own solo.
The irrepressible feel-good show – who doesn’t know the words to almost every ABBA song, from “Mamma Mia” to “Waterloo” and “Fernando” to “Dancing Queen”? – could have taken place in 1979, the year the avatars represent.
Instead, it demonstrates the enduring popularity of the band, which has remained alive in the 40-plus years since the quartet – now in their 70s – last performed in 1981. The only thing that could have made it better is if ABBA had defied aging for real.
ABBA Voyage, which debuted in May 2022, has already been extended until January 2024 and is expected to continue until 2025 when the venue is scheduled to be converted into housing. There is talk the show will soon appear in other cities, like Las Vegas.
There are plenty of great videos on YouTube showing how the state-of-the-art show was made (undoubtedly game-changing technology for the concert industry – imagine Elvis, or a Beatles “reunion” of their younger selves?).
In the meantime, this trailer gives a brief glimpse of the show. ABBA Voyage is performed Monday, Thursday, and Friday evenings at 7.45 p.m., Saturday at 3 p.m. and 7.45 p.m. and Sunday at 1 p.m. and 6 p.m. VIP and group ticket options are available to travel providers.
First published at Travel Industry Today