Archive for the ‘ABBA’ Category

ABBA: Voyage The ABBA arena London 1 September 2022

abba 1Apologies for the break in transmission which I felt appropriate during the time of mourning for our Queen and the transition to King Charles.

How do you explain the inexplicable? Did I really see what I thought I did a couple of weeks ago in London? This was an experience like no other and one that has to be seen to be believed.

“Blending cutting-edge technology, spectacular lighting, and some of the most beloved songs ever written, ABBA take to the stage in a whole new way. In a stunning, purpose-built arena, one of the most popular groups in history appear as digital avatars in a ‘ground-breaking’ (Metro) concert that really ‘needs to be seen to be believed” (BBC).

I saw ABBA in concert, once only, in 1979 at Stafford Bingley Hall which was an old cattle market. It smelt of cattle and sheep and I swear that I saw bits of straw on the floor. I went there twice, once to see The Who (the first concert there as I recall), and once to see ABBA. For The Who concert it was standing everywhere; for ABBA it was set out with plastic chairs across the floor. My friend Davey and I were seated quite close to the front and ABBA were, as you would expect, sensational. They were at the height of their success and sang all the hits. I have reviewed the concert on my blog elsewhere (enter ABBA in the search box).

abba 2Now going to a concert these days takes some organisation. There are quite a lot of logistics involved including booking assistance on the train to make sure that a friendly guy appears with a ramp to get me on and off the train. On this occasion three carers accompanied me, all of us excited at the experience. We travelled direct from Sunderland to London via the lovely Grand Central service. The guy with the ramp appeared like magic both there and back on the journey. Once at King’s Cross we checked in to a Premier Inn which is directly opposite the station. After a quick rest we were off to the ABBA arena via a fast train from St Pancras to Stratford International and then a Docklands Light Railway (DLR) to Pudding Mill Lane station. Again, this all worked well with passenger assistance helping me out with a ramp without any pre-warning on the fast train. The DLR is similar to a tube train and I can easily navigate my wheelchair straight on. All no problem. Excellent! The ABBA arena is then a short walk over the road.

abba progOnce we got inside I bought some merchandise including a couple of programmes for my friend John and I, and some badges for my daughter. We picked up our drinks and then took our seats in the arena. What happened next was a revelation. Somehow, using magical technology, the ABBA people have managed, using avatars, to recreate the four members of the group just as they were in 1979. All four are there in front of us singing the hits. You can get a feel for the show from the link contained in this review in the Guardian. Lights and mirrors appear from the ceiling, rotating, and moving screens display the group while they lead the songs from the back of the stage. An excellent band accompanies them. Each member speaks to us, their faces appearing exactly as they looked “back in the day”. Unbelievable.

The set list is everything you could wish for. After a couple of songs I didn’t recognise we are into the hits: “SOS”, “Knowing Me, Knowing You”, “Fernando” and so it goes on. One of my favourites “Eagle” is accompanied by a computer-generated video of a young boy marvelling at an eagle flying “high in the sky”. The hits just keep coming. For “Waterloo” they choose to show footage of the 1974 Eurovision Song Contest which they won and took place in the UK, in Brighton. I don’t mind admitting I had tears in my eyes at this point. Everything was perfectly recreated. They close with “Thank You for the Music” and “Dancing Queen”. By this point I am melting down; I find the whole experience highly emotional. It takes me back to a time when things were very different and when ABBA were wonderful. And tonight they are abba 3wonderful again. By now the girls are clapping and dancing, as is the entire arena. Finally we are treated to an encore of “The Winner Takes It All”. Then another piece of magic happens. The avatars become the group as they are now. They come to the front of the stage and thank us for coming along to the show.

Then we are out into the dark night and the journey back to the hotel via DLR and the fast train all work smoothly. We stop off for some supper of burgers/hot dogs and chips in Five Guys at King’s Cross. Then I am soon back in bed, the whole experience swirling round in my head, not believing what I have just experienced.

So is this the future of rock concerts? Will this technology enable us to see The Beatles in concert? It opens up all sorts of possibilities. Will my grandchildren be treated to avatars recreating the Rolling Stones, The Who, Fleetwood Mac, Eagles, Bob Dylan; the list goes on as do the possibilities. Will arena shows based on virtual reality replace tribute bands in the future? The technology is there now and proven to work. After its very significant run of shows in London the ABBA arena will grace major cities around the world. This show could go on for ever, treating fans to a glimpse of the past and bringing history back to life.

The next morning we have some breakfast, and then we are up and back on our train to Sunderland. All works well. And “a good time was had by all”, to coin a well-known phrase! My trip back to 1979 was pure magic and if you get the chance please go and see the show. It is as good as everything you read about it. Happy days!

Setlist: The Visitors; Hole In Your Soul; SOS; Knowing Me, Knowing You; Chiquitita; Fernando; Mamma Mia; Does Your Mother Know?; Eagle; Lay All Your Love On Me; Summer Night City; Gimme! Gimme! Gimme! (A Man After Midnight); Voulez-Vous; When All Is Said And Done; Don’t Shut Me Down; I Still Have Faith In You; Waterloo; Thank You For The Music; Dancing Queen.

Encore: The Winner Takes It All

ABBA Stafford Bingley Hall 11 November 1979

I’m starting this weeks posts with a guilty pleasure. I’ve always had a broad taste in music, and over the years, I’ve been to see quite a lot of straight pop acts, and artists from other genres. One concert that I am particularly proud of attending, and feel no quilt at all about, is Abba. My mate Davy and I went to see Abba at Stafford Bingley Hall at the height of their fame in 1979. Abba toured the UK twice, once in 1977 and again in 1979, and played around a dozen shows in the UK in total. Their first tour was at smaller venues such as Glasgow Apollo, and I remember regretting missing them on that tour. So when they announced some dates at larger venues in 1979, I bought a couple of tickets to see them in Stafford Bingley Hall. The concert was on a Sunday, and we drove down to the concert on the afternoon, and as I recall, went to a chinese restaurant for a meal before the gig.
Stafford Bingley Hall was used for gigs throughout the 70s, Davy and I also went there to see The Who in the mid 70s. It was a big old cattle market, and smelt like one! For the ABBA concert they laid plastic seats in rows, we were in Row 18, which wasn’t too far away from the front. I don’t recall there being any support act for this gig. One thing I do remember is we were both were quite tickled that the actor, John Forgeham, who played Jim Baines in Crossroads at the time was sitting in the next row. The setlist will have been something like: Gammal Fabodpsalm; Voulez-Vous; If It Wasn’t for the Nights; As Good as New; Knowing Me Knowing You; Rock Me; Not Bad At All; Chiquitita; Money Money Money; I Have a Dream; Gimme! Gimme! Gimme! (A Man After Midnight); S.O.S.; Fernando; The Name of the Game; Eagle; Thank You For The Music; Why Did It Have to Be Me; Intermezzo No. 1; I’m Still Alive; Take a Chance on Me; Summer Night City; Does Your Mother Know; Hole in Your Soul; The Way Old Friends Do; Dancing Queen; Waterloo. The four members of Abba were accompanied by a band, and by a large choir of local children for I Have a Dream. They played all the hits and a selection of album tracks. The sound at big gigs wasn’t great in those days, and I seem to remember that being the case at this gig; it was quite quiet in comparison to a more traditional rock concert. Davy and I really enjoyed it, and I still look back on this gig with fond memories and feel quite lucky that I got to see Abba. My programme is above. After the gig we then drove straight back up to Newcastle, which is around 200 miles. It started snowing as we got further north, and I dropped Davy off at Newcastle City Hall, where he joined the queue for tickets for Paul McCartney and Wings which went on sale the next morning. I went home for a few hours sleep, got up went to work for a short time, then went through to Newcastle and met (a very cold and tired) Davy who had managed to get the Wings tickets, but thats a story for another day.