ABBA Voyage’s creators tell us how they made the show, and what’s next

Producers, the director and choreographer reveal what went into the ambitious new show

The team behind the creation of the new ABBA Voyage live experience have spoken to NME about how it was made, as well as what could be next for both the show and the band. Watch our video interview above.

  • READ MORE: ABBA Voyage reviewed: an epic avatar mega-mix from a brave new world

Premiering earlier this week at the purpose-built ABBA Arena in Stratford, East London, to a delighted response from fans, the ambitious production sees a “digital” version of ABBA (or ‘ABBAtars’) performing alongside a 10-piece live band ( put together with the help of Klaxons’ James Righton ).

Working on the show with ABBA were Svana Gisla (who produced Jay-Z  and  Beyoncé ‘s On the Run Tour), choreographer Wayne McGregor, Johan Renck (who directed  David Bowie ‘s videos for ‘Blackstar’ and ‘Lazarus’), Baillie Walsh (who has directed for  Massive Attack  and  Bruce Springsteen ) and producer Ludvig Andersson (son of ABBA’s Benny Andersson and producer of  And Then We Danced ,  Yung Lean ‘s ‘In My Head’ and  Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again ).

“We did an awful lot of research and development on this, as you can imagine,” Gisla told NME from the red carpet. “We did two years of trying to figure out what this is. We put a lot of time into the philosophical side of it. This is not just about technology, this is about emotion. We wanted to understand the core of ABBA and the music and how to deliver it in 2022.

“A lot of this is about restraint. When all of the technology and everything is available to you, it becomes an exercise in restraint. The music is the guiding light.”

Gisla said that there was “nothing nostalgic about this concert apart from the music”, and that the whole approach was very forward-thinking.

“ABBA look like they did in 1979, but they’re firmly rooted in the now and in the future. Everything else is as forward as it can be,” she said. “You’re going to see a lot of things that you’ve never seen before. The feeling of being inside the arena will be unique, it’s very immersive. People use that word a lot, but when you go in there you’ll fully realise the capabilities of an immersive environment. It’s like being in the eye of the storm.”

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Asked about how long the show could be set to run for, Gisla replied: “I don’t want to jinx it, but if this is a success then we can be here for a few years. We’re on borrowed land, we didn’t break any ground, the arena is moveable and we can pack up and leave when we aren’t wanted anymore.

“I hope the audience wants us to stay for a bit, because we feel like we’ve made something really special.

Director Baillie Walsh, meanwhile, said it was surreal that the “dream” from inside his head finally now on the stage for people to see. Walsh sternly denied that what fans would be seeing was “a hologram”, and in fact something quite different.

“We filmed ABBA for five weeks,” he said. “Wayne McGregor extended their moves into younger bodies – our doubles – and we blended those performances together. Now we have our 2022 ABBA.

“It was very emotional every day. It was like NASA in having so many people in the studio every day, but the whole studio were in tears most days. It was really extraordinary.”

Asked why it was necessary to build their own venue for the project, Walsh said that it was needed to match the ambition of the concept.

“ABBA’s ambition for this project was a beautiful thing, and it was a creative ambition, rather than a money-making exercise,” he said. “Building the arena was just part of that. You can have more lights because you’re not moving around from venue to venue and it’s bespoke. I could design the show around this building.”

As for how long the show could be set to run in London for, he said: “It’s up to the fans really. I hope it’s a destination for a long, long time.”

It is now believed that the concept could be copied for other veteran acts, but Walsh said it might not be so easy to imitate.

“ABBA were so involved in this,” he said. “They’re the heart and soul of it. There aren’t many bands like ABBA around. A posthumous show wouldn’t have the same kind of feeling. The fans know that ABBA are involved and that this isn’t a cynical exercise. This is ABBA.”

ABBA

Choreographer Wayne McGregor agreed – detailing what went in to capturing the pop icons’ dance moves and movements.

“We’re using a process called motion capture, which you’ve probably seen in movies,” he said. “We use these little dots to take the maths out your body. We take all these zeroes and ones and put them into a computer and build an avatar. It’s a long process. It captures the essence of you, but then we really have to work into that.

“I was taking dance moves from them – I wouldn’t dare show ABBA dance moves. I just wanted them to be themselves and get them back into their performance energy, because they haven’t performed for a while. Then I had to work with the body doubles to transform some of that amazing physical from the ‘70s into maths and find a way of combining the two.”

Enjoying those weeks of having the band perform and sing before him, McGregor described their time together as “perfect”.

“It’s insane to have those amazing performers sing their whole catalogue in front of you,” he said. “They were so bold, brave and into it. It was really exciting. How amazing is it to have this legacy project where you can see ABBA over and over again? It’s a piece of theatre, a piece of performance, a concert like no other. You really feel like you’re inside the music and that’s fabulous.”

He added: “For this show, the technology marries emotion and brings the emotion of those songs directly into you. I love the fact that audiences can actually come in and dance while watching. I’ll be back, every Friday night!”

Co-executive producer Renck, said that he ranked his experience of working with ABBA among his bucket-list projects of working with Bowie, but “in a very different capacity”.

“My entire upbringing was about music,” he told NME . “Everything that is me is music in one way or another. It’s the most important thing for me ever, and the life journey of being seven or eight-years-old and my mother playing ABBA in the car to being here now is a pretty substantial thing, isn’t it?”

He remained coy about details of the show itself, but said: “I’m not going to tell you anything because it’s better to just come and witness it. It’s a very unique experience in all sorts of ways. Whether you’re an ABBA fan or not.

“I’m using the word ‘experience’ a lot, but it takes you to a place you haven’t been before.”

ABBA Voyage

We also asked each of the team if they felt that this really could be the last we see of ABBA.

“I think this is the final thing,” replied Gisla. “They’re quite genuine in that, but they’ve said that before. I think this is it. It took a lot to make and it was hard work, from us and from them.”

Walsh also said that he “didn’t think” ABBA would reunite for any projects again, while Renck added: “Who knows? I’m sure that some of these four do not see it as an endgame, in any shape or form. Benny is music, that’s what he lives, breathes and does every day. That’s never going to stop. Whatever iteration that comes out, who knows? But I don’t think there’s any kind of punctuation to be had.”

Watch our full video interview with the creators of ABBA Voyage at the top of the page.

All four members of ABBA also spoke to NME on the red carpet , telling us about the experience of reuniting and what might be on the horizon for the band.

When asked if the concert was a parting gift from the band, Björn Ulvaeus said: “I think this is it. It’s sad to say that but then again, you can always take it back, can’t you? So the answer is, it could be yes, it could be no.”

Meanwhile, Benny Andersson joked: “This is what you’ll see, this is what you’ll get. Then we’ll go home and we’ll sleep.”

In a five star review of ABBA Voyage ,  NME  concluded: “Ageing rockers and poppers are bound to imitate the idea, but it’ll be a struggle to come close to the experience of ABBA Voyage. We for one welcome our new ABBAtar overlords, if only for giving these songs back to us in a totally new and joyful way.”

Visit here for tickets and more information .

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Super Trouper

Baillie Walsh, the mastermind behind ABBA Voyage, the blockbuster “virtual concert” in London, on the making of a game-changing spectacular, the future of live performance, plus his own amazing adventures in the worlds of pop, performance, music and film

abba voyage

The British film director Baillie Walsh is a man of many parts. He broke through as a director of music videos, initially with Boy George and then the Bristol trip hop collective Massive Attack, for whom he made the promo for the magnificent “Unfinished Sympathy”, from their era-defining 1991 album, Blue Lines. Later he directed memorable videos for Kylie Minogue, INXS, New Order and Oasis.

Walsh has made numerous award-winning commercials; acclaimed shorts; documentaries about music ( Springsteen & I ); and about filmmaking ( Being James Bond: The Daniel Craig Story ). He has written and directed a feature film, 2008’s Flashbacks of a Fool , starring that same Daniel Craig as a faded Hollywood star — narcissistic, hedonistic — forced to confront his past in 1970s Britain. (Don’t worry, Daniel, it’ll never happen!) For the finale of an Alexander McQueen fashion show, in Paris in 2006, he created a hologram of Kate Moss. I was in the audience for that show. It was beautiful, ghostly, and oddly moving.

Testimonials from prominent collaborators are not hard to come by. Moss, no slouch herself in this department, talks about his “sense of style and incredible taste.” Kylie mentions his incredible “capacity to convey emotion.”

“At his heart,” says Daniel Craig, “Baillie is a showman. The incredibly hard work that goes into all his projects is for one purpose: to move an audience, to give them a totally new experience, to affect them emotionally and spiritually and send them away with smiles on their faces.”

All of which could accurately be said of the 62-year-old’s latest project. It is perhaps his most high profile, and ground-breaking, to date. ABBA Voyage, which embarks seven times a week, including matinees, from the purpose-built, 3,000-capacity, spaceship-like ABBA Arena in Stratford, east London, opened in May to reviews that might reasonably be characterised as ecstatic. “Jaw-dropping,” marvelled the Guardian . “Mind-blowing,” panted the Telegraph .

I saw the show in early July. It is that rare thing: an event that exceeds its hype. It is, not to sound too fulsome, an astonishment. It is, also, a potential game-changer for the music industry and even for the idea of “live performance” — whatever that means after one has seen it.

ABBA Voyage has been described as a “virtual concert”. The former members of one of the most beloved and successful pop groups of all time — that is, Agnetha Faitskog, Bjorn Ulvaeus, Benny Andersson, and Anni-Frid Lyngstad — do not appear on stage in person. But they do appear. (ABBA disbanded in 1982; although they reconstituted the group five years ago, and have since released new music, it’s been over four decades since they gave a public concert.)

Instead of flesh and blood ABBA, the show is performed by life-sized, animated CGI avatars of the four members, restored by technology to their pop star primes. (ABBAtars, the producers call them.) But it’s also performed by the real ABBA, in the sense that they sang the songs, and danced the dances, in a studio in Sweden, and motion-capture technology allowed those performances — the singing, the dancing, even the chat between the songs — to be combined, on “stage”, with a live 10-piece band and a spectacular light show. The effect is uncanny. It’s not quite correct to say one feels oneself to be present at an ABBA concert in 1979. You are aware (just about, and sometimes not even) that it is 2022, and that in real life the members of ABBA don’t look like that anymore. But you are also conscious that you have entered another world — a virtual world, which is not to say you’re not in it — where you can be thrilled and moved by the power and beauty of some of the most familiar songs in the pop canon, those gorgeous, melancholic bangers that only those four people, together, could have made. The show might be virtual, but the feelings it evokes are genuine. I know, I felt them.

ABBA Voyage benefits from the talents of thousands of technicians and creatives: among others, a huge team from Industrial Light & Magic, the Hollywood visual effects powerhouse; the brilliant British choreographer Wayne McGregor; Swedish costume designer B Akerlund, whose clever modernising of the band’s stage wardrobes gives the show its convincing retro-contemporary feel; the live band; producers Ludwig Andersson and Svana Gisla. But if the Voyage is a trip, and it certainly is, then Baillie Walsh is the man at the controls.

Slim, tanned, and handsome behind dark glasses — so youthful, in fact, that one wonders if this is really him, or a CGI avatar of his younger self? — Walsh arrives on the dot for his Esquire interview, at a hotel in Soho on a Tuesday morning (he lives just around the corner), orders a cup of English breakfast tea and settles himself at a quiet table. He talks for close to two hours, with barely a pause: about ABBA, avatars, his three decades and counting in film and music, and his own extraordinary backstory, from teenage tearaway to Top of the Pops and beyond…

The conversation below, as they say, has been edited and condensed. (A lot.)

Let’s start with how you got involved with the ABBA project. What happened?

One of the producers, Svana Gisla, I’ve worked with many times. I made Springsteen & I with her. A Kylie video, an Oasis film. And she was working with [Swedish director] Johan Renck on this project, and then he had this enormous success with [acclaimed HBO series] Chernobyl . So he saw a film opportunity and didn’t want to do this. [Raised eyebrow.]

Lucky for you!

Lucky for me. I had a Zoom call with Benny and Bjorn and they said yes on that call. That’s where it all began, three years ago.

How far developed was the idea when you signed up?

Johan had done a road map and there was a set list, which came from ABBA. But it was a very rough idea. They knew they wanted to make younger versions of themselves, that was ABBA’s idea. Whether that was going to be holograms or whatever, that was still up for grabs. So I came on board and there was a gradual process of: “What is this thing going to be?” The creative process on something like this is long, because it’s so big. You’re not doing one song. You’re asking, “What is this monster, what can it be?” So, my first job was to sit down and think about what I would want to go and see. I always played it like that. Then it was about talking to ILM about what would be possible. Ben Morris, the creative director there, was really brilliant to work with. And he loved the challenge, the idea of having life-sized avatars, and wanting to feel like they are really there .

Was there a Eureka moment where you said, “I know what this should be! It’s a live concert given by CGI performers!”

There was a few. When I realised, first of all, they have to be life-sized, that the audience has to feel like they are there. I knew it wasn’t going to be holograms. Holograms are so limiting, in the sense that you can’t light them. So then it was, “What does that mean?” We want life-size avatars but we want to see them really big, in detail, like you have at a concert, with the big screens. So we want those iMAG screens.

IMAG screens, for those of us who don’t know…

Those big screens, so when you go to see Beyonce, and she’s the size of a bean, you can see her close-up. But this isn’t the O2, where you’re so far away you can’t see or hear or feel what’s going on.

abba voyage

Your arena is much smaller than that.

That’s part of the success of the thing, I think, that arena. It’s really quite intimate. You can see every face in there, and the excitement spreads. I mean, there are many reasons for the success of this, so far. Lots of magic has happened. I’m a part of that, but the fact that it’s ABBA, the fact that they are still alive, and contributed enormously to this, and their soul is in this. The fact that they haven’t toured for 40 years, so there’s a great hunger to see them live, in whatever form. The arena, which is the perfect size, I think. And also so well designed, so comfortable. It doesn’t feel like you’re going to a horrible, beer-stinking arena, with turnstiles. From the moment you arrive, it’s already exciting. Like, “What the hell is this ?”

Because it could have been a disaster.

Yes. It could have been a disaster, so easily.

Because it’s a very weird idea.

Yes! Totally. The whole thing I fought against is the tech, being led by the tech. The tech should be the least important thing. The important thing is the emotion. I want people to laugh, dance, cry. And you’ve got to be really careful with that. It’s multi-layered, because you are playing with the past, the present and future. And all of those big questions. You can’t throw that in people’s faces. The concert isn’t a big intellectual idea. And I never tried to intellectualise it. But I knew there were lots of big ideas under the surface.

There’s a lightness of touch to it that’s very appealing. And, of course, in the moment, unless you’re weird, you are not trying to deconstruct it. You’re just enjoying yourself. But afterwards I certainly was provoked to think about mortality, ageing, nostalgia…

But you can’t be heavy handed with those things. All I ever thought was, if I’m feeling emotion, if the ideas for presenting the songs resonate with me, then I’m on to something. Because I am the audience. So if it chokes me up, it’s going to choke everyone else up.

There are some people who feel that emotion stimulated by technology is somehow cheaper. That it’s inauthentic, in some way. That a concert given by avatars is fake.

The interesting challenge was: how can we fall in love with an avatar? That was the challenge. I wanted to do that, to fall in love with an avatar. And I did! The soul of ABBA is in those avatars. Their voices, those speeches, everything they say, the soul is there. It’s irrelevant that it’s an avatar. I mean, it’s helped by the fact that it’s ABBA, and their music is very emotive. That’s a massive advantage. If it had been Black Sabbath, it would have been harder to fall in love with the avatars. But ABBA’s songs, everyone has a connection to those songs. They are part of our DNA. They are part of who we are.

Talk a bit about the process of creating the avatars. How did you do it?

Basically, we were in a studio in Sweden for five weeks, with ABBA. And we filmed them with 160 cameras, in motion-capture suits. We went through the whole set list, and more, and they performed those songs for the cameras. It was a very bizarre, amazing experience. You’re in this kind of NASA-style studio, with monitors and cameras everywhere, and 100 people in there taking all the data. A very bizarre situation. As individuals they are really lovely people, but the moment you bring those four people together, something happens. This strange alchemy. Which is a really rare thing. I mean, I’m sure it happens when the Stones come together, or when the Beatles came together. This extraordinary energy. I don’t want to get all woo-woo about it. But it’s perceptible. When they came together on that stage, on the first day, it’s goosebumps. It’s a magical thing. And that’s why I feel so lucky to have got this gig and to have been able to do what I’ve done, with ABBA. I can’t think of another band who would be better than them for this project. I’m spoilt now. I’m fucked, really. I’ve made something that hasn’t been done before, which is a really rare opportunity. How am I gonna top this?

That was going to be my last question. I was going to leave your existential crisis for later.

Now that you mention it though…

I haven’t had time to think about it. I’ve been on this project for three years and I’ve had four days off. I finish on Thursday and go to Iceland on Saturday.

For a holiday?

I’ve got a house there. This’ll be the first time I’ve been in three years, but it’s where I go and spend time alone. I look at nature, and look at sky, and go fishing, and it’s good for my head. I’m not quite sure how it’s going to work this time. I’m expecting an enormous crash.

Clearly, you’re going to have a terrible time.

Terrible! It’s going to be awful. No, but I have just had the best job that I’ll probably ever have. I hope that’s not true. But I think it’s the best job I’ve ever done. I’ve worked for a very long time and there are peaks and troughs. But the scale of this is what makes me most proud. It’s big!

It feels game-changing in many ways, and it does open a Pandora’s box. What does this mean for live performance? What does it mean for musicians? For audiences? Could you do it with the Stones? What would it mean if you did?

Of course you could. Charlie [Watts] isn’t around, so you’re going to miss that. But yes, you could.

You couldn’t do it with Prince, for example, presumably because you can’t do the motion-capture part?

No, but you could do it. Especially with the way technology is moving. You could do it posthumously. But one of the things that is great about what we’ve been able to do is, we’ve been able to update ABBA. It’s not just nostalgia. It’s past, present and future. It’s about being able to reinvent ABBA for 2022. It’s not about recreating the 1979 Wembley concert. That wouldn’t be interesting. You can watch that on YouTube.

What about the Stones, then? Would it be desirable to do this with them?

That’s not for me to say. It’s not desirable for me. Because I think I’ve had the best band to do this with. The Stones have been on tour since year dot. They’re still on tour now. Of course, it would be exciting to see Mick in his heyday. But Mick is still so great live, at 78. Unbelievable. Not only running about the stage, but singing at the same time! I can’t walk and speak! He’s still doing it, and that’s what you want to see, with the Stones.

There are ethical concerns, too. Especially the idea of doing it with dead people.

Well, Whitney! They made a hologram of her. I didn’t see it. I saw bits of it on YouTube. But the first word that comes to mind is “grotesque.” Because that’s just a money-making exercise.

Is this going to be rolled out to other countries?

Yeah, I think so. You could do Vegas, you could do New York.

Will you be involved in those?

I hope so. This is my baby and the idea that someone else is going to take it and remodel it in some way that I found really annoying… I hope I am involved. Maybe we can add something to this that will knock people’s socks off even more? Because we do have the ability to change the show. We recorded more songs, filmed more songs. Maybe we can improve it?

One more question on the ethics of it. If a contemporary artist came to you, say Beyonce, and asked you to do the same for her as you’ve done for ABBA, to put on a virtual Beyonce concert that could play every night of the week in cities around the world, forever, and she need never leave the house again, would you? Because that idea worries people who love live music.

Yes, but I think they shouldn’t worry. Because first of all, Beyonce loves to perform. She’s not going to stop, because she is a genius performer. That’s who she is. That’s her being. And I don’t think this is going to replace anything. It’s part of the entertainment world now. But people want to see live concerts, and people still want to perform them. You think Bruce Springsteen is going to stop touring because he could do a virtual show? His life is touring. And most of those people who perform, it’s who they are. The Stones don’t want to sit at home with their feet up! They want to be on stage. They love that adoration. Who wouldn’t? 100,000 people screaming that they love you? Gimme more! So I don’t think people should be worried. They should be excited. And it’s not just music. The idea of how theatre can use this. The immersive quality of it. That thing about not knowing where the real world ends and the digital world begins. All that is really interesting. I want to see what other people do with it. I want to be excited and blown away and confused. I really look forward to seeing where it goes.

abba voyage

You live round the corner from here. Did you grow up in London?

I was born in London and then moved to Essex when I was young. And brought up there, all around Clacton-on-Sea, those terrible seaside towns. Working on Clacton pier, being a bingo caller, that was the start of my showbiz journey.

Do you come from a showbiz family?

No. My mum was a pharmacist, my dad was a rogue, a gambler, with all of the disaster that brings. And my mother brought up three kids on her own, pretty much. I have an older brother and a younger sister.

What kind of boy were you?

I was a rogue, too, a runaway. At the age of 14 I ran away for a month, and was in London with my friend. Can you imagine?

What were you doing?

Stealing. Shoplifting from Portobello antique shops and selling it on the Market. I was a terrible, horrible child.

Where were you living?

At the Venus Hotel on Portobello Road, with my friend’s sister. She had two children and she lived in one room in the hotel, and we lived there too. But I got caught, in the end, and put into a home, a halfway borstal. And that fixed me. I was only a couple of weeks but it scared the life out of me. And then I decided, somehow, I was going to go to art school. I was always in trouble at school, for fighting, but this teacher picked up on the fact I had some kind of talent and nurtured me, and I got into Colchester art school, doing graphics.

When was this?

I was there from 1976 to 79.

During punk.

Yeah. But I wasn’t a punk. I was more of a soul boy. It was [famous Essex soul club] Lacy Lady for me.

And after you finished art school?

Well, I didn’t want to be a graphic designer. I didn’t want to be trapped behind a desk. It wasn’t for me. Back in those days you didn’t think about a career. I just went on the adventure. I became a coin dealer, by accident.

How does a person become a coin dealer by accident?

It was when there was a gold rush on. We used to set up in hotels and buy gold and silver by weight, and the person whose business this was, was a coin dealer. I knew nothing about coins. But the great thing about it was, we travelled all over the world. And of course, I’d never travelled. I was 19, 20, and I moved to California. And I got bored of that after six months, came back to London for a holiday, and I got a job dancing with the girls at the [legendary Soho strip club] Raymond Revue Bar. Basically, erotic dancing.

Hang on. You need to explain this.

OK. So, I was staying in this really crummy flat where there was newspaper on the kitchen floor. And I saw an advert there for people willing to appear naked on stage. And I thought, “I could never do that.” So: great, you’re gonna do it. Things that are fearful, you do them. I love that. That’s the whole thing about being creative. I love to be shit-scared. So I called up and I got the job.

Did you have to audition?

You had to take all your clothes off and dance around?

The first audition was just take your clothes off and stand and pose and turn around for the choreographer, Gerard. And I later went to visit him at his flat on Charing Cross Road. And there’s this bay window that looks out onto the National Portrait Gallery, the Garrick Theatre, the neon lights, I’m 20 years old, and it’s like, “This is the best flat in the world!” And the dancer I took over from had the flat upstairs, so he moved out and I moved in, and I still live there today. I’ve been there 40 years, my whole adult life. And I think I might stay.

So the Raymond Revue Bar…

My first taste of showbiz!

It’s a load of girls getting their kit off on stage and…

Yeah, you’re a prop. You’re naked, and you have simulated sex. There’s a scene. You’d come out and pretend to play tennis, and then the music would change and suddenly it would be a sauna scene, and there’s a bench, and the lights change and you’re pretending to throw water over the girls… It was a real experience. I never got used to it. The audience are men. They want to see naked girls. They’re not happy when they see you up there.

How long did this last?

About a year? And while I was working there, I met Antony Price, at the Camden Palace. And he became my first boyfriend.

And Antony Price, for those who don’t know, was an important fashion designer…

The designer for Roxy Music. He was a real hero of mine when I was a kid. When I was 14. All those album covers, all those clothes… And because I was a dancer, Antony asked me to stage his fashion show, at the Camden Palace. So at the age of 21, I did that. At the time it was a really big deal.

Your first directing job.

Yes. I learned so much from that, and from him. His style and taste and knowledge of film and music. Just an unbelievable man.

Was that the end of your career as an erotic dancer?

Well, then I became a model. That was great. Modelling gave me the chance to try lots of things and meet lots of people. And I was successful. Modelling was a different world then. I made a living from it for a reasonable amount of time. I enjoyed it for a while, then it gets dull. It becomes a job. The glamour wears thin. And then I was getting dancing jobs as well. You know, dancing with Bananarama.

I don’t know! Tell me about dancing with Bananarama. When was that?

1987, I think. I got a call from [now famous Strictly judge] Bruno Tonioli saying, “Do you want to dance on Top of the Pops ?” So, I went, “Lifelong ambition!” So, me, Bruno, and his boyfriend then, Paul, were the backing dancers for Bananarama on Top of the Pops .

Which song?

“I Heard a Rumour.”

I’ll look it up on YouTube.

You should. [I did. The trio certainly carry off their cycling shorts.]

When does the film directing start?

At the age of 25 I saw 1900 , the Bertolucci film. And that blew my head off. I just thought, I want to do that.

What was it about that film?

Just the epic quality, the skill in the filmmaking, the beauty, the emotion, the characters, the storytelling… it had everything. Now, I’m never going to make a film like 1900 , but I started making little films with my mates. Super 8 and video cameras. And then I made one video in 1987, with [performance artist, nightclub legend, fashion icon] Leigh Bowery, who was a great mate.

You knew these people through nightclubs, that amazing scene in London in the 1980s?

Yes, exactly.

Were you a Blitz kid?

No, after that. Taboo, Leigh’s club, in Leicester Square, that was the best for me. That was the summit of my nightlife.

It’s always striking, that so many influential creative people came from that very select, underground world.

Everybody was there. [Film director] John Maybury was my boyfriend at that time. I went out with John for 17 years. I learnt a lot from him. They were amazing times.

All the most important future fashion designers and photographers and artists and filmmakers and pop stars in one room in London, dancing. It's hard to imagine this happening now…

Because of social media, I suppose. People are on their phones all the time. They don’t go out anymore. It’s one important point about the ABBA show [which insists the audience switch off their phones.] I had to really fight for that. Because otherwise they spend the whole concert filming it.

People can’t process a show, or anything else, unless they mediate it themselves.

It’s just like, “What the fuck are you doing?” It’s such madness.

You wonder what people think they are going to do with all that footage. What’s it for?

I know. Is it about ownership? “Look, I filmed this!”

So the ABBA phones policy came from that?

Yes, for all those reasons. But it was a very contentious idea. Lots of the suits, they disagree. They think that’s what everyone wants. I said, no, nobody wants that. They want to experience the show. They don’t want it ruined. The moment you put a phone up, everything’s abstract. You’re not in the moment. It’s insane. Stop!

So back to the career. You’re making a film with Leigh Bowery.

Yes, I wanted to make a pop video. So I made a track, a series of samples, called “Boys”. And Leigh is the lead in it. And Boy George saw it. This was ’87. And he asked me to make a video for him. And that was it, I was away. I made one called “After the Love”, and then “Generations of Love”, in 1990. That changed everything for me, because Massive Attack saw it. Basically it was the story of Soho, at that time. Thatcher had been in power for a long time. I was just seeing homeless people everywhere. It was really bad. So I got all my mates dressed up in drag, as prostitutes. Leigh styled it. I made a porn film, so we could project it for a scene inside one of the porn cinemas. I went and presented it at Virgin, and persuaded them. They paid the bill. And the next week I got a letter saying if you EVER show this film anywhere, we’ll sue you. But I got away with it. And it was a calling card. I still think it’s my best video. I have such fond memories of it.

And that’s what got you Massive Attack.

What a gift! To be given that album. I got the first four singles. Goosebumps, immediately, “Unfinished Sympathy” is one of my favourite songs ever, still. So beautiful. Extraordinary. And because they were the biggest band of that year, and I was associated with them, suddenly I had a career. Hate that word, career. I had the possibility of a working life, of becoming a director, I was up and running.

"Unfinished Sympathy" was such a distinctive video: one take, [the singer] Shara Nelson walking through Downtown LA, apparently oblivious to everything around her. And that’s it.

It hadn’t been done before. I wanted to challenge myself, I wanted to be scared. “Can I do this?”

It’s the antithesis of one of those videos that’s all about trying to sell the image of the star, the band.

But the song gave me this. That thing of when you are really hurt, and you are walking down the street and you are completely and utterly within yourself. You are not noticing anything that’s going on around you. We’ve all been there, right? Just destroyed by love. I wanted it to be that unbroken thought. This inner voice. That came from the music. But at the same time I was very aware that I was going against the tide, which I knew was a really good idea. Always a good idea. Because every [other] video at the time, it was [director] David Fincher, and it was all about fast-cuts.

His stuff with Madonna?

Yeah, it was all fast cuts. Make it as bright and shiny and fast-cutty as you can. And I’m sorry but “Vogue” is a fucking genius video. And David Fincher did it very well. But we went against the grain, made it really gritty. And Massive Attack’s music always smelt American to me. It sounded so big, so epic. I really wanted an international visual language for them. Take it away from Bristol, from the UK. So Downtown LA. In fact, the first video I did for them was “Daydreaming”, which I set in the Deep South. But yes, opportunities were coming thick and fast at that time.

You were very successful for a while.

Yeah. I only made thirteen videos. And then the world changed, budgets shrank, the demands from the record companies grew. And I thought, if you want me to basically make advertising, I’ll go off and make a ton of money doing that.

Which is what you did.

It’s what I did. I don’t say I made a ton of money but I earned a living. And the great thing about advertising, as nasty as it can be, is that you get to hone your craft. You’re filming, you’re on a set, you’re working with people. That’s really important, because making films is next to impossible, right? I’ve never been lucky at that.

Was it always in your mind, throughout the Eighties and the Nineties and beyond, to make a feature film?

Always. Always to make movies. And I wrote many and nearly got them made and spent years trying, as you do with films.

And, finally, you got there, with Flashbacks of a Fool .

Yes. And there were really good things about that and really bad things about that. The great thing was, I wrote that for Daniel Craig before he was Bond, right? We’re mates. And he still wanted to make it after he became Bond, which was wonderful. Because that meant all the effort that I’d made when I tried to get it made before he was Bond, and failed, had not been wasted. When he became Bond that gave him enormous power. He could get anything made. And he was generous enough to sprinkle some of that glitter on to me, and to allow me to make that film. The trouble with that is, that this small art film is then sold as a Bond film. Which is a disaster. Because if you deceive an audience, they don’t like it. You can’t sell candyfloss as popcorn. People want to know what they’re buying, so when it’s released as a fucking Bond film, and it’s a small little art film that should be in two cinemas and possibly grow from there, it’s a disaster. And critics don’t like it, either. No one likes it. I still have a fondness for Flashbacks , but I was really hurt by the response to it. When you put that much heart and soul into something, and you have a joyous time making it, and it’s received with a shrug of the shoulders and a “whatever”, it’s tough. The opposite to what the ABBA thing has been. This is all five stars. Every review. I’ll never have reviews like this again. But the reviews for Flashbacks knocked me, they knocked my confidence. I doubted myself. I felt misunderstood. It was really, really annoying. “No one understands me!”

How did you recover from that?

Well, cut to two years later, someone sends me a link to Flashbacks on YouTube and I read the reviews on there. It blew me away. Floods of tears. Because what I wanted, it did happen, people did get it. So I’m not saying the film is a success, or good. But the response I wanted did happen, and that was a beautiful thing. So I’m really fond of the film. I know it’s flawed but I think there are great moments in it, and I learnt from it. I would love the opportunity to make another feature film. I still have that ambition. Even though film now, somehow, has really lost its lustre. It’s really shocking.

Why is that?

The demise of Weinstein, I think. It died with Weinstein. It was dying anyway, but that finished it off. Because when he was at his pinnacle, the monster that he was, but how fucking great were the films? And the stars! Now, apart from Tom Cruise, there are no movie stars left.

The independent film scene in the Nineties and Noughties was rocking.

It was so exciting. And it’s gone. It’s such a tragedy, obviously, that Harvey was such a monster. Not only for the obvious reasons, for the people affected by his behaviour, which is a tragedy. But also for cinema. Now, the world’s a different place. That was the zeitgeist, that was the time. And now cinema is not nearly as interesting as it was. So yes, I do want to make films, but the idea of making an arthouse movie and going to Poland to show it at a fucking festival, is not interesting. I want people to see it!

What about TV, where all the action is? Is that appealing?

Yeah, I have a TV series I’d love to make. It’s called Pussycat Lounge, based on my year at the Raymond Revue Bar. Set in that period. [Production company] Tiger Aspect had it. That didn’t go very well. Got it back from them. And right now no one is interested. I think that because I do so many different things, it’s kind of hard to place me.

You’re a victim of your own versatility?

Maybe. I always try to treat everything I do with the same enthusiasm. I don’t think there’s a difference between all these things [videos, and films, and shows]. But people in Hollywood don’t think like that. They want you to repeat everything. We all know that.

They would rather you did another ABBA Voyage than made a TV show.

Exactly. Although having said that, I do love putting on a live show, seeing people’s reactions, having an adoring crowd. And it also seems to me that this golden age of TV is coming to an end, too. Five years ago, every director wanted a TV show. Now it feels like that’s dying. There’s too much stuff, right? I’m just overwhelmed when I go on to Netflix. That was the great thing about growing up in my period: you had to wait for the single to come out. You had to wait for Top of the Pops on Thursday, to see that performance. Now we’re just fucking overwhelmed.

Not least by social media. We’re all on our phones.

I think social media is a terrible thing, I don’t do any of it. It’s just noise. I think it’s the least creative thing ever. And if I was on it, because I’m obsessive, I would want to do it well, and that’s a full-time job. It’s all-consuming. I wouldn’t have made [the ABBA] show if I was on social media. I wouldn’t have had time!

Also, don’t know about you but I have never been moved by a post on Instagram. I have never been enlightened by a Tweet. These aren’t media where we can really connect deeply with other people.

No! It’s impossible. I’m suspicious of all posts. They all have a motive. They aren’t gifts. They’re not about anything but the person who sends them. It’s all about you . And, actually, fuck off!

A lot of stuff seems to be dying. I saw Glastonbury on TV. It was Noel Gallagher, Paul McCartney…

And Diana Ross! Fucking geriatric. Torture, it was torture! Although I had to watch the Pet Shop Boys, because I know them. And you know what? They were fucking great. Like, “OK! Now we’re cooking!”

The risk is, we end up sounding like a grumpy old men.

But I am! And it’s hard to be excited about anything when there’s too much stuff.

Which brings us back to the ABBA show.

It’s exciting because it doesn’t feel like anything else. It’s different. It’s a miracle! Seeing the joy drip off the walls of that arena, it’s unbelievable.

So what’s next?

A holiday. And because I’ve thought of nothing else for three years other than ABBA, I need to take a breath, and be quiet, and think. Like I was saying, I’ve been really spoilt, with this project. What’s next? The thing is, in a way it’s not for me to say. All these opportunities that have come my way, people have given them to me. A lot of them, I haven’t gone searching for them. So what’s next is, wait for the next job to be offered.

That sounds both admirably zen, and also a little terrifying. What if nothing comes along?

Something always has. Alex, I’ve done this for 30 years or more. There are times when I’m really popular, and times when I can’t get arrested. That can go on for years. There have been times when I haven’t worked at all for two years. Because I couldn’t get a job. But that’s the nature of my business. You’re in and out of fashion. You do something that gets lots of attention and you’ll get work for a couple of years, maybe. And then it stops again. You do the best you can. You might do quiet work for a bit. A commercial that’s only shown in China. To earn a living. And you wait for an opportunity.

For a couple of weeks, I’ve got opportunities.

And you’re going to disappear to Iceland?!

They know where to find me. But, no, the ABBA show is going to roll out all over the world, right? That’ll give me some longevity. And by that point I’ll be dead anyway. So, I’m not fretting.

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abba voyage production company

ABBA Voyage

It’s been a while since we made music together. Almost 40 years, actually. We took a break in the spring of 1982 and now we’ve decided it’s time to end it. They say it’s foolhardy to wait more than 40 years between albums, so we’ve recorded a follow-up to “The Visitors”. To tell the truth, the main inspiration to record again comes from our involvement in creating the strangest and most spectacular concert you could ever dream of. We’re going to be able to sit back in an audience and watch our digital selves perform our songs on a stage in a custom-built arena in London next spring. Weird and wonderful!

To all of you who patiently have followed us in some way or another these past decades:

Thank you for waiting – it’s time for a new journey to begin.

“We simply call it “Voyage” and we’re truly sailing in uncharted waters. With the help of our younger selves, we travel into the future. It’s not easy to explain but then it hasn’t been done before.”

“It’s hard to say what’s been the most joyful thing for me ( Benny ) with this project. If it’s the involvement in creating the concert together with everyone or being back in the studio together again after 40 years. I think hearing Frida and Agnetha singing again is hard to beat. When you come to the arena you will have the four of us together with an absolutely glorious 10-piece band. And even if not in the flesh, we will be right there, thanks to the work of the creative team and ILM.”

“Those first sessions back in 2018 were such fun and when Benny called and asked if I’d ( Anni-Frid ) consider singing some more I jumped at it! And what songs!! My respect and love go out to these exceptionally talented, truly genius songwriters! Such joy it was to work with the group again. I am so happy with what we have made, and I dearly hope our fans feel the same.”

“When we got back together in the studio I ( Agnetha) had no idea what to expect…But Benny’s recording studio is such a friendly and safe environment, and before I knew it I was really enjoying myself! I can hardly believe that finally, the moment has come to share this with the world!”

“They’re such amazing singers those two, I ( Björn) was completely floored by the way they delivered those songs. They’re true musicians; totally unimpressed by pop star glamour but still having a great time being creative in a recording studio. The “Voyage” project has injected new life into us in more ways than one.”

“So, again, thanks for waiting! We hope to see you in the “ABBA Arena” and yes – see – because we have infused a good deal of our souls into those avatars. It’s not an exaggeration to say that we’re back.”

Agnetha, Björn, Benny, Anni-Frid

Stockholm, Sweden, 2nd September 2021

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AV Magazine

Inside the production of ABBA’s holographic pop residency

By Guy Campos in Live Events , Production , UK&I May 31, 2022 0

The Swedish pop royalty spent five weeks in a motion-capture studio operated by George Lucas’ company Industrial Light & Magic (ILM) to produce their ABBA-tars

AbbaVoyage-620x330-1.png

Swedish pop royalty ABBA spent five weeks in a film studio wearing figure-hugging motion capture suits during the development of a London holographic concert residency which opened last week.

The performers worked with George Lucas’ special effects company Industrial Light & Magic (ILM), which is known for its work on movies such as  Star Wars and Lord of the Rings.

Some 160 cameras scanned their bodies, recording every movement and facial expression, to develop the avatars which drive the live show. Body doubles were also used to give the ageing band members, now in their seventies, more youthful movements.

#ABBAVoyage , a concert like no other, is finally here! pic.twitter.com/EUfxMKIDIn — ABBA Voyage (@ABBAVoyage) May 27, 2022

According to a detailed profile of the production process in Billboard magazine , m ore than 1,000 visual-effects artists and one billion computing hours went into the making of the performers' "ABBA-tars". These ABBA-tars appear on huge 65-million-pixel screens, pictured life size on stage and in photo-realistic close-ups.

The ABBA Voyage show takes place in a purpose-built, 3,000-capacity ABBA Arena in East London, that uses 20 lighting rigs and more than 500 moving lights. The venue houses 291 speakers and has LED lights spelling out the band's name on its outer skin. It also provides space for a ten-piece live band which accompanies the recordings of Agnetha and Frida’s voices, Bjorn’s guitar and Benny’s piano.

Last week's premiere of the show was attended by all four ABBA musicians together with King Carl XVI Gustaf and Queen Silvia of Sweden and celebrities including Kylie Minogue, Zara Larsson, Jarvis Cocker, Kate Moss and Keira Knightley.

According to Billboard magazine, the magic of the otherwise stunning premiere show was broken only fleetingly when the avatars addressed the audience and their pre-recorded words were drowned out by the crowd, with no delay taking place to milk the applause of the audience as would happen with live pop stars.

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Brit Beat: ‘ABBA Voyage’ Looks to Extend Residency (and Turn a Profit) After Initial London Success

By Mark Sutherland

Mark Sutherland

  • Brit Beat: Bring Me the Horizon’s Manager Talks Band’s Surprise Return and Supersized Streaming Success 3 days ago
  • Bruce Springsteen, Paul McCartney, Lana Del Rey Star at U.K.’s Ivor Novello Awards 2 weeks ago
  • Brit Beat: Manchester, So Much to Answer for? New Arena Launch Stymied by Delays 1 month ago

ABBA

Money money money… As ABBA once pointed out, it’s a rich man’s world. But even after the runaway success of the “ABBA Voyage” digital live experience in London, producers say it has yet to recoup the extraordinary investment needed to put on the show.

“No, we haven’t broken even,” says producer Svana Gisla. “I don’t even know if we’re halfway to breaking even! The audacity of how much this show costs – it was all a bit mad. But we will get there…”

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Despite ABBA’s massive financial investment and the band’s pan-generational fanbase, the team tell Variety that launching the show still carried a huge element of risk. “I’m so proud of all of us for having pulled it off,” says Gisla.

However, they have an even bigger plan – the trio are quietly contemplating expanding the show. The potential to update the show is being explored, while there have been rumors of possible openings in Las Vegas and elsewhere. Earlier this year, Universal Music Group CEO Lucian Grainge told his company’s earnings call that “Plans are now in development to take ‘ABBA Voyage’ around the world,” but Andersson notes it’s not quite that simple.

Gisla adds that the cost of the show remains a hurdle for many locations. “Everyone’s interested until you put the budget in front of them and say, ‘How about that?’” she laughs. “You can’t just pop up in some theater in Vegas, put some lights up and put digital ABBA on stage.”

The team explains the expense is also likely to deter most other artists from developing a similar experience. “People have been in touch, but you’ve got to be a band of a certain stature to even contemplate it,” says Walsh. “Luckily, ABBA are that creatively curious that they wanted to go ahead despite the enormous expense.”

“We haven’t really invented anything,” adds Andersson. “We just did a thing – and it turned out to be a beautiful thing. But there’s no blueprint here that you can take and go, ‘Ok, let’s just do this with another artist’. If you think of it like that, my advice would be that that’s a terrible idea.”

Gisla says the members of ABBA often attend the show incognito and are rarely recognized. But despite the success of Agnetha Fältskog, Björn Ulvaeus, Benny Andersson and Anni-Frid Lyngstad’s digital versions, Baillie Walsh says he can’t see avatar shows ever rivaling traditional touring.

“People are always going to want to play live,” he says. “We’ve proved you can get emotion from the audience with avatars – that’s amazing and wonderful. But live music’s never going to stop.” +++++++++++++++++++++++

Reading and Leeds Festival organizers must have wished they could book a few digital avatars to play their legendary stages in recent years. After last year’s late dropouts from Rage Against the Machine, Måneskin and Jack Harlow, 2023 saw Lewis Capaldi withdraw to focus on his mental and physical health, while Trippie Redd dropped out at the last minute due to illness.

For the second year running, Festival Republic managing director Melvin Benn turned to The 1975 – the Red Adairs of Reading & Leeds – as replacement headliners, again paying “a huge amount of money” to get them to step in.

“They wanted to do it to show love to Lewis Capaldi,” Benn tells Variety . “It’s good that [Capaldi] is not playing for his health – as much as it’s a loss to us, it’s the right thing; until he’s well enough he shouldn’t be playing. But there will be a day when he’ll come back and we can’t wait for that day.”

Benn reports that weekend tickets moved more slowly this year than last (which he had called the festival’s “best year ever”), but the event finally sold out on the weekend it was staged. But he does not think the U.K.’s massive summer of stadium shows from the likes of Blur, Arctic Monkeys, the Weeknd, Harry Styles and many more had a significant impact on sales.

The 2022 festival was hit by some Sunday night trouble on the campsites – which Benn blames on “copycats” who had watched the Woodstock ’99 documentary, “Trainwreck,” a big hit on Netflix at the time. Campfires were banned this year, with no subsequent reports of major incidents.

Reading and Leeds have become a “rite of passage” for British teenagers, with thousands heading straight to the festivals after receiving their GCSE results. The youthful audience means the events have moved away from their traditional rock-heavy line-ups in recent years, although the upper echelons of this year’s bill featured the guitar-toting likes of the Killers, Sam Fender, Foals and Imagine Dragons (Billie Eilish was the sole female headliner this year, something Benn says he hopes to improve upon in 2024).

Further changes are also on the way. “There will be a shift change next year,” Benn adds. “I’m not publicizing what it is yet, but there’s a musical shift change among young people and Reading/Leeds always has to reflect that and maintain its relevance. Musically, it’s never stood still – and it doesn’t intend to.”

+++++++++++++++++++++

Meanwhile, the U.K. music industry is hoping the launch of a new, northern version of the famous BRIT School will help produce the next generation of British festival headliners.

Trade body the BPI had its proposal for a “BRIT School North” in Bradford – which will be the U.K. City of Culture in 2025 – approved by the government and is now working towards a launch in 2026 or 2027. The bid was a collaboration with the three major record companies as well as the East London Arts & Music (ELAM) school and the London Screen Academy, with Universal, Sony and Warner all committing to contribute funding.

Since it opened in 1991, the O.G. BRIT School has had a remarkable track record in producing hit artists: the likes of Adele, Amy Winehouse, Leona Lewis and Spider-Man actor Tom Holland have all passed through its halls, while a quarter of this year’s nominees for the Mercury Music Prize with FREENOW attended the school.

And new BPI CEO Jo Twist hopes that the northern site will be every bit as successful as its southern counterpart.

“I have no doubt that we’re going to see some real stars, both in the performance space and the production space, coming out of this school,” Twist tells Variety . “We need a diverse set of young people coming into our industry, taking up all different kinds of roles.”

Twist says the Bradford school will “put an emphasis on talented young people from under-served backgrounds” and help young people pursue a creative arts career without having to move to London.

Twist started her BPI role in July, having joined from Ukie, the trade body for U.K. games and interactive entertainment. She has already been busy meeting people from across the U.K. music business and gaining insight into its many current challenges.

“There are lots of parallels with the video games industry,” she says. “An exchange of perspectives is always really healthy. It is challenging – and that’s exactly what I was looking for.”

Although one in every 10 songs streamed globally is by a British artist (per the British Phonographic Industry ), many local executives are concerned that the U.K.’s long history of punching above its weight musically is under threat, with a lack of recent global breakthroughs. But Twist says she is “confident we can maintain our place and do even better.”

“The investment that labels put into artists and the industry is brilliant,” she says. “The government has set a vision to grow the creative industries, support extra jobs, and help build a pipeline of talent for the future – and we are so well-placed as a sector to help fulfill and power that ambition. I’m looking forward to really getting stuck in.”

Elsewhere, another of the U.K.’s big trade bodies is looking for a new leader after the announcement that U.K. Music chief executive Jamie Njoku-Goodwin is to become Prime Minister Rishi Sunak’s new director of strategy.

Njoku-Goodwin seemed like a leftfield appointment for U.K. Music when he joined in 2020, having previously worked as a special adviser to the government. But he soon established himself in music circles and helped steer the industry through the effects of the pandemic. His contributions have been widely praised by the bosses of other U.K. trade bodies, including the BPI, AIM, the MMF and the Ivors Academy.

His leaving date has yet to be announced, but Variety understands it will be sooner rather than later, with the search for his successor beginning shortly.

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ABBA Voyage review: Camp, fun and low-energy… and not just because they’re holograms

George lucas’s production company have created digital versions of a younger abba that look scarily real, article bookmarked.

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A holographic Agnetha during ABBA Voyage, the iconic Swedish pop band’s new show

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Do you know what’s comforting? ABBA can open a multi-million-pound stage show full of fancy tech. They can create a purpose-built stadium. They can return to the stage as state-of-the-art avatar versions of their younger selves. And yet people will still respond as though they’re 12 gins deep at a wedding disco. On Thursday night, as the opening bars of each song began – the setlist had remained a surprise – all around me are elated cries of “OH! OHHH!!!” This, by the way, is a compliment. ABBA do something to people.

This is not to downplay what a ground-breaking venture this is. There’s a band of 10, a 20-song setlist, and strobes, beads, and domes of light submerge the crowd. It’s an incredible spectacle. Everything has clearly been done, at great expense, to inspire awe – so much so that it’s sometimes hard to know where to look. But what of the ABBAtars? Industrial Light & Magic, George Lucas’s production company, have created digital versions of a younger ABBA that look scarily real. When projected on bigger screens, they do admittedly have a touch of the video game character about them. My brain got a bit preoccupied with whether it could really be tricked into thinking I was at an ABBA concert. My conclusion: it’s better to think of this as an incredibly premium piece of theatre. It still looks like… the future.

The set-list is mostly crowd-pleasing: “Dancing Queen”, “SOS” and “Waterloo” are all here, with a restrained number of songs from the new album. The naff costumes have had a glow up from Dolce & Gabbana, and choreographer Wayne McGregor has helped to recreate the band’s original moves, which are endearingly low-energy. ABBA’s stage presence is docile, and I don’t think it’s just because they are holograms.

There are brief stretches of languor when the holograms disappear and a baffling anime film is played. Why did the holograms go away, I wonder – do they get tired? I suddenly start thinking about Klara and the Sun , Kazuo Ishiguro’s novel about robots who might have a soul. I decide it’s best not to think about it too much.

There are strangely intimate moments when each ABBAtar appears alone to talk to the crowd. In their younger bodies, they speak in their older voices – Anni-Frid paying tribute to her grandmother, Agnetha thanking fans for the years of support. It’s a reminder that this isn’t just a great technological leap, but something deeply personal for these four individuals. ABBA Voyage preserves their achievement as the world’s greatest pop band forever, and fans will be able to take leave of their senses to the chorus of “Gimme Gimme Gimme” for as long as they still want to.

Super troupers: ABBA should never have worked – but they became the goofy, glorious gift that keeps on giving

There is one specific moment that wins me over. I’m past the point of no return. The ABBAtars make a joke about a quick costume change, then re-emerge in velour jumpsuits, emblazoned with their own names in diamante (these would make a killing if sold in the shop) and perform “Mamma Mia”, complete with deeply uncool dance moves. It is camp. It is knowing. It is ludicrously fun.

ABBA reunited in holographic form

If I have a reservation, it’s that the show lacks emotional connection. After all, the ABBAtars don’t know we’re clapping or singing along; they can’t respond to the man who is practically keening at the end, yelling “More! Mooore!!” But, actually, it isn’t about that. The real alchemy here is happening all around you. It’s a concert where everyone knows the words to every song. It’s a gig where the person sat next to you is going to become your best friend. It’s a haven for endorphins, a safe space for people who want to dance badly and enthusiastically, and sing “Chiquita” at the top of their lungs. I am among my people.

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ABBA Voyage: How does it work?

Best of 2022: ABBA's reappearance on stage has garnered rave reviews. But how exactly do you convincingly put on a gig from a band that isn't there?

ABBA VOYAGE

Join us for our traditional look back at the stories and features that hit the spot in 2022

Best of 2022 : It’s incredible but true. ABBA's return to ‘live’ performance has been deemed a huge success by early critics and the whole unlikely (and costly, and years in the making) venture looks like it will be a success.

Just to stress at this point, the world of live shows and musical theatre is anything but a sure thing. High-profile productions are fraught with danger and for every smash hit that just ‘runs and runs’ there are many more costly and embarrassing failures . 

But ABBA’s team appear to have done the impossible - created a hi-tech ‘virtual show’ that pleases crowds but doesn’t actually feature the band themselves, and which has attracted raves from critics and early audiences alike.

And with ABBA not even in the building during the performance – apart from the debut press performance of course – it’s quite possible that this show could run for years. Decades… centuries even… long after the real artists have left us, setting a precedent for countless ‘virtual’ shows to come from artists both currently living and long since departed.

Does your mother know?

So how did they do it? Well, it’s very clever but at its heart pretty simple.

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Yes, there’s all the donning of ‘mocap’ suits to ensure that the virtual band moves like the real thing; yes, there’s all the thousands of hours animating realistic computer graphic ABBAtars etc. However, the real magic of ABBA Voyage is all about bringing it all into your eyes and ears to convince you that this is a real, live gig happening in front of you.

Abba Voyage Mo-cap suits

ABBA Voyage’s big ‘trick’ takes advantage of one of the unfortunate traits of today’s big gigs. No, not poor parking and overpriced hot dogs - we're talking about the fact that nobody actually looks at the tiny obscured figure on the stage, but instead spends the gig watching the huge jumbotron screens either side of it.

The smartest bit of the production – ABBA ‘actually on stage’ (which we’ll come to later) – is actually the one thing you’re most likely not looking at.

Thus – just like a real gig – for 90% of the time you're watching a pre-rendered Avatar-quality animated movie on huge screens in front of you. And off to the side. And behind the stage too.

ABBA

But what of that centre stage?

You might not know it (yet) but most of today’s big productions for movie and TV take advantage of a technique known as virtual production. This next-level movie magic not only looks better than ‘traditional’ green screening but is faster and easier too. And it’s disappointingly simple to pull off: you basically erect a huge LED screen and project a background onto it while your actors act in front of it. Then you film the lot in the same way that they’ve been making movies for a hundred plus years.

No messing about ‘cutting people out’ and placing them in amongst computer graphics... Just pre-render the whole background in Unreal Engine 5 (the go-to option for videogame graphics) and get your guys to act in front of it.

And – bonus – because the results are ‘in camera’ a little bit of movie magic happens. The results look like the actor is really there, with the background (even if the background is being played from a computer). Your brain no longer needs to glue two things together. They’re there. Already. For real.

ABBA’s Voyage takes this tech to the live arena. And, in the controlled environment of a pitch black, locked down arena tailor made for the event itself, it’s a fairly easy trick to pull off. You’re not looking at a stage. You’re looking at hundreds of square feet of LED walls.

I have a dream

The hardest bit is faking the band ‘on stage’ and it’s here that the show’s makers get away with it… but only just. 

On the screens to the side of the arena the members of ABBA are in full 3D. Cameras sweep past them. They can turn, pass in front of each other, have fully formed sides, backs, tops and [cough] bottoms. But on stage they are a flat 2D image on a 65-million pixel giant LCD.

Abba Voyage Abbatars

So the stage is wreathed in real spotlights and strobes but the lighting hitting the figures on stage – perfectly in sync with the real world photon bombardment around them – is simply part of the animation that’s being projected there.

It all looks so real, but would prove flat as a pancake if you were to get up close. Be under no illusion. These aren’t even hi-tech holograms (a tech still very much in its infancy and yet to blast off in any kind of convincing form).

But if ABBA aren’t really there, why not simply have a backing track supply the music too? Perhaps this is the most clever bit. The genius use of real live music helps blur the perception even further.

Thank you for the music

ABBA Voyage’s music is delivered by a live band of ten musicians currently deploying the services of ex-Klaxon turned indie popstar James Righton and on keyboards Victoria Hesketh, better known as electro pop’s Little Boots . 

We say ‘currently’ as – if this show runs for years to come (and there’s absolutely no technical, spiritual or physical reason for it not to) – like ABBA themselves, they might not fancy banging out Dancing Queen in their 70s.

The band are there on stage, off to one side, for perspective, and being as real and as live as any gig you’ve ever seen and this use of thus wobbly old real, live music – albeit tightly playing to strict backing tracks in lockstep with the graphics and lighting exploding all around the arena – just goes that extra step to blurring the edges of the experience.

It sounds live. It looks live. It’s… live? Yes, it is, really. Really good, real music, being played for real on a real stage with really accurately modelled 3D versions of real people. But from then on in, it’s all smoke, mirrors and giant LEDs.

Daniel Griffiths is a veteran journalist who has worked on some of the biggest entertainment, tech and home brands in the world. He's interviewed countless big names, and covered countless new releases in the fields of music, videogames, movies, tech, gadgets, home improvement, self build, interiors and garden design. He’s the ex-Editor of Future Music and ex-Group Editor-in-Chief of Electronic Musician, Guitarist, Guitar World, Computer Music and more. He renovates property and writes for MusicRadar.com.

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ABBA Voyage

Eagle & voulez vous.

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Enter the mesmerising world of ABBA Voyage.

Playing now at the ABBA Arena in London, an audience of 3000 fans gathers nearly every day to dance to the band’s beloved songs and watch the life-like avatars in an explosive and sensory ground-breaking live experience.

Directing trio Shynola were handpicked by the creators of the show to craft two short films for the tracks ‘Eagle’ and ‘Voulez-Vous’.

The beautifully kaleidoscopic and painterly animations chronicle the tale of Rora, a valiant hero on a quest to find the legend of ABBA. 

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Studio Wayne McGregor

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ABBA Voyage

abba voyage production company

ABBA Voyage 2022 Company ABBA Producers Svana Gisla and Ludvig Andersson Director Baillie Walsh Co-Executive Producer Johan Renck Motion Capture Industrial Light & Magic Choreography Wayne McGregor Premiere date and venue 27 May 2022, ABBA Arena, London, UK Dates

✮✮✮✮✮ 'A MEETING OF TECHNOLOGICAL MARVEL AND MUSICAL MAGIC... ABBA VOYAGE IS A FEAT OF TECHNOLOGICAL EXCELLENCE'

Mickey Jo Boucher - What's On Stage

Blurring the lines between the physical and digital, the magic of ABBA is brought to life using the latest in motion capture technology in ABBA Voyage . ABBA Voyage is a revolutionary concert from one of the biggest pop acts of all time featuring a setlist of ABBA’s biggest, most popular hits – each handpicked with great care by the band. Agnetha, Björn, Benny and Anni-Frid created the kind of concert they always wanted, performing for their fans at their very best: as digital versions of themselves backed by today’s finest musicians, choreographed by Wayne McGregor. "Imagine: growing up in the North of England in the 70’s and learning to ballroom, Latin and disco dance to the incredible songs of ABBA. I was 8 and I was totally transported. Fast forward to 2020, being in Sweden and dancing with ABBA — in real life! I was about to be 50 and I was totally transported again. That is the magic of ABBA. We have shared many creative and joyful adventures with a bold collaborative team to make the impossible possible for ABBA Voyage: technological wizardry, state of the art immersion and entertainment innovation. And still at its searing heart we simply have new songs, new moves, classic songs, classic moves: ABBA is DANCE and always will be. See you on the dancefloor!” — Wayne McGregor The digital versions of ABBA were created following weeks and months of motion-capture and performance techniques with the four band members and an 850-strong team from Industrial Light & Magic, the company founded by George Lucas. Images: Baillie Walsh / courtesy of ABBA Voyage.

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ABBA Voyage

45+ years | 500+ film and tv credits | 135+ awards.

abba voyage production company

ABBA Voyage is a revolutionary new concert that will see ABBA: Agnetha, Bjorn, Benny, and Anni-Frid, performing digitally with a live 10-piece band in a purpose-built 3,000 capacity arena at Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park in London from 27th May 2022.

ILM’s work on ABBA Voyage in creating the digital versions of ABBA has been overseen by Creative Director Ben Morris.

Let’s work together

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Industrial Light & Magic, ILM, The Bulb And Gear Design Logo, StageCraft and TechnoProps are all service marks of Lucasfilm Ltd. © & ™ Lucasfilm Ltd. All rights reserved.

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1993 how the construction company remstroy was created   the year 1993 was a period when a lot of construction companies, which had been working successfully during the soviet times and had rich staff capacity, were forced to cease their activity for various reasons. a lot of capable specialists either had to look for another job or change their field. but there were also those who were willing to realise their potential in the field of construction in accordance with the received degree and the experience they had accumulated. thus, in 1993 in elektrostal (moscow oblast) a group of specialists and people sharing each other’s ideas, who had enormous educational background and the highest degree in architecture, organized and registered ooo firm erg which began its rapid development and successful work, offering its service both on the construction market and other areas. 2000 industrial construction is the main area   seven years of successful work have shown that combining different types of activities in the same company is not always convenient. and in the year 2000 the founders of ooo firm erg decided to create and register a monoprofile construction company ooo remstroy construction company. industrial construction was chosen as the priority area. it was in this area that the directors of ooo sk remstroy began their working life and grew as specialists. in order to achieve the set goal, they selected a mobile team of professionals in the field of industrial construction, which allows us to cope with the tasks assigned to ooo sk remstroy throughout russia and the near abroad. 2010 manufacturing of metal structures   we possess modern equipment that allows us to carry out the entire cycle of works on the manufacture of metal structures of any complexity without assistance. designing – production – installation of metal structures. a staff of professionals and well-coordinated interaction of the departments let us carry out the work as soon as possible and in accordance with all customer’s requirements.” extract from the list of members of self-regulatory organizations, construction.

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Limited availability

Tickets selling fast. Check for returns.

Best availability on the Dance Floor

August 2024

September 2024.

Good availability across most performances

October 2024

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Ticket Information

Now booking until 5 January 2025, the ABBA Arena has plenty of ticket choices: have the time of your life on the dance floor, party in style in your own dance booth, or take in the atmosphere from our auditorium seating.

abba voyage production company

Dance Floor

These tickets are for standing or dancing. The area is general admission and is a great place to meet your group of friends as you are free to dance anywhere within the area.

abba voyage production company

Auditorium Seating

Choose from a wide variety of seats at a range of different prices. Pricing is based on the location of the seats, but in our purpose-built arena every seat is a good one. Please be aware that people around you may stand up and dance, we encourage those who want to dance to book the dancefloor.

abba voyage production company

Dance Booths

We have eight Dance Booths in total, with capacity for either 10 or 12 people. These are flexible spaces, so you can book an individual ticket, or a whole booth for your party. Each booth has seating, plus your very own dance floor and dedicated booth bar.

abba voyage production company

Accessible Seats

The ABBA Arena has plenty of wheelchair spaces, ambulant seats and seats suitable for a wheelchair user to transfer into. All of these seats and spaces must be booked in advance and are clearly marked on our seating plan.

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If you would like to book for 15 people or more, email: [email protected] .

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Package tickets with the best choice of hotel via our recommended package provider, Holiday Extras

Frequently Asked Questions

How much are tickets, and how many people can i come with.

  • Concert ticket prices start from £21.50 (plus a £2.95 Ticketmaster handling fee per transaction) and there are plenty of ticket types to choose from. Take a look at our   tickets page for more information or check out   Ticketmaster   for more information on prices.
  • You’ll be able to book up to 14 tickets at a time for the main auditorium and Dance Floor and up to 44 tickets in the Dance Booths.

Where can I find my tickets?

For ABBA Voyage, we’re offering an e-ticketing system. This means you’ll only be able to access your tickets through your Ticketmaster account, or the app, using a smartphone – they won’t be emailed to you or available for print.

If you can’t see them straightaway, don’t worry this is just one of the security features. They should appear in your account around 5 days before the concert.

For more questions about your tickets, please get in touch with Ticketmaster.

Can I have an exchange or refund? 

Unfortunately, Ticketmaster don’t offer exchanges or refunds, but they can help you sell your ticket to another fan. Please get in touch with them  here .

Can I only buy tickets from official ticketing partners? 

The simple answer is yes. We reserve the right to refuse entry to guests with tickets purchased from re-sale websites. Tickets purchased via our official partners must not be sold or advertised for sale anywhere else. Any ticket advertised for sale in this way will be automatically void.

Can I pay for my tickets in instalments?

Yes – for this concert you can pay in instalments using Klarna or PayPal.

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COMMENTS

  1. ABBA Voyage

    ABBA Voyage is a virtual concert residency by the Swedish pop group ABBA. The concerts feature virtual avatars (dubbed 'ABBAtars'), ... Two Pophouse executives, Michael Bolingbroke and Per Sundin, both serve in leadership positions of the production company behind the show.

  2. ABBA Voyage's creators on how it was made

    Producers, the director and choreographer reveal what went into the ambitious new show. By Andrew Trendell. 28th May 2022. The team behind the creation of the new ABBA Voyage live experience have ...

  3. ABBA Voyage Official Website

    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 ...

  4. The Making of ABBA Voyage, According to the Mastermind Behind It

    ABBA Voyage, which embarks seven times a week, including matinees, from the purpose-built, 3,000-capacity, spaceship-like ABBA Arena in Stratford, east London, opened in May to reviews that might ...

  5. Pophouse Entertainment, the company behind ABBA Voyage, makes six new

    The company was founded in 2014 by EQT founder Conni Jonsson and f ounding ABBA member Björn Ulvaeus. The company is led by former Universal Music Sweden Managing Director Per Sundin . Aside from its investment in the ABBA Voyage concert experience, and the upcoming KISS Avatar show, Pophouse also has investments in the likes of Snafu Records ...

  6. ABBA Voyage

    ABBA Voyage. It's been a while since we made music together. Almost 40 years, actually. We took a break in the spring of 1982 and now we've decided it's time to end it. They say it's foolhardy to wait more than 40 years between albums, so we've recorded a follow-up to "The Visitors".

  7. Inside the production of ABBA's holographic pop residency

    — ABBA Voyage (@ABBAVoyage) May 27, 2022. According to a detailed profile of the production process in Billboard magazine, m ore than 1,000 visual-effects artists and one billion computing hours went into the making of the performers' "ABBA-tars". These ABBA-tars appear on huge 65-million-pixel screens, pictured life size on stage and in ...

  8. ABBA Voyage: The team behind it tell us how the show was made

    At the premiere of the new ABBA Voyage show in London, producer Svana Gisla, director Baillie Walsh, choreographer Wayne McGregor and co-executive producer J...

  9. ABBA's Benny Andersson Talks Live 'Voyage' Ticket Sales, Production

    ABBA's Live 'Voyage' Show Is Doing Big Numbers in London: 'We've Sold 380,000 Tickets,' Benny Andersson Reveals. By Fred Bronson. ABBA Voyage. The first news about a virtual ABBA show ...

  10. Hero Band

    On-site Merch. ABBA Voyage merchandise is available on site, both inside the ABBA Arena and at our shop at Pudding Mill Lane station. Discover the Heroes of ABBA Voyage: our 10-piece live band. They play live throughout the concert, alongside the ABBA avatars. It's an experience like no other.

  11. The Origins of the "ABBA Voyage" Virtual Concert

    The production showcases four "ABBA-tars," digital renditions of the real foursome as they looked in their 70s heyday. ABBA co-founder Björn Ulvaeus joins the show from Stockholm. Aired: 06/13/22

  12. 'ABBA Voyage' Looks to Extend Residency (and Turn a Profit)

    As ABBA once pointed out, it's a rich man's world. But even after the runaway success of the "ABBA Voyage" digital live experience in London, producers say it has yet to recoup the ...

  13. ABBA Voyage is camp and low-energy… and not just because they're

    ABBA Voyage review: Camp, fun and low-energy… and not just because they're holograms George Lucas's production company have created digital versions of a younger ABBA that look scarily real ...

  14. ABBA Voyage: How does it work?

    ABBA Voyage's music is delivered by a live band of ten musicians currently deploying the services of ex-Klaxon turned indie popstar James Righton and on keyboards Victoria Hesketh, better known as electro pop's Little Boots . We say 'currently' as - if this show runs for years to come (and there's absolutely no technical, spiritual ...

  15. Eagle & Voulez Vous

    Enter the mesmerising world of ABBA Voyage. Playing now at the ABBA Arena in London, an audience of 3000 fans gathers nearly every day to dance to the band's beloved songs and watch the life-like avatars in an explosive and sensory ground-breaking live experience. Directing trio Shynola were handpicked by the creators of the show…

  16. ABBA Voyage

    ABBA Voyage. ABBA Voyage 2022 Company ABBA Producers Svana Gisla and Ludvig Andersson Director Baillie Walsh Co-Executive Producer Johan Renck Motion Capture Industrial Light & Magic Choreography Wayne McGregor Premiere date and venue 27 May 2022, ABBA Arena, London, UK Dates. 'A MEETING OF TECHNOLOGICAL MARVEL AND MUSICAL MAGIC...

  17. ABBA Voyage

    ABBA Voyage. ABBA Voyage is a revolutionary new concert that will see ABBA: Agnetha, Bjorn, Benny, and Anni-Frid, performing digitally with a live 10-piece band in a purpose-built 3,000 capacity arena at Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park in London from 27th May 2022. ILM's work on ABBA Voyage in creating the digital versions of ABBA has been ...

  18. The Concert

    The arena opens at the following times ahead of each concert: REGULAR SCHEDULE Monday - 6pm Thursday - 6pm Friday - 6pm Saturday - 1pm and 6pm Sunday - 11:15am and 4:15pm. Please arrive an hour in advance of your concert start time to allow for ticket and security checks and any travel disruption on the day. The concert begins promptly at the time as advertised on your ticket*

  19. Mercatus Nova Co., Elektrostal, Moscow Oblast, Russia

    U.S. Customs records organized by company 164 U.S. shipments available for Mercatus Nova Co., updated weekly since 2007. Date Supplier Customer Details 43 more fields ... Voyage Number. R2209 . Bill of Lading Number. ARRJSPPH09220015 . Lloyd's Code. 9235983 . HTS Codes. HTS 9403.60

  20. OOO Remstroy Construction Company

    2000. Seven years of successful work have shown that combining different types of activities in the same company is not always convenient. And in the year 2000 the founders of OOO Firm ERG decided to create and register a monoprofile construction company OOO Remstroy Construction Company. Industrial construction was chosen as the priority area.

  21. Ticket Info

    Ticket Information. Now booking until 5 January 2025, the ABBA Arena has plenty of ticket choices: have the time of your life on the dance floor, party in style in your own dance booth, or take in the atmosphere from our auditorium seating.

  22. Geographic coordinates of Elektrostal, Moscow Oblast, Russia

    Geographic coordinates of Elektrostal, Moscow Oblast, Russia in WGS 84 coordinate system which is a standard in cartography, geodesy, and navigation, including Global Positioning System (GPS). Latitude of Elektrostal, longitude of Elektrostal, elevation above sea level of Elektrostal.

  23. Moscow Oblast

    Moscow Oblast (Russian: Московская область, romanized: Moskovskaya oblast, IPA: [mɐˈskofskəjə ˈobləsʲtʲ], informally known as Подмосковье, Podmoskovye, IPA: [pədmɐˈskovʲjə]) is a federal subject of Russia (an oblast).With a population of 8,524,665 (2021 Census) living in an area of 44,300 square kilometers (17,100 sq mi), it is one of the most densely ...