July 23, 2024

ABBA Voyage, Pudding Mill Lane, Stratford, London

The gregarious bloke at the hand dryer told me this had been the third time he’d seen the concert, and he’d enjoyed it as much as the first.

But what was it we’d just participated in? Was it a concert? Or a Tv show?

At the end of the gig quite a few people thought fuck it and started filming stuff despite the fact we’d been told at the beginning, in a very friendly tone, that if we did, we’d get turfed out.

But from what I saw, holograms don’t make great YouTube videos, not at least on the phone of the guy stood next to me.

I’ve been in pubs where drunk guys rant at a TV, haranguing England players for a bad pass or something. Here we applauded and cheered the holograms as if they’d appreciate our feedback, as if we wanted to show our relief and disbelief, that we were finally getting to see ABBA. It’s a bit like a church full of people praying to God.

There was appreciation shown, but there wasn’t the kind of frenzy, either in the reception or the style of dancing, that I imagined a real band would induce.

Still the holograms held our attention. There was a real band to the left, also on stage, playing real instruments and singing. How much of what we heard was recorded, how much live performance from the band? Don’t know and for the most part no-one noticed the band.

Were the bodies of Agatha and her co-singer really based on footage of their bodies? They were lithe, beautiful, sexy and wrapped tight in sequins. But their bodies looked the same, as if they were based on a body double’s interpretation of a film of the singers’ moves.

At the beginning of the concert the silhouetted holograms emerged from the floor of the stage, almost as if they were coming out of space age pods buried in the ground. We knew they weren’t real,  but we’d paid enough to expect them to look real, and they did look very real, even if we knew and could kind of tell that they weren’t real.

Almost no-one there was old enough to vouch that the way the holograms moved was like they way ABBA really moved. Or that the atmosphere was the same. Each character stepped forward throughout the show and said a few words, though it was the authentic voice of the current day character talking through their younger looking hologram. Benny reminded us that the last show ABBA had done in London was around 76.

The holograms, the light show, the sound and music were mesmerising. I’d definitely recommend the dance standing area at the front,   I think the freedom to dance a little helped reinforce the illusion of actually being at a concert (as opposed to watching something on TV, which is what those who had paid for a seat further back in the concert hall might have experienced).

Whenever I think of ABBA I think of ageing LP covers belonging to my parents or the friends of my parents. I was too young to ever be into the band. I think of old family photographs when I was a toddler. But it does make me wonder what were they like live, back in the day?

And, nostalgia. To what lengths will it drive us and technology – but can it ever be fulfilled – and could we say that the more we try the more pathetic we are?




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