The ABBA Voyage digital concerts live band spoke to NME on the experience of recreating the magic of pop legends, and how long they plan to play. Watch our video interview with some of the band members above.
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Premiering earlier this week at the purpose-built ABBA Arena in Stratford, east London, to a rave response from fans, the ambitious production sees a ‘digital’ version of ABBA (or ‘ABBAtars’) perform alongside a 10-piece band (put together with the help of James Righton of Klaxons).
Talk to NME on the red carpet before the performance, guitarist Dom John said they were “buzzing, locked in and ready”.
John remembers the first time he met ABBA during rehearsals – when he looked up to find Björn Ulvaeus and Benny Andersson watching him perform.
“We played one of their songs, and I was playing both guitar parts, and then I looked up and realized Benny and Bjorn were standing right in front of me!” he said. “They just looked at each other and said, ‘Ah maybe we don’t need two guitars’ – then walked off without saying hello or anything.”
As for the visual aspect of the show, John echoed the idea that it’s not something that hasn’t been seen on stage before. “These aren’t holograms, they’re old technology!” he said. “It’s ABBA Voyage, it’s the future!”
When asked how long he expected to perform as part of the show, he replied, “Several years, maybe. We will see!”
Sarah Burrell, on keyboards and synth, remembers getting the call to join the band.
“It felt like a bit of a dream, really,” she said. We couldn’t tell if it was real.
“We rehearsed a lot together, so we really have the opportunity to tackle each other’s game and atmosphere. We have so much fun up there. It was nerve-wracking playing keyboards in front of Benny, that’s for sure.
As for how long she hoped to play with the house band, she added, “We’ll see. Are there worse bands to play for?
Percussionist Tuca Milan agreed that being offered the “dream job” of being part of house band ABBA Voyage was “the best day of my life”, hailing the band as “the classic of the classic”.
“There’s a vibe,” she said of the chemistry between the players. “They must have really amazing eyes and ears to have captured each of us. We are very happy to work together. It was amazing to see how Benny works and how he guides us”.
As for what to expect from the visual element of the show, she said, “What a great journey. Get ready for the most incredible sight and sound journey of your life. It’s an experience.
Talk to NME last year, former Horn James Righton spoke about the challenge of selecting house band members.
“I had to go through my mental memory of musicians I’d played with or known,” Righton said. NME. “I’ve been making music and being involved in it for a while now, so I know a lot of musicians who could play this music. I had to broadcast the antennas very tentatively and confidentially for people who would be willing to be part of the ABBA group.
Asked what it took to make the cut, Righton replied, “Not only do you need to be an amazing musician and professional, but you also need feel, character and groove. It’s really important to find a group of personalities and people who have style. When you look at ABBA footage from the 70s, it was still brilliant and had amazing players – like you’re going to see LCD Soundsystem now, for example.
He continued, “It was challenging, but fun. I don’t care as a fan of their band. If I was to be part of it, I wanted to do it right. This group had to be as good as the original line-up.
Little Boots was also due to be part of the group, but he missed a number of opening shows for now after having a baby. “Amazing opening night at Abba Voyage for Mom’s first night out,” she wrote on Instagram after attending the premiere. “So happy to support my amazing band family who absolutely broke it.
“I can’t wait to be up there to share the stage with you very soon! So proud to be part of this groundbreaking project that will bring so much joy to so many people. GO SEE THIS SHOW (preferably when I’m in maternity leave) it will change your life.
NME also spoke to the show’s producers, director and choreographer about how it all came together. Asked about the duration of ABBA Voyage, producer Svana Gisla replied: “I don’t want to jinx it, but if it’s a success, we can stay here for a few years. We are on borrowed ground, we have not dug ground, the arena is mobile and we can pack up and leave when we are no longer wanted.
“I hope the public wants us to stay a while, because we feel like we’ve done something really special.
And could this be the last time we see ABBA now?
“I think that’s the last thing,” Gisla replied. “They are completely sincere in this, but they have already said it. I think that’s it. It took a lot to do and it was hard work, on our part and on their part.
The four ABBA members also spoke with NME on the red carpet, telling us about the reunion experience and what might be on the horizon for the group.
When asked if the concert was a parting gift from the band, Björn Ulvaeus replied: “I think that’s it. It’s sad to say but then again, you can always go back, right? So the answer is, it could be yes, it could be no.
Meanwhile, Benny Andersson joked, “That’s what you’ll see, that’s what you’ll get. Then we will go home and sleep.
In a five-star review from ABBA Voyage, NME concluded, “Aging rockers and poppers are sure to emulate the idea, but it will be hard to come close to the ABBA Voyage experience. For our part, we welcome our new lords ABBAtar, if only for returning these songs to us in a totally new and joyful way.
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