All four members of Abba appeared on stage – in real life – at the opening night of their highly-anticipated Voyage live show. The concert features digital ‘Abba-tars’ of the band performing songs from their back catalogue with a live 10-piece band, but the Swedish quartet delighted the audience by taking a curtain call in person.
The show saw the digital band deliver a hit-filled set featuring tracks such as Knowing Me, Knowing You, Fernando and Mamma Mia while the real-life Abba watched on from the stands, the PA news agency reports. In a nod to the venue’s east London location, Andersson’s “Abba-tar” kicked off a rendition of their song SOS by playing the EastEnders theme at the piano.
And during Chiquitita, the band played against a backdrop of a giant sun that was slowly eclipsed. Numerous outfit changes saw the band don sparkly dresses and cowboy boots, denim jumpsuits and futuristic space suits featuring neon detailing.
During their version of Waterloo, Ulvaeus jokingly recalled how the UK jury awarded them zero points at the Eurovision Song Contest in 1974. The band closed with The Winner Takes It All before the real-life Abba took to the stage, flanked by the show’s director and producer, and embraced each other to loud cheers and applause.
The Swedish pop superstars – Bjorn Ulvaeus, Benny Andersson, Agnetha Faltskog and Anni-Frid Lyngstad – were last together in London in 1982 for an appearance on The Late Late Breakfast show hosted with Noel Edmonds. The king and queen of Sweden, Carl XVI Gustaf and Silvia, Kylie Minogue, Keira Knightley and London Mayor Sadiq Khan were among the star-studded guestlist on the night.
Speaking on the red carpet outside a purpose-built arena at the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park in east London, Faltskog said: “It’s amazing to see all the English fans.”
Lyngstad added she was most looking forward to seeing the band perform their hit Mamma Mia. Andersson admitted he expected himself to cry during the concert, saying: “Oh definitely, all the time.”
Speaking about why she had enjoyed the project so much, Lyngstad said: “I think the most exciting thing about this project was to come together as a group again after so many years not doing anything as a band together.”
Ulvaeus praised Abba’s British fans for their support throughout their career. On why they had chosen the UK for the project, he said: “The UK has always been close to our hearts and the Brits have always taken us to their heart, and also the infrastructure for a huge project like this is here in London – so many reasons.”
Asked whether this could be the start of a movement for other bands, he replied: “It could be, yes.”
The “Abba-tars” were created through months of motion-capture and performance techniques with the four band members and an 850-strong team from Industrial Light and Magic, the company founded by George Lucas, in its first foray into music. Abba were catapulted to worldwide success after winning Eurovision with Waterloo when the event was held in Brighton in 1974.
They have since sold more than 400 million albums and singles. The popular quartet parted ways after last performing together in 1982 following a successful 10-year stint.
In 2018 they announced they had recorded new material. The resulting album, also called Voyage, was finally released in November 2021 and has gone platinum in the UK.