‘I danced, sang, cried’
The Abba Voyage concert is stunning. I danced, sang, cried and stood in jaw-dropping awe at the theater. It is truly an immersion of human emotion with hi-tech that I have never seen before. Bravo to the band members, co-producers Svana Gisla and Ludvig Andersson, as well as the entire team of singers, technicians and other folks. Like millions all over the globe, I enjoyed dancing and singing to their tunes while growing up in Trinidad. As an adult, important celebrations with family and friends always feature their music. The Voyage album was the glue that held me together when my mum and dad died last year, months apart. Sophia Nadur, London
‘The technology is outstanding’
I was blown away by the Abba Voyage show on Thursday night. Beforehand, I wasn’t sure what to expect: whether it would feel weird, what kind of Abba listener it might cater for, or how good the technology would be. Safe to say, the technology is outstanding, especially the facial movements and expressions of the female avatars. The use of lighting effects was perfect. I was glad to be able to see it with around 1,200 members of the Official International Abba fan club. It did feel like a show to say thank you to the fans who had been waiting 40 years for this moment. Seeing the real four Abba members on stage at the end, with Agnetha blowing kisses towards us, was very emotional. The songs performed were very interesting. The set list is approachable and enjoyable for anyone and everyone, regardless of how well you know Abba’s catalog. I was born in 1988, so never had the chance to see Abba perform together. Whereas now I can just hop across to the other side of London and see them whenever, to say thank you for the music. Shanika Ranasinghe, 33, PhD student, London
‘I just lost the plot’
I was born the year after Abba won the Eurovision song contest, so I’ve been obsessed with them since I was a toddler. Abba is a massive part of my life. Because of Abba, I’ve been to Sweden loads and now speak a little Swedish and have loads of Swedish friends. Seeing them was like a dream come true.
My favorite song of all time is The Winner Takes It All, which is based on the divorce between Agnetha and Björn. It’s been my favorite since I was a little kid. But as the performance went on, it was getting closer and closer to the end, and I began to resign myself to the fact that they weren’t going to do it. And then the avatars came back on and did it as an encore. I just lost the plot.
You’re in this purpose-built arena, with huge 10-meter-high screens which pan round on either side. You know they’re not real, but it’s so detailed. It’s not just like they’re playing the records and there are these images on stage. They’ve got a full 10-piece live band, the guy from the Klaxons as the musical director, and you can hear the live music and the vocals on top of that. There is an emotional connection between the audience and the screen.
I was dancing like you wouldn’t believe. All four actual real-life members walked on to the stage at the end. They didn’t say anything, but they bowed and they waved for the crowd and blew kisses and the whole place erupted with mobile phones taking pictures. It’s such an immersive experience. Here’s your favorite band, playing your favorite songs and you’re in the room dancing like no one’s watching. I’ve been to so many gigs in my life and I can’t describe any other that made me feel like this. I’ve already got four more dates planned to go and see it as a plus-one of various friends. Neal Wickens, 47, company director
‘I’m glad I went, but you can’t beat the real thing’
Yes, the arena is beautiful, the visual technology is amazing and the live band is excellent. The first three songs were superb and I was very excited by the show. However, the songs with screen footage alone are a bit of a cop-out. And once you’ve seen the backing vocalists belt out Does Your Mother Know, interacting with the musicians, you realise what’s missing. For me, Abba: the Movie, with all the live 1977 footage of them in their heyday in Australia, is far better. I’m glad I went but you just can’t beat the real thing. Adele Clark, Brighton
‘It felt like going back in time’
Abba are my earliest memory of music. Lying on the floor with my ears pressed hard against my parents’ speakers, I’d play record after record on their old Bang & Olufsen, reciting the lyrics from the sleeves. There was something so magical in their sound, like nothing I’d ever heard before, nor have heard since.
Because I was born in 1988, I’d always felt like I’d missed the bus. At the age of 10, I was discovering what every other Abba fan had enjoyed for around 20 years. If I could go back now and tell my tiny self what I’d witnessed at the Voyage show, I would have cried my little heart out in joy and disbelief.
The arena felt special, like you were going back in time. People inside started chanting, “We want Abba, we want Abba,” as if we’d been teleported back to one of their famous Wembley shows. From the minute the “Abbatars” appeared on stage, they were real, alive and preserved, as if 45 years I have not passed. I still can’t believe I attended such a historic event – my childhood heroes performing again after 40 years. I think it’ll take some time to sink in. Natalie Jesudason, 33, account manager, Leamington Spa
‘The best day of my life’
I’m a teacher and I just explained to one of my primary school classes that it was the best day of my life. When Abba last toured the UK, I was nine, and my parents told me we couldn’t afford it, that I was too young and I wouldn’t be able to see anything. They didn’t even try to get me tickets – and I never forgave them for that!
During the show, I broke away from my friends to be as close as possible to the stage when they came on. I ended up right at the front. I was quite happy to be on my own; I didn’t want my experience to be influenced by those around me. Also, it meant I could dance my heart out. The other fans around me told me that although they were watching the show, they loved watching my reactions because I was totally present in the moment.
I think most fans will honestly say they were nervous about the technology because there was no description of how it was going to be done. If you follow such an iconic band, you don’t want them creating something awful. Although they were avatars they were totally, believably realistic. When they came off stage, people were asking each other, “How was this possible?”
When the real band members came on stage, Agnetha and Anni-Frid were in tears. They were realizing that they’re closing the journey properly, in a happy way. I’d been waiting for that moment for my whole life. I’d go back every week if I could. I can finally forgive my parents because I’ve actually seen them now, in the flesh. Simon Finn, 51, primary school teacher, Brussels
‘I spent the first 15 minutes with my hand over my mouth’
My earliest memories of Abba were in the mid-1970s: Mamma Mia, Dancing Queen, that kind of thing. I went to see them live in 1979 at Wembley, when I was 12 years old. I used to collect a lot of Abba stuff when I was a child, so I have a huge collection. When I was about 16, I sent my picture off to the Abba magazine: it’s a little bit embarrassing.
I joined up with a group of fellow Abba fan friends from all over the world. We get together and just sort of nerd out. One person came from Australia, one came in from New Zealand, a couple from the Netherlands and four from America.
I went to the first four performances: the VIP night on the Thursday, the opening night on the Friday, and then twice again on the Saturday. I spent the first 15 minutes on the first couple of nights with my hand over my mouth, thinking, “What is it I’m actually looking at here? What actually is this? ”
You buy into it quite early on that it’s actually Abba there, although it’s not just the band on stage. There’s a whole lot of animation, too. Then you’ve got other numbers which are purely done with screens. They don’t just make you just stare at avatars throughout; they built a lot of variety into it. For me, the illusion never really dropped.
I have a daughter in England and a daughter in the US and we’re going to go see it together as a family in July. They like Abba a normal amount – not a crazy amount, like me – so I’m excited to see what their reaction will be. Mark Goodacre, professor of religious studies, Durham, North Carolina