by Devanshi ShahSep 27, 2021
A reunion four decades in the making - Swedish pop quartet ABBA have announced plans for a new album release and an accompanying digital concert experience, set to commence a term of residency in London from May 2022 onwards. Formed in 1972 in Stockholm, the group rose to fame after winning the 1974 Eurovision song contest, later going on to become one of the most commercially successful musical acts of all time - both in Sweden and worldwide, with one of the most decorated and acclaimed back catalogues seen till date.
The new album and concert tour, titled Voyage, will be their first release since 1981’s The Visitors, bringing the group’s music to a whole new generation of listeners. It will be bolstered by a virtual concert experience featuring the digital avatars of Agnetha Fältskog, Björn Ulvaeus, Benny Andersson, and Anni-Frid Lyngstad, backed by a host of illustrious musicians. The four members of the group share their thoughts on the announcement in a press release, stating, “Thank you for waiting - it’s time for a new journey to begin. We simply call it Voyage and we are 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.”
For the concert experience, which blurs the line between physical and virtual, ABBA worked closely with Industrial Light & Magic - a subdivision of Lucasfilm, now under the Walt Disney Company - to develop the visual effects that would restore the band to their physical primes in form of their digital ‘ABBA-tars’. Ben Morris, a Creative Director at Industrial Light & Magic, comments on the project in an official release, “People have often talked about whether you can create either people who have lived in the past, or people when they were younger, and we actually created ABBA in their prime from back in 1979 as digital characters.”
Morris continues, “We will then be using performance capture techniques to animate them and perform them and make them look perfectly real, and that starts first of all with the present-day ABBA. We did some performance capture on them and that’s formed the basis for the whole of the project, the backbone.” Ludvig Andersson, Producer of ABBA Voyage, expands on this statement, saying, “Agnetha, Frida, Benny and Björn got on a stage in front of 160 cameras, and almost as many VFX geniuses, and they performed every song in this show to perfection over five weeks, capturing every mannerism, every emotion, the soul of their beings. That becomes the great magic of this endeavour. When you see this show, it is neither a version, nor a copy, or even four people pretending to be ABBA. It is actually them.”
To host the concerts, British entertainment architects Stufish have unveiled a conceptual image of a 3,000-capacity arena to be built in mass timber at the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park in London. Structured along a hexagonal plan, the stadium design will be dismantlable and transportable, in order to reach future locations of the ABBA Voyage tour.
In addition, various spots across London - including the famous Battersea Power Station, played host to projections of banners and the digital avatars of the Swedish group, as part of the promotional campaigns accompanying the announcement. Ulvaeus and Andersson also attended a live event in the city, in support of the campaign. The album - featuring an artistic impression of a solar eclipse as the graphic design on its cover, is set to be released on November 5, 2021. Two new singles - I Still Have Faith in You and Don't Shut Me Down have already been revealed in the build-up.
“It’s hard to say what’s been the most joyful thing for me with this project. 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,” says Andersson in a press statement. In a similar vein, Lyngstad reflects on the group’s latest endeavour, mentioning that “those first sessions back in 2018 were such fun and when Benny called and asked if I’d consider singing some more, I jumped at it! I am so happy with what we have made, and I dearly hope our fans feel the same.” Ulvaeus echoes this sentiment, sharing, “The Voyage project has injected new life into us in more ways than one,” while Fältskog says, “I can hardly believe that finally, the moment has come to share this with the world!”
ABBA’s ‘Voyage’ concerts will run from May 27, 2022, following the accompanying album which will be released on November 5 on Universal Music. Visit here for tickets and more information