ABBA VOYAGE – are avatars the future of concerts?
An arena built specifically for a next-level hologram show, years of planning, innovation, investments – to bring back what we all thought would be impossible… ABBA. Yes, I just HAD to go see it. If for no other reason, then for the sake of giving something new a fair chance.
I’ve just returned to my hotel after having experienced ABBA – The Voyage and the much talked about ABBA-tars. I’m left with two main impressions:
1. It’s an absolutely mind-blowing, amazing light/laser show and the holograms look so real when you see them a few feet away (I was on the floor in front of the stage). Someone could have told me that they were real and I might have been fooled to believe it. That is, until they appeared on the huge screens. That revealed the digital illusion because no matter how advanced the technology is, you can still tell when it’s a real person moving and when it’s a digital image. The digital images are way too smooth, which gives it away.
The sound is absolute perfection, the lights are amazing, and the avatars are a bit spooky because again – from the right angle your brain is trying to process what it’s actually watching. And there is a live band and singers on stage as well, but you almost forget about them because of all the grandiose other stuff that’s going on.
That being said… This brings me to my second main impression:
This is NOT a concert. It’s more like watching a movie. There is no actual INTERACTION. The magic of a real concert can never be replicated in any other form.
You can watch a show on YouTube or DVD, you can watch a streaming version of a gig, you can bring out avatars, holograms, whatever… but the ONE magic ingredient in a real, face-to-face concert, is INTERACTION. It’s when energy is being exchanged between artists and the crowd – and then ping-ponged back and forth for however long the concert lasts.
I’m talking about eye contact, smiles, winks, the element of surprise, the adoration from the crowd, the fuel that feeds any artist to want to do more, the “receipt” if you will, that he or she is doing something that means something to the fans. Or the fans who feel special if their object of adoration looks at, or in some way acknowledges them.
You simply can’t get that with holograms. There is no interaction whatsoever, it’s a one-sided communication and at times I felt weird applauding the performance because… who was it for? The abbatars can’t see it or hear it, so what is the point of clapping in that context?
Also… The digitalisation has created perfection that takes away from the original imperfections that we know and love. It’s been explained that all 4 members of ABBA created these moves in real life. Well if Frida is THAT agile at 76 years of age, that she can do those high kicks and bent knees-dancing, I’d rather see HER do that in person than the avatar. :D
Agnetha and Frida always had their own dancing style – that slightly awkward, uncoordinated and spontaneous dance, I mean, it was the seventies, and the visual wasn’t as important as it is now.
They would dance together but usually two different dances to fit whatever each of them felt like doing. NOW, they are two Lara Crofts with perfect bodies, perfect futuristic costumes, and wig-like hair that’s way too perfect – dancing like a mix between yoga queens and dancers…
Personally, that takes away their personalities and what made them unique, the reason why some loved the shy, mysterious Agnetha and some preferred the wild and extrovert Frida.
Another thing that felt strange is that Bjorn and Benny both had their instruments, whereas Frida and Agnetha didn’t have microphones in many of the numbers they performed. Just a silly detail, but it should be there to make it more “real”.
Intellectually I’d say that it was a fantastic show in every aspect if you look at it as an interactive performance rather than a concert. They can’t see you, they can’t look into your eyes and feel your energy, they are an illusion and they are not there – obviously.
I’m glad that I saw it, I was open to a new take on concerts and I understand the idea, or at least my interpretation of it.
Some say that they would rather see the real ABBA, but if we’re being honest, we live in a society that’s very shallow where we expect youth, beauty, and perfection. We want to see and hear ABBA the way they looked and sounded in their prime. If they had gone out as themselves there would have been whining about the imperfect voices live or something else.
I know, because in the past few months I’ve gone to Whitesnake’s Farewell tour gigs and a handful of Paul McCartney shows. Fans are complaining on Facebook, disappointed that their heroes can’t do what they used to do, vocally. There is no understanding at all for the voice as an instrument and how it’s affected by time and age. So, this was the right approach for ABBA and it’s a very bold step which I admire.
Will I want to see another hologram show in the future? Probably not. For me, it has to include the magic ingredient, the “Tinker Bell fairy dust” that is the energy between those on stage and those in the crowd. If they can make me believe that you can fake that too, I might reconsider, but for now – go see it for the sake of getting a new perspective on things – and after all, it’s quite a cool show, as long as you’re clear on what it’s all about. :)