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. :)
On my way to the airport but a short one… It was pure Beatlemania at the O2 just about one-two hours ago, when Paul McCartney announced a guest… and then another guest… Those being Rolling Stones-guitarist Ronnie Wood and then – fellow Beatle Ringo Starr!
The crowd went absolutely nuts, the roar tore down the roof!
Gotta run but this is all you need to know – enjoy it!!
It was slightly different getting up in the morning only to transport myself from one side of town to another – from one situation to another. From the Metal God to a guitar-gig.
I was still in Kensington where I had spent most of my day at Sony Music’s office, listening to the new Judas Priest album and talking to “The Metal God” himself, Rob Halford. NOW, I was checking out from my fancy Kensington high street 4-star hotel, to take the tube over to Angel station (funny – the song “Angel” by Judas Priest was in my head the whole time…!)
It was pretty easy finding my new hotel. What I didn’t realize was that it was right down the street from the venue where the Marty/Gus-gig was taking place later that evening: O2 Academy Islington.
I always pick hotels that are as close to the venues as possible, but this had to be a record! It was literally maybe 20 steps from the back door of the venue…!
I found a familiar face, Andy, sitting outside in the sun just chilling. It was the calm before the storm. Chatted for a minute or two, then I left him to just enjoy the few minutes of peace he would have that day, and went over to my hotel to check in.
After an hour, I went back out again, thought I would find something to eat, but after a short stroll around the block, I couldn’t find anything that I was in the mood for, so I went back to the venue.
During the 30 minutes that followed, I managed to steal a few minutes from the busy crew guys and a few band members who had been out for a walk and were about to start load-in. :)
There were two fans outside the club with plastic bags full of records, and I was wondering if they were there for Marty or Gus. Turns out, neither. They were there for Mats. They had every single CD he’s ever sung on…! And there was……a LOT. :D
Jo came off the bus, looking slightly dazed. So, while the load-in was in progress, I went inside the O2 with Jo and Or. They went looking for the dressing room, while I decided to just find someplace to make myself invisible, stay out of the way and just be a “fly on the wall”. :D
During the hours in there, I watched two sound checks, by Marty Friedman and Gus G, a video shoot for Marty’s new video and a “lesson”/rehearsal thing with Herman Li from Dragonforce who was going to join the guys on stage later that evening.
[Marty shooting a video] I bumped into Marty out in the stairwell. He smiled: “Oh, hi! You take good pictures. I like your photos.” I figured he probably must have liked them, cause I’ve seen a few of his updates that included some of my pics. I’m glad he liked them. :)
It was crazy hot inside so I went outside and found Or (bassplayer for both bands) there too. When Jo came out he immediately went: “Let’s go get some food!”. Food was the keyword. I was starving! So off we went.
Found a Vietnamese restaurant nearby, the menu sounded good, prices reasonable. And best of all, free WiFi (was pretty much the first thing Jo asked for, haha!).
I don’t exactly remember what I ordered but it was spicy…! And then we couldn’t quite figure out the currency (three people from 3 different countries, with the wallets full of various mysterious currencies, not necessarily the kind that is accepted in that particular country…!).
When we got back to the venue, the doors had already opened and there were people standing at the barriers, so I took my place there too. Last gig, thought I’d get a few pics and vids.
The opening act, Primitai, was okay. Never heard of them before – but they were alright. I remember thinking they had a good drummer. He didn’t look like a “powerful drummer” but he hit pretty hard and I liked his style.
Next on stage – Gus G. It was the perfect ending to my Guitar Universe tour, cause if I compare the level of energy at the first show in Tampere, Finland, with this one in London, it was very clear how much the band had grown into a true unity and what they were able to deliver.
Jo Nunez, drummer extraordinaire, impressed me more than anyone on this tour, funny enough. He’s always been an impressive drummer, but now he’s a full-fledged showman and entertainer as well.
He’s up there killing his drums every night but he’s gone from being a quiet guy that was almost invisible on his first tour with Firewind, to this mohawk-adorned, cool madman that’s spinning drumsticks, throwing them up in the air, challenging the crowd to make more noise, standing up behind the drum set letting his presence be known… He’s probably one of the best acquirings Gus has made for his band. :)
All I can say is: Jo-sus Christ!
Same goes with the new aquaintance, the bass-master from Israel: Or Lubianiker. Make no mistake, maybe people will take him for a shy and quiet guy seeing him offstage, but once he’s up there, he’s definitely not making any excuses. Just like Jo, he was working double-shifts, playing for Gus and Marty on the whole tour, keeping a steady and reliable rythm section for both guitar heroes.
While I guess that most of the guys in the crowd were guitar-geeks, I’m sure that there were some pretty impressed bassists there as well, who were checking out Or’s dexterity and experiencing total bass Or-gasms… (yeah, pun intended. ;D).
Mats Levén is a given frontman, he certainy has the pedigree to prove it too. He’ll sing whatever you throw at him, and he will do it well.
And Gus G himself? What can I say- I’m running out of adjectives! He was in a good mood which led to a more intense communication with the crowd.
The ONLY thing I would want to see more of from Gus, is an Yngwie-style guitar-pick rain during his set, to “feed” the hungry guitarists in the front row.
Those dudes down there would kill their own mothers for one of his picks…! More of that, and I think the “guitar geeks ” would walk on pink clouds for DAYS.
Cause needless to say, there are mostly guys in the crowd. How do you get more girls to the shows? My suggestion, from a female point of view, would be simple: Bring the “hair-fan” next time, it’s gonna work (well, it’s always worked for Steve Vai)! ;)
Other than that, he plays like a god. Always. I liked the songs from his solo-album before the tour, but I’ve gotten new favorites as I’ve kept hearing them live over and over again. “Eyes wide open” for instance has been stuck in my head for days already!
Also, their rendition of Thin Lizzy‘s “Hollywood – (Down on your luck)” was really one of the best so far. There was a drive and an energy in the performance of that particular song in London, that was really contagious.
Then, after the change-over, Marty time! Like I’ve said before, he’s got a very natural stage personality and that combined with his material, which is a winning mix between melodic, heavy and “riffy” instrumentals, simply makes time FLY!
He and his “partner in crime”, Takayoshi Ohmura, are constantly interacting with the crowd, making sure every single person out there feels like a part of the show. It’s virtuosity in every sense of the word, but not in a boring, nerdy sort of way, it’s made accessible and enjoyable for all kinds of people (providing of course that you like music…).
Before I knew it, he was done and it was time for that one last song, that one last little surprise…. Which this time wasn’t only Gus as a special guest, but also Dragonforce’s Herman Li. Yet another fast shredder to add to the equation. Hold on to your hats, ladies and gentlemen, here we go!
After the show, I remembered that I was wearing high heels (I usually go to these gigs in sneakers cause I always have to walk a lot, but this time with my hotel being so close, I chose the heels instead). Those things were KILLING me after so many hours or standing and walking, so I figured I’d just go and say bye to the guys and then get a bit of sleep.
Flashed my laminate to the security guy and went to the backstage area.
My original idea was to wait at least 20-30 minutes so the guys could just get a break before people started barging into their dressing room, but when two guys just walked right in, I just went right along with them. What the hell, if nobody else thinks in my unfashionable “considerate” terms, then I’ll just go along with the crowd, lol! :)
It was slightly crowded back there, all kinds of people. Glad to finally have met Sharon from the management as well. She was actually the first person I was in touch with before that Relentless garage-gig in London years ago, and then I’ve seen her name online many times, but never actually met her. So that was nice. :)
Gus was stuck in this tiny production office with people walking in and out. I could only see a bit of his black Converse snakers and hear him back there somewhere – otherwise he was pretty much invisible.
When a handful of guests had left the backstage area I just stuck my head in and asked if I needed to take a number or something. :) It was kind of like in a dentist’s office. “Neeeext!”
He was talking to the guy who’s made Firewind’s cover-artwork and also for the latest solo-album. So as it turned out, the Firewind-symbol silver-pendant that I was wearing, had in fact originally been designed by him.
Pretty cool, you rarely ever meet those people. As always after a show, people just scatter all over the place so I never got to say bye to any of the crew guys, Jo had left to take a shower but it took a while so I just decided to call it a night and leave the area.
It’s been different, but good and I hope there will be more touring soon.
Reflections on coming home: Welcome to Tour Twilight Zone
The Guitar Universe Tour 2014, with Marty Friedman and Gus G ended in Nuneaton two days ago. My last destination on that tour was London, the day before.
It hasn’t even been as intense for me this time as it was two years ago when I did one date after another for two weeks in a row. This time, I chose to pick a few shows here and there. But now that it’s over – there’s an empty feeling.
It’s ALWAYS like that. It sounds strange, I’m sure, cause this is something that you hear from the musicians usually. That it’s a weird feeling coming home after being out for weeks. But it’s the same for me.
The only difference is that I choose other ways of transportation and I’m on the OTHER side of the stage (as opposed to being ON it) but other than that, I’d say that my reality is pretty similar to theirs.
And I often feel that my life is divided in different realities. A total Twilight Zone.
There is what I think of as my REAL life – which is the music. Just all the situations where I’m in an environment where there are musicians, fans, crews….Simply people who share a passion for music. THAT is my home and my true reality, the place where I belong.
Then, there’s that other reality, the life we all have to live, surrounded by people who don’t understand this at all. And I suddenly feel like a stranger.
When I came back to Copenhagen and Malmo after the London “Metal God trip”, people asked me who I went to see. And I was still like an enthusiastic teenager wanting to share that amazing feeling of having met Rob Halford again (doesn’t matter it’s been many times, EVERY time is special to me).
But that enthusiasm just dies instantly when somebody goes: “Oh okay. Well, I don’t know who that IS but I’m sure you had a good time.” It’s not their fault, they want to hear about my trip and they are genuinely curious, but it always reminds me that there are places where I feel right at home, and there are places where I feel like an alien sometimes.
When I come back from a tour, my head is spinning, it’s filled with memories, I’m processing all the faces, places, feelings, experiences… It just makes me feel so alive…!
And it’s not even necessarily the musicians that I remember the most, it can be anything or anyone. I remember specific faces/people that left an impression, maybe at the front desk in some hotel, or maybe a cool cab driver, or someone I met outside the venue or whatever…. So many different people, different countries, yet so similar.
It just makes me more aware of my own place in this world. It gives me the right perspective on life.
Music is what’s running through my veins, I couldn’t live without it. So, for me, staying at home is like taking away my oxygen.
A friend of mine asked me a while ago, how I could even keep up with the constant travelling and then going straight back to work after landing at the airport, only to go work late and go back to being “a slave to the grind”. Don’t you get tired?
The thing is, I would get tired if I WASN’T doing this. :) This is my energy, my passion, my love in life. I would be extremely unhappy if my life was spent in front of a TV watching other people live their lives. I want to live my OWN – my way. And this is it.
Next up is Sweden Rock Festival – my second home. It even helped me getting through the shock and the grief after losing my father last year. As weird as it was at first, to be there so soon after his passing, it was the only right place to be, and it really gave me the comfort I needed.
After that, Rob Zombie in Rome, Italy. I had been looking forward to seeing Megadeth as well, as those two bands were touring together but they just cancelled all their June-dates so I don’t know who’s filling in.
Either way, I can’t wait.
Being back from a tour is good for five minutes, cause I get to catch up on my sleep and with my friends. But it also feels empty somehow. I’m not into being “static”. I hope that some band or artist that I like, announces a tour soon so I can start planning. Life is just way too short to be doing nothing…!
New post coming up, from the Guitar Universe gig in London!