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EUROVISION

Sweden’s Eurovision trials cancel live tour amid rising Covid numbers

Swedish television's flagship programme, Melodifestivalen, will not tour the country in 2022.

Sweden's Eurovision trials cancel live tour amid rising Covid numbers
Melodifestivalen in pre-pandemic times. Photo: Jonas Ekströmer/TT

In a statement, Swedish public broadcaster SVT commented that the high spread of infection currently meant it “would not be defensible to travel the country with a large team”.

The TV spectacle was set to fill arenas in Gothenburg, Malmö, Linköping, Lidköping and Örnsköldsvik en route to the final in Friends Arena.

Instead the show will stay in Stockholm for its six-week duration, as 28 artists compete to represent Sweden in the 2022 Eurovision Song Contest. 

The venue in Stockholm is yet to be confirmed, with SVT looking at solutions that may allow a small audience. Under current regulations a maximum capacity of 500 people would apply. 

“The situation is how it is just now and we will do our best with the situation,” said Hanna Stjärne, CEO of SVT. “Melodifestivalen is a party for all of Sweden and we will do all we can to create an exciting TV show that spreads warmth and happiness when it is most needed.”

The first heat of Melodifestivalen’s six weeks of programming will be broadcast on SVT 1 at 8pm on Saturday, February 5th. 

In the weeks after Christmas, Sweden has seen record-high numbers of new Covid infections, with more than 25,000 daily cases confirmed on both Wednesday and Thursday this week. This prompted authorities to roll out a series of new restrictions and recommendations this week, including early closings for bars and restaurants, capping public events to 500 people, and urging adults to limit their close contacts.

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CULTURE

Swedish icons ABBA return for impressive virtual show

The four-members of Swedish supergroup ABBA made their first public appearance in 14 years to attend the premier of their virtual show in London. The musicians, fans and critics alike were delighted by the spectacle.

Swedish icons ABBA return for impressive virtual show

Glammed up in satin knickerbockers, sequins and platform boots, ABBA fans streamed into a concert hall in east London Friday for the opening night of “ABBA Voyage”, the Swedish supergroup’s digital avatar show.

Many had crossed continents and had bought tickets for multiple nights.

“I’ve been a fan since 1975,” said one woman, Roxanne Dixon, who wore sparkly “A” and “B” earrings, a gold-trimmed white satin tunic and gold boots.

“I came from Australia just for this.”

“We came all the way from America and it was worth it,” said Caleb Graham, 33, from Florida, he and his partner wearing matching black ABBA T-shirts.

The concert show at a purpose-built 3,000-seat theatre features digital avatars, or “ABBAtars” performing hits from the 1970s and 1980s as well as songs released last year, when the septuagenarian former bandmates announced they had reunited to record a new album.

After an invitation-only premiere Thursday — attended by Sweden’s King Carl XVI Gustaf and Queen Silvia — Friday was the first chance for ordinary fans to experience the hi-tech show.

Ages varied from children to people old enough to remember ABBA first time round.

“I just think it’s incredible how, you know, ABBA draws people of all different walks of life together, all different ages,” said Jordan Charlesworth, 27, a public health agency staff member wearing a sequinned one-piece.

“It’s close to the soundtrack of your life, isn’t it, when you get to 56,” said Sarah Armstrong in swirly turquoise trousers, who had come with her sister and daughter.

The ambitious show is a hugely expensive project, with The Times reporting that ABBA need to recoup £140 million ($177 million, 165 million euros) to cover costs.

Band member Bjorn Ulvaeus, 77, told AFP ahead of the premiere: “I know that this is one of the most daring projects that anyone has done in the music industry, ever.”

‘Jaw-dropping’

Concert-goers see a 90-minute show, with a dozen live musicians on stage backing up the avatars.

It is set to run seven days a week until early October.

The avatars are the product of a years-long project, designed in partnership with a special effects company founded by “Star Wars” creator George Lucas.

To create them, the band performed in motion capture suits for five weeks while hundreds of cameras tracked their movement and expressions. Visual effects artists then used the data to project the characters onto a 65 million pixel screen. Combined with lighting and other effects, the result was a very lifelike performance. 

Critics praised the avatars after previous shows “resurrecting” dead performers have been slammed as unrealistic and creepy.

This time, there was “nothing ghoulish”, wrote The Times.

The Guardian said the digital effects were a “triumph” and “the effect is genuinely jaw-dropping”.

Fans said they felt they had watched a live show.

“It was amazing, so immersive, I really felt like they were there,” said Dawn Waugh, 63, who was attending with her 26-year-old daughter.

“It was the most wonderful feeling of being back in time,” said another fan, Stan Papoulias, 56, originally from Greece.

“I’ve been an ABBA fan for 45 years and I never thought I would see them in the flesh — or something like that.”

ABBA Voyage tracklist 

The Visitors

Hole In Your Soul

SOS

Knowing Me, Knowing You

Chiquitita

Fernando

Mamma Mia

Does Your Mother Know?

Eagle

Lay All Your Love On Me

Summer Night City

Gimme! Gimme! Gimme! (A Man After Midnight)

Voulez-Vous

When All Is Said And Done

Don’t Shut Me Down

I Still Have Faith In You

Waterloo

Dancing Queen

Thank You For The Music

The Winner Takes It All

Where can I buy tickets?

You can buy tickets for the London show via the official ABBA Voyage website

The cheapest tickets are for auditorium seating and sell from £21. 

Dance booths – private areas with their own dance floor that can accommodate 10-12 people sell from £143. 

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