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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.

The Swedish supergroup ABBA performed in a virtual concert in London on Friday night.
The Swedish supergroup ABBA performed in a virtual concert in London on Friday night, delighting fans. (Photo by Jonathan NACKSTRAND / AFP)

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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CULTURE

Who is Sweden’s ‘King of Cringe’?

As Swedish director Ruben Östlund picks up his second Palme d'Or, The Local asks who is the man known as Sweden's 'King of Cringe?'

Who is Sweden's 'King of Cringe'?

Swedish filmmaker Ruben Östlund’s Triangle of Sadness was awarded the Palme d’Or in Cannes on Saturday night, marking the second time he has won the award following his 2017 success for The Square.

Triangle of Sadness is a biting social satire that sees a celebrity fashion model couple, played by British actor Harrison Dickinson and South African actress Charlbi Kriek, encounter unexpected events on an exclusive cruise for the super-rich.

Östlund, known by some as Sweden’s “King of Cringe”, explained to the media that he wanted to make a film that got people talking: “We wanted to entertain them, we wanted them to ask themselves questions, we wanted them to after the screening go out and have something to talk about,” he said.

It seems he achieved his ambition and Triangle of Sadness lived up to Östlund’s ‘King of Cringe’ moniker – complete with a vomiting scene that has reportedly been the talk of the town in Cannes this week – and news agency AFP noted that scenes from the film left “viewers either howling with laughter or turning green” during its premiere. King of Cringe he may be, but who is Ruben Östlund?

King of Cringe

Born in Styrsö, Gothenburg, in 1974, Östlund got his start in filmmaking on the Swedish ski slopes while working there after leaving school. Initially filming his friend’s skiing stunts, Östlund’s films won him a place at film school in Gothenburg and after graduating and setting up his own production company, he got to work on more serious filmmaking.

The Guitar Mongoloid (2004) and Involuntary (2008) were his first films, quickly followed by Play (2011), and Force Majeure (2014).

The Guitar Mongoloid won an award at the 27th Moscow International Film Festival, and Östlund’s short film Incident by a Bank won the Golden Bear for Best Short Film at the 60th Berlin International Film Festival.

Force Majeure won the Jury Prize at the 2014 Cannes Film Festival, was shortlisted for the Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film, and is when Östlund really crowned himself as Sweden’s ‘King of Cringe’. A cringe-laden relationship drama set in the French Alps, Force Majeure has been described in reviews as “gleefully uncomfortable”. 

The awards continued in 2017 when Östlund picked his first Palme d’Or for The Square, another satire, this time about an art curator navigating several personal and professional crises.

Triangle of Sadness picked up the top prize last night in Cannes. 

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