ABBA’s virtual return to “live” performance
May 27, 2022 - Swedish pop sensation ABBA has spectacularly returned to the stage as virtual avatars, digitally recreated to appear 40 years younger than they are today.
Computer graphic avatars of the four members of ABBA looking as they did in their prime, nicknamed “Abbatars”, feature in a new live concert experience in London, called “ABBA Voyage”.
The Guardian hails it a “triumph” destined to be copied by other acts, adding, “by the time the show hits its finale with Thank You For The Music followed by Dancing Queen, any lingering sense that you’re not actually in the presence of Abba has dissolved”.
The Abbatars, created by ILM (the special effects house originally built by George Lucas to realise his vision for Star Wars), are projected into a custom-built 3,000-capacity arena on the site of the 2012 London Olympics, in the city’s East End.
Accompanying the virtual representations of Benny Andersson, Anni-Frid Lyngstad (Frida), Agnetha Fältskog and Björn Ulvaeus, are a 10-piece live band. Together, they perform 22 of the group’s greatest hits during a pop concert that will be repeated seven times a week.
To recreate a live stage presence, state-of-the-art computer animation is projected into an auditorium using an update of an old Victorian parlour trick called “Pepper’s Ghost”. The technique was popular in the 1800s for creating spectral apparitions, but has been used more recently at Disney’s Haunted Mansion theme park attraction.
Until now, the previously best known digital avatar stage performance was Michael Jackson’s appearance at the 2014 Billboard Music awards, five years after his death.
ABBA’s return is said to use a more advanced update of that technology, featuring clever use of lighting to help meld the projection, live performers, staging and audience together into a unique concert experience.
The initially sold out shows began on Friday, May 27, 2022. ABBA’s first new album in 40 years, also titled ABBA Voyage, was released in November 2021, featuring 10 new songs.