ABBA have welcomed the one millionth visitor to their Voyage show, with Björn Ulvaeus telling NME about what the future has in store for the ambitious live experience. Watch our video interview with Ulvaeus above.
Last night (Monday April 17) saw young ABBA fan Josie Felix chosen as the winner to the one millionth visitor to see the show at the purpose-built ABBA Arena in London. She had been selected from scores of competition entries for writing her own song about how her dad would play ABBA on the school run when she was a child.
After their meeting, Ulvaeus sat down with NME to reflect on the show’s success.
“It’s amazing – it has surpassed any dream I could have ever had,” he said of reaching the milestone of entertaining one million people in less than a year since the Voyage first opened. “We’ve somehow reached new generations by some miracle. I don’t know how, but there you are. [2008 musical movie] Mamma Mia, I suppose played a role in that. There are new generations coming along.”
The show sees CGI reincarnations (or ‘ABBA-tars’) based on the movements and performance of the living Swedish pop legends. These are then painstakingly presented to appear to be playing live with the appearance of the band in their ’70s prime, backed by a full live band present in the room.
The success of Voyage has kicked off a debate about which artists could adopt the format next, with members of the Sex Pistols and Spice Girls responding to the call.
“That feels good – to be in the front line of technology,” said Ulvaeus of the conversation the band have started, “but technology is just one part of it. There are so many other moving parts. Sometimes there’s talent, there’s good songs, there’s all of that behind it – but there’s also luck. You have to be lucky when something works as well as this, as well as having the resources artistically, financially and so forth.”
He continued: “We don’t know exactly what it is that we’ve done, which makes it hard to replicate. I don’t know it’s just for another band to do the same thing and expect the same kind of emotional effect that this has had. Not automatically – it’s not that easy.”
The ABBA Voyage virtual concert series is currently set to run in London into 2024, with plans reported for the experience to be taken on a world tour.
Asked about what the future of the show involves, Ulvaeus replied: “We hope to stay in this venue for as long as we can. We hope they’ll have us for many years, and we might build other replicas of this in other places: Asia, Australia, North America. There are lots and promoters and cities that we’re talking to at the moment about that.
“Each one would take at least two years to build, but there will be announcements towards the end of this year or the beginning of next about where we actually are going. That’s if we’re going somewhere, which we will.”
And what about Glastonbury? Is there the potential to do a mobile version of ABBA Voyage that could pop up at Worthy Farm?
“I don’t think that’s possible, yet,” he replied. “It might be in the future. As it is, it’s too complicated because the lighting, the sound, the visuals, everything is integrated and it’s so complicated.”
While the setlist for ABBA Voyage has remained the same since it first opened, Ulvaeus revealed to NME that they did work on more songs that could work their way into future iterations of the show. “We did motion capture more songs that we have in this concert,” he said. “There are songs in the pipeline which might be animated and ‘ABBA-tarred’ in the future. Who knows? There might be a new song every now and then somewhere – but I can’t give you any details as of right now.”
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The last new music from band came on the 2021 accompanying ‘Voyage’ album containing the two recent singles ‘I Still Have Faith In You’ and ‘Don’t Shut Me Down’. Asked if there was a hope for more new music from the band to come, Ulvaeus said “No, ‘Voyage’ the album was the last you’ll ever hear from us” – but he did remain open to the idea of the band returning for more projects like the live show, making the most of new emerging technologies.
“There will be new exciting formats in the future that we know very little about right now,” he added. “AI, the metaverse, there are lots of interesting and exciting things happening creatively that ABBA might be involved in as well.”
Speaking to NME at the premiere, the show’s producer Svana Gisla and guitarist Dom John shed light on the future of Voyage. When asked if Voyage could be the last the world sees of ABBA, Gisla said: “I think this is the final thing. They’re quite genuine in that, but they’ve said that before. I think this is it. It took a lot to make and it was hard work, from us and from them.”
Meanwhile, John said he could see the show going on for “multiple years, maybe” when asked how long he expected to be performing as part of the show.
ABBA Voyage currently has dates listed until January 2024. Visit here for tickets and more information.