Swedish pop group ABBA, which split up in 1982, has announced a new album, Voyage, which will be released in November, as well as a “revolutionary concert” launching next year. The innovative concert will feature the four band members as holographic avatars, which they have dubbed “ABBAtars.”
Due to the complexity of the equipment and setup needed to deliver the show, the group decided to keep it to one location instead of bringing it on tour. A custom arena was built in London’s Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park London to accommodate the performance.
The first shows will take place in May of 2022, and will continue as a longer-term residency, but the amount of time for which it will run has not yet been confirmed. As of now, tickets are available through October of next year.
The band is working with George Lucas’s special effects company Industrial Light & Magic to create the show and has spent months performing every song, decked out in full motion capture suits, so that their mannerisms and emotions could be recorded.
In a promotional video for ABBA Voyage, Ben Morris, ILM Creative Director, notes that they are “creating [ABBA] as digital characters and will then be using performance capture techniques to animate them...and make them look perfectly real.”
The goal of the show is to blend the physical and the digital — it’s not quite fully in-person, but it’s not quite virtual either. Another unique aspect of the concert is that ABBA’s holograms will be made to look younger using CGI, so fans will get to watch them perform as if they were still in the 70s at the height of their career.
This digital experience presents an interesting business model for the live entertainment industry. The band will be able to put on live shows in a physical arena, delight fans, and collect ticket revenues without actually having to show up and perform. Of course, they’ve worked for months to pre-record their performance, but now that it has been completed, it could theoretically run for years without much additional effort on their part, freeing them up to work on other things.
ABBA Voyage was in the works before the pandemic hit and was delayed last year, but in some ways, its timing couldn’t be better — the adoption of and excitement around virtual tech has never been higher, and neither has the desire to attend a live in-person event. This show offers the best of both worlds.