ABBA hopes better than Elvis and Michael Jackson with immersive performances

ABBA hopes better than Elvis and Michael Jackson with immersive performances

Swedish music group ABBA, shown here as wax figures, have sold over 400 million records worldwide.

Jonathan Nackstrand | AFP | Getty Images

Pop legends ABBA are embarking on their latest immersive project, founding member Bjorn Ulvaeus told CNBC.

The highly anticipated immersive performance called ABBA Voyage is billed as “a 40-year concert in the making” and features digital avatars of the Swedish supergroup accompanied by a 10-piece live band.

Speaking in late April ahead of its long-awaited world premiere in London, UK, this week, Ulvaeus told CNBC it was “a hell of a risky project in many ways”.

“The risk is, of course, that people don’t find it will be the experience that I think and hope it will be. That’s the bottom line. If people left the concert thinking, yeah, eh well, it wasn’t It’s not bad but… We want them to feel, you know, emotional and to feel like they’ve been through something that they’ve never seen before .”

latest album

The pop icon also confirmed to CNBC that the band’s much-loved 2021 album “Voyage” — their first in 40 years — will be their last.

ABBA – Agnetha Faltskog, Bjorn Ulvaeus, Benny Andersson and Anni-Frid Lyngstad – burst onto the world stage after winning the Eurovision Song Contest with ‘Waterloo’ in 1974.

The group has sold over 400 million records worldwide and was reportedly only once second to Volvo as one of Sweden’s biggest exports.

It’s been 40 years since the band played together and Ulvaeus said he was “nervous and thrilled”.

He said he expects this week’s opening of the ABBA Voyage digital concert to be “so incredibly special” and beat any other time in his professional life so far.

In the latest episode of “The CNBC Conversation“, Ulvaeus says the idea first came about five years ago – to create “ABBA-tar” digital copies of the band from their 1979 heyday, at a state-of-the-art gig.

He said trials had already been done with Michael Jackson and Elvis, but the team behind the technology were keen to use it with live characters.

“It’s better to do it with someone who’s still alive because your skull, even if the rest of your body is collapsing…the measurements in the skull are the same, so it’s easier to recreate a larger copy. young of yourself if you are still alive,” Ulvaeus said.

To create the human-like avatars, the four band members, who are now in their 60s, dressed in motion capture suits and performed all the songs on stage in a purpose-built studio in Stockholm, Sweden.

“They would dress us in tight, black suits with dots on them and there were dots on our faces, and we had helmets. And then we’d go on that stage and perform a song almost like we had it. performed on “Top of the Pops”, the former British [TV] program,” he said.

“It was weird at first. I mean, I was looking around and there’s Agnetha doing her stuff, and Benny, like old times. But in the end, it was fun.”

Deep fakes

Ulvaeus said the group is leading the way with the technology behind ABBA Voyage.

“We are pioneers in this field, to create avatars, to build digital copies that are like human beings – down to the pores, through the nose hairs, through everything [it] will make you feel after a while that it’s a human being, it’s not digital, it’s a video of a human being, and it’s great fun to be the pioneer and do it in this context,” he said.

But the famous star said he was worried about how the technology could be misused by those who want to create a “deep fake”.

“I realized this could be misused, and it will be misused. Not our avatars, but other avatars will be used as vehicles saying things the original people don’t mean, wrong I mean , deep fake. be indistinguishable from the real thing in the future and that’s something we really have to be careful about,” he said.

“But someone was going to do it anyway, so I thought maybe doing it in a positive way as pioneers would be nice to show how it can be used.”

A purpose-built “ABBA Arena” capable of seating an audience of 3,000 has been created in Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park in London.

The ABBA Voyage concerts open to the public on May 27, and Ulvaeus told CNBC they can expect a hit parade with some lesser-known songs and some from their latest album.

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