ABBA Hopes To Outperform Elvis And Michael Jackson With New Compelling Performance


The Swedish music band ABBA, pictured here as wax figures, has sold more than 400 million records worldwide.

Jonathan Nackstrand | Afp | Getty Images

Pop legends ABBA are taking a big gamble with their latest immersive project, founder Bjorn Ulvaeus has told CNBC.

Billed as “a concert 40 years in the making”, the highly anticipated immersive performance called ABBA Voyage features digital avatars of the Swedish supergroup, accompanied by a 10-piece live band.

Speaking in late April ahead of the highly anticipated world premiere in London, UK, this week, Ulvaeus told CNBC it was “an amazingly risky project in so many ways”.

“The risk, of course, is that people won’t find it the experience I think and hope it will be. That’s the main thing. If people were going to think of the concert, yeah, well, that was ‘It’s okay, but … We want them to feel emotional and feel that they have experienced something that they have never seen before.”

Last album

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

ABBA — Agnetha Faltskog, Bjorn Ulvaeus, Benny Andersson and Anni-Frid Lyngstad — entered the world stage after winning the Eurovision Song Contest with “Waterloo” in 1974.

The band has sold more than 400 million records worldwide and reportedly came second only to Volvo as one of Sweden’s biggest exports.

It’s been 40 years since the band last performed together and Ulvaeus said he was “nervous and excited.”

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

In the final episode of “The CNBC Conversation” Ulvaeus says the idea first emerged five years ago — to make digital “ABBA-tar” copies of the band’s 1979 first, in a cutting-edge technology concert.

He said there had been trials with Michael Jackson and Elvis before, but the team behind the technology were keen to use it with living figures.

“It’s better to do it with someone who is still alive because your skull, even though the rest of your body is falling apart… the dimensions inside the skull are the same, so it’s easier to get a younger copy of yourself.” make it if you’re still alive,” said Ulvaeus.

To create the humanoid avatars, the four members of the band, who are now in their seventies, 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 kind of tight-fitting suits, black with polka dots on them, and there were polka dots on our faces, and we’d have helmets. And then we’d go on that stage and we’d perform a song almost like we were performing it on” Top of the Pops’, the old Britons [TV] program,” he said.

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

Deep fakes

Ulvaeus said the band was leading the way with the technology behind ABBA Voyage.

“We’re pioneers in this area, to create avatars, to make digital copies that are like people – down to the pores, through the hairs in the nose, through everything [it] after a while you will feel like this is a human, this is not digital, this is a video of a human, and it’s a lot of fun being the pioneer and doing it in this context,” he said.

But the celebrated star said he is concerned about how the technology could be misused by those who want to ‘deep fake’.

“I realized it could be abused, and it will be abused. Not our avatars, but other avatars will be used as vehicles saying things the original people don’t mean, fake, I mean, deep fake. indistinguishable are of the real deal going forward and that’s something we really need to pay attention to,” he said.

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

A purpose-built “ABBA Arena” has been created in London’s Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park that can hold an audience of 3,000 people.

The ABBA Voyage concert performances are open to the public on May 27, and Ulvaeus told CNBC they can expect a chart-topping chart featuring a few not-so-known songs, and some from their latest album.

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