ABBA expects better than Elvis and Michael Jackson with immersive performances

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

Jonathan Nextrand | AFP | Getty Images

Pop legend ABBA is taking a big punt on their latest submerged project, founding member Bjorn Ulvaeus told CNBC.

The much-anticipated immersive performance, called ABBA Voyage, has been billed as “creating a concert for 40 years” and features digital incarnations of the Swedish supergroup with a 10-piece live band.

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

“The risk, of course, is the experience that I think and hope people don’t find it as that experience. That’s the point. If people think from the concert, yes, well, it was’ not bad but … we want them to feel it. Let them, you know, be emotional and feel that they have gone through something they have never seen before. ”

Last album

The pop icon has confirmed to CNBC that the much-loved band’s 2021 chart-topping “Voyage” album – their first in 40 years – will end.

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 over 400 million records worldwide and was once reportedly second only to Volvo, one of Sweden’s largest export products.

It’s been 40 years since the band last performed together, and Ulvas says he’s “nervous and thrilled.”

He said he hopes the opening of this week’s ABBA Voyage Digital Concert will be “so incredibly special” and yet beat any other moment in his professional life.

“In the latest episode of the CNBC conversation Ulvaeus says the idea first came about five years ago – to make a digital copy of the band’s “ABBA-tar” from their 1979 prime at a state-of-the-art technology concert.

He said he had previously experimented with Michael Jackson and Elvis, but the team behind the technology was keen to use it with vivid images.

“It’s better to do this with someone who’s still alive, because your forehead, even though the rest of your body is separated, has the same cranium measurements, so it’s easier to make a small copy of yourself if you’re still alive,” Ulvas said.

To create a human-like avatar, the band’s four members, who are now in their seventies, wear a motion capture suit and perform all the songs on stage in a specially built studio in Stockholm, Sweden.

“They would dress us tight, we would have black dots and we would have dots on our faces, and we would have helmets. And then we would go to that stage and we would perform a song as we did. It performed in ‘Top of the Pops’. , The old British [TV] Program, ”he said.

“At first it was weird. I mean, I was looking around and there Agnetha was doing her stuff, and Benny, just like the old days. But in the end, it was fun.”

Deep fake

Ulvaeus says the band is leading the way with the technology behind ABBA Voyage.

“We are pioneers in this field, creating avatars, creating human-like digital copies – through holes, through the hair of the nose, through everything. [it] After a while you will realize that it is a human being, it is not digital, it is a human video, and it is very fun to be a pioneer and do it in this context, ”he said.

But the famous star says he is concerned about those who could misuse technology to create “deep nets”.

“I realized that it could be abused, and it would be abused. Not our avatars, but other avatars would be used as vehicles that say real people don’t mean, fake, mean, deep imitation. Deep imitation is the real thing going forward.” Things can’t be separated and that’s something we have to be really careful about, “he said.

“But somehow someone was going to do it, so I thought it should be done in a positive way because it’s good to show pioneers how it can be used.”

A purpose-built “ABBA Arena” has been built in London’s Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park that can hold 3,000-strong spectators.

The performance of the ABBA Voyage Concert opened to the public on May 27 and Ulvas told CNBC that they could expect a hit parade that some are not very familiar with, and some from their latest album.

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