By Alex Green, PA Acting Deputy Entertainment Editor
Abba Voyage has been praised as a “jaw-dropping” and “awe-inspiring” experience by critics who attended its opening night.
The virtual concert launched in London on Thursday with a star-studded event attended by the Swedish pop superstars, as well as Kylie Minogue and the king and queen of Sweden.
Five years in the making, the concert featured four 3D digital versions of the group’s younger selves singing and dancing to some 20 of their hits.
Inside the purpose-built 3,000-capacity arena at the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park in east London, they were backed by a live band of 10 musicians and a complex light show.
The so-called Abbatars were created through months of motion-capture and performance techniques with the four band members and an 850-strong team from Industrial Light and Magic, the company founded by Star Wars creator George Lucas, in its first foray into music.
Writing for The Guardian, Alexis Petridis awarded the event five stars and said: “Whatever they are, the effect is genuinely jaw-dropping.
“Watching the four figures on the stage, it’s almost impossible to tell you’re not watching human beings: occasionally, there’s a hint of video game uncanny valley about the projections on the giant screens either side of the stage, but your attention is continually drawn to the human-sized avatars.”
Will Hodgkinson of The Times offered it four stars.
He was critical of a futuristic sequence in which the band wore neon catsuits and an animated film that accompanied Voulez Vous.
However, he added: “But for the most part this was captivating, and celebratory in a rather innocent fashion. Who doesn’t love dancing along to Gimme Gimme Gimme?”
— ABBA Voyage (@ABBAVoyage) May 26, 2022
The Telegraph’s Neil McCormick, who also awarded Voyage four stars, quipped that he had “seen the future of pop … and it looks weirdly like its past.”
Five stars came from HuffPost whose Matt Bagwell described the event as “awe-inspiring”.
He added: “I walked into that arena thinking: ‘What the hell am I about to experience?’ and walked out buzzing with an overwhelming sense of: ‘What the hell have I just witnessed?’”
Michael Idato of The Sydney Morning Herald was equally effusive, writing: “What sets Abba Voyage apart is not the assembly of its parts.
“As technical masterminds, Ulvaeus and Andersson have proven their artistic and commercial mettle time and time again, on the original works, on the Mamma Mia! musical, and on their other works, such as the musicals Chess and Kristina fran Duvemala.”
Adrian Thrills for The Daily Mail offered the concert four stars and praised the Abbatars whose “dance moves, hand gestures and facial expressions were all remarkably lifelike”.
He added: “For those lucky enough to witness last night’s opening show of Abba’s virtual London residency, there was only one conclusion: Mamma Mia! How can we resist you?”
Writing for The Sun, Howell Davies added: “Sure, it is surreal, but these avatars are the greatest impersonators in music history, while Abba’s heart and soul remains.”