Abba returns: how the Swedish supergroup and their ‘Abba-tars’ are taking a chance on a reunion

From next May, digital avatars of the foursome will be performing concerts in east London

Abba on stage
(Image credit: FREDRIK PERSSON/TT News Agency/AFP via Getty Images)

The last time they performed together, Britain had just won the Falklands War, said Robert Hardman in the Daily Mail. But now, after surely the longest hiatus in pop history, “Abba are BACK”.

The Swedish supergroup announced last week that they had recorded ten new tracks for their first album in 40 years. What’s more, they’ll soon be back on stage too, albeit in a virtual form. From next May, digital avatars, or “Abba-tars”, of the foursome in their youthful prime will be performing concerts in a purpose-built arena in east London, with the help of a live band and holographic technology developed by George Lucas’s special-effects company.

Forgive me if I don’t cheer this news, said Rod Liddle in The Sunday Times. The 1970s was a great decade for music, but its “nadir was Fernando and Super Trouper, both of which seemed to me to violate Sweden’s historic neutrality and demand swift and decisive military reprisals”.

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Not everyone loves Abba, but you can’t argue with the numbers, said Stephen Armstrong in The Daily Telegraph. In six years, Abba achieved nine No. 1s in the UK alone. “By 1978, they were Sweden’s most successful export, outselling Volvo and Ikea.” Since then, they’ve won new fans through the Mamma Mia! stage musical and films.

The band has always been a “business at heart”. With little money to be made from digital downloads and streaming (ten million plays on YouTube earns them about £65), Abba are cannily getting back into the live performance game.

In this case, though, their avatars are doing all the work, said Ron McKay in The Herald (Glasgow). It’s the “perfect wheeze – you don’t even have to get out of your Ikea bed in the morning and the moolah keeps rolling in”.

Yet given the vast fortune Abba have already acquired, there was “no pressing financial need” for any of them to have worked together again, said Alexander Larman in The Critic. It seems they recorded their new album, Voyage, not out of necessity, but because they genuinely believed the band had “something left to offer”. Judging by the two surprisingly good songs they’ve released from the album so far, they’re right.

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