In a move fit for the most revered of pop music royalty, a reunited Agnetha Fältskog, Björn Ulvaeus, Benny Andersson, and Anni-Frid Lyngstad will be performing as digital avatars in their own bespoke arena within London’s Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park for the forthcoming ABBA Voyage comeback tour.
Constructed from mass timber, the 3,000-seat hexagonal venue was designed by STUFISH Entertainment Architects and can be transported and repurposed in other locales following ABBA Voyage’s London dates, set to kick off May 27 and run through October 2, 2022. The tour will then move to other cities, although any venues and dates beyond the lengthy London engagement have yet to be announced. As noted by The Independent, construction work on the ephemeral arena, which has permission to operate for a five-year span, is already underway at an underutilized parking lot at London Olympic Park near the Dockland Light Railway’s Pudding Mill Station.
While design details of the purpose-built, pop-up Scandinavian pop palace are on the scant side, the official ABBA Voyage website does offer a teaser, declaring that the “breathtaking arena delivers the perfect setting for ABBA Voyage, offering you a live music experience like no other. The venue is built around ABBA’s timeless music and never-before-seen concert, so you can have time of your life in General Admission or have the option of a seat in the auditorium if you prefer. You can even party in style in your own Dance Booth.”
In addition to general seating, private dance booths, and a stage that will host the virtual likenesses of Agnetha, Björn, Benny, and Anni-Frid (the four “Abbatars” are being developed by George Lucas’s Industrial Light and Magic) alongside a live ten-piece band, the ABBA Voyage arena is also set to include standard features and amenities like food stalls, drinking establishments, merchandise stands, backstage facilities, and more.
First catapulted out of Stockholm and into international pop stardom following their 1974 Eurovision win for “Waterloo,” ABBA has essentially been on indefinite hiatus since 1982 although the group’s extensive catalog of earworm-y pop anthems has never, ever risked fading into obscurity—ABBA is eternal. The virtual tour follows the forthcoming November 5, 2021, release of Voyage, the quartet’s first new full-length album of new material in 40 years. ABBA’s last album, The Visitors, was released in November 1981. Two singles from the ten-track Voyage, “I Still Have Faith in You” and “Don’t Shut Me Down,” were recently released to coincide with the tour announcement. In her effusive review, The Guardian’s Jude Rogers described the pair of new ABBA tunes as being “precision-honed to wallop emotion out of the listener (if you’re willing, that is: if you’ve always been immune to ABBA’s charms, these songs won’t melt your cold heart.)”
Said ABBA in a statement:
“To tell the truth, the main inspiration to record again comes from our involvement in creating the strangest and most spectacular concert you could ever dream of. We’re going to be able to sit back in an audience and watch our digital selves perform our songs on a stage in a custom-built arena in London next spring. Weird and wonderful!
To all of you who patiently have followed us in some way or another these past decades: Thank you for waiting – it’s time for a new journey to begin.”
Founded by the late British architect Mark Fisher, STUFISH, which maintains studios in London and Hong Kong, has previously designed wild and wildly ambitious stage sets and immersive concert “experiences”—including permanent and semi-permanent structures—for an illustrious roster of performers including Elton John, Lady Gaga, U2, Beyoncé, Madonna, the Rolling Stones, Pink Floyd, and other big names. Outside of concerts, the firm has also designed a number of high-profile events, including the opening and closing ceremonies of the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing.