A little article published today about just a few of the many Australian fans heading to London for the opening of ABBA Voyage - including me ! I still can't believe I'm going - it is going to be spectacular !!
Meet Australia’s biggest ABBA fans who are preparing for the event of a lifetime - the first ‘concert’ in more than 40 years
‘My husband may cry if I add it up but I spent $8,400 just for the flights and the opening night concert tickets
It’s being billed as the concert experience of a lifetime - and one most thought they’d never see.
Excited Aussie ABBA fans are preparing to join the group’s supporters from around the world in London for the much-hyped Voyage ‘concert’, opening on May 27.
Among them are ‘super fan’ Roxanne Dickson and aficionado Ian Cole, who has written the definitive book on the group’s simple-sounding yet intricate songs and who runs a fan website.
Along with several others, they’ve shared with 7NEWS.com.au their excitement about being among the first in the world to see the groundbreaking new venture from one of the biggest music groups in history.
The elaborate and highly technical Voyage show will not star the members of the Swedish super group themselves.
Now in their 70s - and more than 40 years after their extraordinary fame reached dizzying heights - they no longer want the rigours of performing.
Instead, the cutting-edge concert, to be staged in a purpose-built arena, will feature digital ‘avatars’, which fans are calling “ABBAtars”.
ABBA has created digital avatars for the Voyage live show. Credit: Supplied
The ABBAtars will be created using special lighting and visual effects produced by Industrial Light and Magic, the company of Star Wars’ impresario George Lucas.
They are based on the real movements of Anni-Frid Lyngstad, Benny Andersson, Björn Ulvaeus and Agnetha Faltskog, who donned special “motion-caption suits”.
The painstaking ‘capture’ was done in secret in Stockholm in 2020 and involved Frida, Benny, Björn and Agnetha singing, dancing and moving to selected songs.
Fans in New York's Central Park on September 2, 2021, as ABBA’s avatars were teased to the world. Credit: John Lamparski/Getty Images
The clandestine process was revealed a year later when official photos were released showing the members wearing the futuristic black outfits.
During the Voyage concert, a 10-piece band will play live, while the ABBAtars ‘sing’ and dance.
It’s widely believed the ABBAtars’ ‘voices’ - on all but two songs - will be those of the original studio recordings from the 1970s and ‘80s, rather than the current voices of the septuagenarians.
The Voyage performance experience comes after ABBA last year released a new album of the same name - the first new music since the group split in the early 1980s.
In a worldwide livestream in September, ABBA first released two new songs - the ballad-like anthem to its ‘rebirth’, I Still Have Faith in You, and the more uptempo Don’t Shut Me Down.
Fans were quick to snap up ABBA’s new album, on CD, vinyl and cassette. Credit: Getty
The full Voyage album, comprising 10 new songs, was then released in November.
Fans everywhere went into meltdown, instantly propelling the recording to the top of physical media and streaming charts around the world.
Benny and Björn have confirmed the concert setlist will involve I Still Have Faith in You and Don’t Shut Me Down.
The other 20 songs remain under tight wraps.
ABBA went straight to number one in the UK with their first release in 40 years. Credit: EPA
But the concert is expected to contain hits including Fernando, Money Money Money and Dancing Queen, widely considered ABBA’s most popular and enduring song.
Ardent Aussie admirers are now preparing to travel to the UK for the experience of a lifetime, at the state-of-the-art “ABBA Arena”, specially constructed at Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park in east London.
Several diehard fans have shared their stories ahead of the world premiere event.
Roxanne Dickson has loved ABBA since she was just six years old, when Aussie music industry legend Molly Meldrum first showed the Mamma Mia video clip on Countdown in 1975.
“To say I was obsessed is a bit of an understatement,” she says.
Roxanne says the ABBA concert in Sydney on March 3, 1977 - famously performed to 30,000 people at the Showground under torrential rain - was the most amazing experience of her life.
“It still makes me emotional when I think about it,” she says.
‘Super fan’ Roxanne Dickson with her Voyage merchandise. Credit: Roxanne Dickson
“The ABBA Voyage concert is going to be the closest we ever get to that original experience – and I am beyond thrilled that I have the opportunity to travel to London to see it.
“I have no doubt it will be spectacular, and no doubt at all that it will be a very emotional experience.”
Roxanne is also looking forward to meeting fans from around the world with whom she has connected online over many years.
“I never thought we would get new music from ABBA after all these decades,” she says.
“And to get a concert experience as well is so much more than I ever could have asked for.”
Brenda Pfeiffer was seven when she, like Roxanne, saw Mamma Mia on TV in 1975 and was “completely mesmerised by their beauty, costumes and music”.
As a child, all her pocket money went on ABBA records, magazines, memorabilia and clothing.
Today, she still wears “something ABBA daily”, such as a T shirt or necklace - or even a replica costume whizzed up on the Janome by her mum and hand painted by signwriter husband Brenton.
Brenda Pfeiffer is overwhelmed at the prospect of hearing her idols. Credit: Brenda Pfeiffer
“Mum actually made it for my daughter, who was 10 at the time, but luckily I fit into it, and it’s just a shorter version for me,” Brenda laughs.
She says snagging opening night tickets toVoyage - out of thousands of people from around the world who tried to buy them - was like winning the lottery.
“I cried with so much happiness,” she says.
Brenda’s mum whizzed up a replica of Agnetha’s famous costume on the Janome, while signwriter husband Brenton hand drew the cat. Credit: Brenda Pfeiffer
“I am so excited about going to see Voyage, and the excitement of being surrounded by so many other ABBA fans will add to this magical moment!”
Brenda’s trip to Europe will also include a pilgrimage to Stockholm where she and Brenton will visit the ABBA museum and “other important places” that feature in the group’s history.
“I will pack so many tissues, as I know when I experience my lifelong dream of going to an ABBA concert, seeing the ABBAtars will be highly emotional,” she says.
“I cannot wait.”
Ian Cole heard Mamma Mia at a party in late 1975 and was “hooked for life”.
For more than 20 years, he has run the fan website ‘ABBA Omnibus’, and in 2020 he published a book ABBA: Song By Song, in which he discusses in depth the group’s entire music catalogue.
So Ian was “beyond excited” when the group announced in April 2018 that it had recorded two new songs.
“I couldn’t believe that after all this time, and the many denials that ABBA would ever reunite, they had created new music together for an upcoming concert with digital avatars and a live band,” he says.
ABBA fan Ian Cole, with his book ABBA: Song by Song. Credit: Ian Cole
Ian will see the show three times, and is also travelling to Brighton to see where ABBA won the 1974 Eurovision Song Contest - the event which kicked off the group’s stellar international career.
”I’m very excited to be going to the opening of the Voyage concert,” he says, adding that he’s already thinking about what to wear and what merchandise will be available.
”I don’t really know what to expect of the show. I do expect that there’s going to be lights and effects all over the arena, not just on stage.
“And word has it that Benny, Björn, Frida and Agnetha will all attend, as well as other celebrities, including the King and Queen of Sweden - so I expect it’s going to be a big night!
“Whatever happens, it’s going to be wonderful to attend an ABBA concert in 2022.”
Charlotte Mayall, 32, came to ABBA’s music well over a decade after the group broke up, with her father always having listened to their songs.
“ABBA is such a huge part of who I am,” says Charlotte, who gave her daughter Phoebe the middle name Agnetha and who has ABBA tattooed on her wrist in white ink.
“They get me through so much. Whatever mood you’re in, there is an ABBA song for you.”
Charlotte Mayall and daughter Phoebe, whose middle name is Agnetha. Credit: Charlotte Mayall
When ABBA released its first new music in 40 years, Charlotte said that upon “hearing the first few notes, I just bawled”.
“I genuinely could not believe that ABBA was releasing new music in my lifetime,” she says.
Charlotte, who lives in Geelong, will see the concert four times over five weeks that she is in the UK.
Charlotte Mayall with some of her ABBA collection. Credit: Charlotte Mayall
Asked how much the venture has set her back, she admits to $8,400 on flights and opening night tickets but won’t put a figure on accommodation or the other three concerts.
“My husband may cry if I add it up,” she jokes, “but I spent $1,200 just on the tickets for opening night!”
Julie Craik fell in love with ABBA after watching a special on the Australian music show Bandstand in 1976.
“I was blown away,” says Julie, who would later name her daughter Abbie and even go on to learn Swedish.
In 1978, Julie had a “fluke meeting” with Frida and Benny at Stockholm airport on her first trip to Sweden - and was inspired to learn the mother tongue of her heroes.
Julie Craik’s ‘fluke meeting’ with ABBA's Frida in 1978. Credit: Julie Craik
“They were so nice and had so much time for me. Frida even gave me my first Swedish lesson,” says Julie, who adds her idol gently corrected her Aussie mispronunciation of Skärholmen, where Julie had a penpal.
Julie later studied Swedish at Uppsala University in Sweden and adult classes in Melbourne. Now almost fluent, she volunteers at the Swedish Church in Melbourne and belongs to a Swedish bookclub.
Watching the Voyage livestream with Abbie last year, Julie says: “I gasped and hugged my daughter and the tears just flowed”.
ABBA fan Julie Craik. Credit: Julie Craik
“Once the Voyage show was announced and tickets went on sale, there was no question - we had to go.
“Who would have thought that in 2022 there would be this worldwide ABBA event?
“It all seemed months away and now it is just weeks. Excitement is building and I feel like a kid at Christmas.”
Caroline Webster, a fan since the age of seven, missed out on seeing ABBA in concert in Australia in 1977.
And she wasn’t among the thousands who packed the street outside the Melbourne Town Hall as ABBA waved to the fans below.
“But I lived on a flight path, and I looked out for the tail of every plane, hoping to see the ABBA branding on one and getting ready to wave from my front yard,” she recalls, adding that a sighting never eventuated.
Caroline Webster at her piano playing old ABBA favourites. Credit: Caroline Webster
ABBA’s songs prompted Caroline to study music at university, and she later taught piano part time.
She describes her passion for the group as “a great love affair but a subdued love affair” as ABBA, into the ‘80s, came to be considered “daggy”.
“People at the time seemed to view the universal qualities of their music as something old-fashioned and naff, but it is absolutely to be celebrated,” she says.
Caroline will be celebrating in London in May, having secured tickets to opening night.
“I almost think it’s not real. But it is real, and I am going,” she says.
“My hope is that I might get to see the fabulous four in the flesh.
“I would love the chance to be able to thank them for touching my life so deeply.”