Hay’s Daze: Get ready for touring avatars

OK, everyone who remembers the ’80s, put your hand up. Good, wow, that’s a lot of you! OK, now, everyone who remembers the band ABBA put your other hand up. Wow, that many! Very good, but boy do you guys look dumb, sitting there at Tim’s and McDonald’s reading the Advocate with your hands in the air. You can put your hands down now, people are staring at you. But thanks for participating.

Now if I said – everyone who loves those silly saccharin songs of ABBA, shout out Waterloo! at the top of your lungs … never mind, you would scare the living daylights out of your better half sitting across from you.

I don’t think about ABBA very much in the grand scheme of things, and I’m not the biggest fan of Agnetha Fältskog, Björn Ulvaeus, Benny Andersson, and Anni-Frid Lyngstad whose first letters of their first names marvelously make up the name of the famous band, but I must admit that I do like some of their impossibly catchy tunes. And in a weak moment I even went to see the theatrical production of Mamma Mia in Toronto a few years back. Which, I must say, was quite fun. And then years later, I saw the Mamma Mia movie, which turned out to be two hours of misery I will never get back. (Meryl Streep and Pierce Brosnan should contractually be allowed to sing — Never.)

Thing is, ABBA remains one of the most successful musical groups of all time, even though the last time they performed together was, get this — in 1982, and the last time they released a new song was 35 years ago! But now they not only are releasing a brand new song, they are also going on tour! Sort of.

Let’s face it, the four Swedes are now senior citizen fossils — three of them are nicely nestled into their 70s.

Big deal, you say, Mick and Keith and the boys are still strutting their stuff and they have to be at least, what — 90 years old? True, but this is where it gets weird. The ABBA Tour will be performed exclusively by holograms.

That’s right — ghosts, basically. Three dimensional moving photographic ghosts on stage, rockin’ out to Dancing Queen and Take a Chance on Me. They’ve already reunited to work on their ghostly counterparts with none other than Simon Cowell of American Idol fame to produce an “artificial intelligence”. This makes sense, since Simon Cowell’s intelligence is already clearly artificial.

The Swedish band is notoriously reluctant to perform so as keyboardist Benny Andersson puts it: the hologram shows will allow them to stay home “walking the dogs”. Guitarist Bjorn Ulvaeus says that the ABBA “avatars” (which are outrageously expensive to create) will be a “super realistic 1979 version of the band” rather than what they look like today (like fossils). “We thought we looked good that year, 1979,” he said. Didn’t we all, I say.

Holograms have been around a long time, but these shimmery, 3D moving pictures are only now technologically reaching a level of gob smacking reality. In fact, Roy Orbison recently appeared on stage in Britain with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, even though he permanently tipped over in 1988. Reports say the audience was “spellbound”. Which is better than “freaked out.”

So, ABBA fans, the past is now the future. The ABBA Avatar Tour miraculously materializes in 2019. And if you can’t go, maybe you can send your own hologram avatar. It might be the only way any of us can afford a ticket.

Harley Hay is a Red Deer writer and filmmaker.

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