By Jason Cochran
When I first heard about the concept of ABBA Voyage, I was deeply dubious. I think a lot of us were.
The show, which opened in the spring of 2022, is a dynamic, buoyant, play-all-the-hits pop concert starring the original members of the Swedish pop quartet ABBA—except they're not really there. Instead of playing live gigs, the foursome, now in their 70s, used motion capture technology to create "ABBAtars" (pictured above) of their 1970s selves that would be projected onto a stage.
The group would record the songs and the dance moves in the privacy of a studio, and those performances would be fed into computers. The resulting representations of the group's youthful selves would deliver the final product on screens in a custom-built concert hall in East London.
That way, members of a band who now look like this . . .
. . . can be turned into performers who look like this. And wearing modern Dolce & Gabbana, no less.
The whole concept sounded like the kind of unmoored fever dream that only fabulously wealthy but socially detached icons could come up with—like Howard Hughes making a robot version of himself to shake hands at parties, or Elvis sending a hologram to Las Vegas so he could stay home at Graceland eating fried pickles.
Potential audiences were not convinced, and advance ticket sales for ABBA Voyage were sluggish.
But once the show opened, that reticence dissolved. Critics loved it. The show actually works. The lights, the moving screens and ever-changing visual mood, the live band—it all added up to a party atmosphere.The Guardianproclaimed it "a dazzling retro-futurist extravaganza."
ABBA Voyagebegan selling out. Rather than becoming an industry joke about delusions of fame and technology, the show became one of London's hotter tickets.
Even I loved it. In the space of a few chords, I went from crossing my arms in cynical dread to wishing I could bring a group of friends to see it again. Such is the power of ABBA—but a lot of the credit also goes to wizardly stagecraft.
Johan Persson / ABBA Voyage
The show is lots of fun, largely because the use of technology is so competent. And it ought to be, for a reported £140 million (US $170 million) production budget.
The four core ABBA members—Benny Andersson, Anni-Frid Lyngstad, Agnetha Fältskog, and Björn Ulvaeus—are sized exactly the way they would be if they were really there, even if they aren't able to break the fourth wall and mingle with the audience. As at many typical concerts, there are also side screens for close-ups of the performances, and those visuals are lively and groovy.
Additionally, there are moving mirrors, hundreds of beams of light, animated interludes, strings of luridly colored lights that descend from the rafters, "costume changes"—there's plenty to divert the eye.
Instead of looking two-dimensional and fake, the "ABBAtar" projections create an illusion so convincing that more than once during the show audience members wonder if the extra performers who appear onstage are doing so in person or by projection. One friend who saw the production from the very front row reported that even from that close distance, the projections still looked real.
Human instinct usually detects when it's being presented with a simulated person, and most of the time, the audience still perceives the ABBAtars as slightly too smooth to be authentic. But those 1970s characters are folded so well into a wider spectacle—and are amazing enough unto themselves—that the ruse barely matters.
Johan Persson / ABBA Voyage
That said, there are some pitfalls to seeing ABBA Voyage.
This bespoke arena (so new in the spring of 2022 you could smell the plywood) is designed to be packed up and moved to another city when ticket sales dry up. It was plopped down in a dull area just south of Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park, near Stratford in East London, an area that 15 years ago was mostly abandoned and post-industrial.
There's not much food in the immediate vicinity, so if you have tickets and you're hoping to find a pub nearby before or after the show, give up that hope. If you need to eat before the show, the arena's lobby opens about an hour early, and it sells food like hot dogs and slender burritos (about £9, or $11, each), as well as drinks like prosecco and draught beer.
Souvenirs are pricey. A program starts at £15 (over $18). Take that into your budget considerations.
Stufish Entertainment Architects
Getting to the ABBA Arena (the image above is an architect's rendering, but it's accurate) is easy enough. It's steps away from the Pudding Mill Lane stop on the Docklands Light Railway (DLR), a tramlike train that's part of the Tube network. You can connect to the DLR from the Underground on the same fare. Though arriving at the venue is simple, when the show lets out the DLR can't cope with the sudden surge of people, and long lines for somewhat infrequent trains appear.
To solve that, arrive at Pudding Mill Lane, but when you leave, walk 20 minutes to either the Stratford station (on the Central and Jubilee lines of the Tube), Bow Road (on the District Line and Hammersmith & City Line), or Hackney Wick (on the Overground).
The arena is just south of the 2012 Olympic Park, so you can use your ABBA visit to walk around the old grounds on your way to the Stratford station.
Johan Persson / ABBA Voyage
There are three types of tickets available. Dance Floor spots are like the Groundlings at Shakespeare's Globe: You stand for the show, but you're closest to the performances and you can boogie along with everyone else. The lowest these go for advance sales is usually about £70 ($86).
Dance Booths are like VIP boxes at a sports arena: You get a few seats, extra space (for dancing), and, because there are only a few of these boxes, they're the most expensive, starting around £160 ($196) per person, but usually higher.
Auditorium Seating is in regular concert seats on a steep, stadium-style section that encircles the stage. I prefer these, not just because they're easier on the feet than standing for the whole show, but also because some of the special effects descend from the ceiling and hang over the Dance Floor, and the Auditorium Seats are the best place to catch the entirety of the stage pictures.Tickets on the extreme sides of the Auditorium can be as low as £32 ($39) if you plan many months ahead.
Seats on the sides of the Auditorium are generally close in price to the Dance Floor. Seats in the center section, H, deliver the widest and most symmetrical view. They're the best seats and therefore expensive—expect £102 to £175 ($125 to $214) each, depending on demand.
Showtimes are generally Thurs–Mon (no shows Tues–Weds). On single-show days, the production starts at 7:45pm. On Saturdays, showtimes are 3pm and 7:45pm; on Sundays, they shift earlier, to 1pm and 5pm.
The official ABBA Voyage websiteposts changing tips about when to find the cheapest tickets. The site alerts you to the next best upcoming month for savings, but the best way to save is to book many, many months ahead.
Arts and Culture
ABBA, concert, music, theater, london
Where is the best place to sit for ABBA Voyage? ›
The Dance Booths are a popular choice for making a special night of it at ABBA Voyage, with individual dance floors. In general seating, blocks A - E offer the best views in the ABBA Arena. Seats close to the centre ensure a head-on view of the show's spectacle and cutting-edge technology.Is it best to sit or stand at ABBA Voyage? ›
I prefer these, not just because they're easier on the feet than standing for the whole show, but also because some of the special effects descend from the ceiling and hang over the Dance Floor, and the Auditorium Seats are the best place to catch the entirety of the stage pictures.Is ABBA departure lounge worth it? ›
The Oceanbird Departure Lounge is a premium space within the ABBA Arena, where you can enjoy free-flowing food and drinks before the concert, starting your ABBA Voyage in style. Generous, bountiful & fun, it is the perfect way to make your visit to the ABBA Arena even more memorable.How early should I get to ABBA Voyage? ›
Food & Drink. Doors to the ABBA Arena open 1 hour 45 minutes before the concert, so you can arrive early to make the most of all our bar and food outlets which will all be open before the concert starts. Upgrade to the ultimate ABBA Voyage experience with access to the exclusive Oceanbird Departure Lounge.Can you dance in the seats at ABBA Voyage? ›
Get closer to the action with our Dance Floor tickets. These tickets are for standing (or dancing) only, so you'll be closer to the stage than anyone else and free to dance anywhere within the area. We have eight Dance Booths in total, four for up to 10 people and four for up to 12 people.Are ABBA Voyage tickets selling well? ›
We have to see how attractive it is. We've sold 380,000 tickets or so. It's good for a couple months.What should I wear to ABBA concert? ›
There is no official dress code for the evening. Expect to see a mix of ABBA fancy dress, Donna dungarees and normal evening out attire.How long does ABBA Voyage concert last? ›
The concert is 90 minutes long and there is no interval. Doors open 1 hour 45 minutes before the start of the concert. The performance will start promptly and latecomers will not be admitted until a suitable break in the performance.
Food and drink purchased elsewhere may not be brought into or consumed at the ABBA Arena and will be confiscated on entry. You should avoid bringing large suitcases or bags to the Arena as these may not be admitted and cloakroom availability cannot be guaranteed.Is it worth paying for the lounge? ›
A lounge can offer the perfect hideaway from the hectic nature of the airport. It's much quieter, and most lounges have comfortable, spacious seating — and plenty of it. You can also use the Wi-Fi and power outlets, so you're all charged up before boarding the plane.
How much is ABBA departure lounge? ›
Access to the Lounge and all its benefits can be purchased for £99 per person.Can you take pictures at ABBA Voyage? ›
During your visit, you are welcome to take photos outside of the arena and inside the main arena concourse.What food is available at ABBA Voyage? ›
In the venue, you can find four public bars, a Prosecco bar and a concourse eatery serving hot dogs, deli sandwiches and sweet treats. The Oceanbird Lounge at ABBA Voyage is a premium hospitality space, where you can enjoy free-flowing food and drink before the concert.Will ABBA be singing live at ABBA Voyage? ›
And although none of the real-life musicians were actually onstage performing, all four of them were present in London, making a rare public appearance at the premiere of their virtual live concert ABBA Voyage.How long does it take to go round the ABBA museum? ›
Just remember that we recommend around 1½-2 hours inside the exhibition, and to keep an eye on our opening hours on our website!How are ABBA Voyage tickets selling? ›
In an interview with Variety, the band's Benny Andersson gave an update on how ticket sales have been going for the run, which is taking place in a purpose-built 3,000-capacity venue. “We've sold 380,000 tickets or so. It's good for a couple months.Can you wear jeans to a concert? ›
But when it comes to style, comfort, and practicality, you can't go wrong with a pair of jeans or shorts. Especially if it's summer and especially if the concert is outside. Sometimes a band's set can go on for hours, so ensure you'll be comfortable all night by wearing your favorite denim bottoms.Is ABBA Arena air conditioned? ›
Yes, the ABBA Arena has an Air Conditioning system.Can you wear jeans to a musical? ›
Both formal and informal clothing is accepted. From casual t-shirts, jeans and flip-flops to a cocktail dress or tuxedo, the spectrum of audience style is so broad that there is no specific dress code.Can you take bags into the ABBA Arena? ›
There is a cloakroom with limited space at the ABBA Arena, and visitors should bring only what is necessary to performances. Any bags larger than a handbag or small rucksack must be left in the cloakroom and not taken into the auditorium. What security measures are there at the ABBA Arena?
What is the capacity of the ABBA Voyage? ›
The concerts are held in a purpose-built venue at the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park in London, officially called ABBA Arena. Made from steel and timber, the 25.5m high hexagonal building has a 3,000 person capacity made up of 1,650 seats and space for a standing audience of 1,350.Are there toilets in the ABBA Arena? ›
There is step-free access throughout the ABBA Arena including the main entrance, foyer, toilets, bars and the auditorium itself.How can I get free access to lounge? ›
- Use cards that give free lounge access. ...
- Buy a third-party lounge pass. ...
- Buy one-time access to a lounge for as low as $23. ...
- Find free access with the LoungeBuddy app. ...
- Get free access as an active military member. ...
- Get an airline or alliance lounge membership. ...
- Gain entry with elite points status. ...
- Gain access with your ticket.
Airport lounges are no longer just for first and business class travellers. That's right, nowadays even if you are flying economy and have absolutely no airline loyalty, you can pay to enter a new style of pay-per-use lounges.What to expect at ABBA Voyage? ›
What will you see at ABBA Voyage? Those avatars, based on the reunited Agnetha Fältskog, Björn Ulvaeus, Benny Andersson and Anni-Frid Lyngstad perform every single number. The singers are backed by a live 10-piece band, accompanying ABBA's avatars on all their hits and bringing that immersive energy to the room.How long does the ABBA Voyage show last? ›
The concert is 90 minutes long and there is no interval. Doors open 1 hour 45 minutes before the start of the concert. The performance will start promptly and latecomers will not be admitted until a suitable break in the performance. Please note adjusted performance times for Holiday, Christmas and New Year's periods.What is the point of ABBA Voyage? ›
ABBA Voyage is a virtual concert residency by the Swedish pop group ABBA. The concerts feature virtual avatars (dubbed 'ABBAtars'), depicting the group as they appeared in 1977. The concerts are held in a purpose-built venue at the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park in London, officially called the ABBA Arena.How much has ABBA Voyage cost? ›
Voyage takes place in a custom-built temporary stadium, ABBA Arena, and cost $175 million to develop, making it one of the most expensive live shows ever. It'll need to attract north of 2 million fans just to break even, but that seems doable with 650,000 tickets already sold.What food is at ABBA Voyage? ›
In the venue, you can find four public bars, a Prosecco bar and a concourse eatery serving hot dogs, deli sandwiches and sweet treats. The Departure Lounge at ABBA Voyage is a premium hospitality space, where you can enjoy free-flowing food and drink before the concert.