Sydney lights up for ABBA album launch

Images of ABBA – Benny Andersson, Agnetha Fältskog, Anni-Frid Lyngstad and Björn Ulvaeus – projected onto the Sydney Harbour Bridge in the early hours of Friday, 3 September, 2021. Photo: Will Hartl/Destination NSW/supplied.

ABBA has simultaneously launched their comeback album in eight cities around the globe – including Sydney, in a nod to the special history between the Swedish supergroup and the Habour City. Peter Hackney reports.

Sydney has joined eight other cities around the globe to jointly host the launch of the much-anticipated new album by Swedish supergroup ABBA.

After a 38-year hiatus, the band launched their new album, Voyage, in spectacular style with simultaneous events in Sydney, Berlin, Cape Town, London, New York City, Rio, Reykjavik, Stockholm and Tokyo.

The event saw striking avatars of group members Benny Andersson, Agnetha Fältskog, Anni-Frid Lyngstad and Björn Ulvaeus projected onto the pylons of the Sydney Harbour Bridge, accompanied by a dazzling light display across the bridge’s arch.

“We couldn’t be more thrilled for Sydney to be part of our global album launch,” said ABBA in a statement, released in conjunction with Destination NSW, the lead government agency for the state’s tourism and major events sectors.

“Sydney has always been a special city to us and we have wonderful memories of the time we spent performing in Australia.”

Images of ABBA – Benny Andersson, Agnetha Fältskog, Anni-Frid Lyngstad and Björn Ulvaeus – projected onto the Sydney Harbour Bridge in the early hours of Friday, 3 September, 2021. Photo: Will Hartl/Destination NSW/supplied.

Universal Music Australia’s creative agency, Bring, said streaming data showed ABBA was still enormously popular in Sydney. 

“When we heard of the imminent release of ABBA Voyage and unwrapped stories of the band’s history with Sydney, we knew there was no better fit than [Destination NSW] and no better place than our wonderous harbourside,” said Adam Ireland, the general manager of Bring. 

“Streaming data backed up our vision, showing that Sydney has the fourth highest volume of streams for ABBA, exceeding global benchmarks.” 

ABBA and Sydney: a mutual love

ABBA’s history with Sydney dates back to 1976, when the group first visited the Harbour City for a frenetic promotional tour. 

While in the city, the group filmed a television special called ABBA in Australia, featuring the Swedes singing a number of their songs at Channel Nine’s studios in Willoughby, interspersed with scenes filmed in and around Sydney.

The music video for their song ‘Tropical Loveland’ – filmed on the Hawkesbury River in Sydney’s north – was lifted from the program.

The ‘Tropical Loveland’ music video. Video: Superstellina2012/YouTube.

In 1977, the group came back for their first and only concert tour of Australia, which included a performance at the Sydney Showground, then located in Moore Park.

Speaking today, Andersson said it was the band’s most memorable concert experience, at which they were greeted by torrential rain and tens of thousands of screaming fans.

“It still sits in my mind,” Andersson said. “It was pouring down, mud all over the place, and 50,000 umbrellas. It was a wonderful sight. You see all those umbrellas and you know you have to go out there and perform.”

Footage from the concert was included in ABBA: The Movie, filmed largely in Sydney in 1977.

The 2021 incarnation of ABBA still has a penchant for ‘interesting’ clothes. Photo: ABBAVoyage/Twitter.

New concerts

The group looks set to return to Sydney – albeit in a different form – in the not too distant future, today announcing a global concert tour, which will begin at London’s Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park on 27 May, 2022.

However, instead of the band members performing in person, the concerts will feature four digital avatars – or ‘ABBAtars’ – which will show members of the band as they looked in 1979.

The holographic ‘live’ show was created using motion capture and other techniques, with George Lucas’ special-effects company, Industrial Light & Magic.

Calling it “the strangest and most spectacular concert you could ever dream of”, the group said: “We’re going to be able to sit back in an audience and watch our digital selves perform our songs.”

Sydney dates are yet to be announced, however ABBA has confirmed the concerts will include Australia.

Voyage

The Voyage album, which is now available on pre-order, will be released in full on Friday, 5 November. 

Two songs from the album – ‘Don’t Shut Me Down’ and ‘I Still Have Faith in You’ – were released today and are now available on music streaming and download platforms. 

Official lyric video to new ABBA single ‘Don’t Shut Me Down’, from the album Voyage. Video: ABBA/YouTube.
Official music video to new ABBA single ‘I Still Have Faith in You’, from the album Voyage. Video: ABBA/YouTube.

ABBA, which formed in 1972 in Stockholm, have sold an estimated 150 million albums to date.

Popular globally, the band has been especially successful in Australia, where they have enjoyed numerous resurgences, inspired by the use of their music in local films such as The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert and Muriel’s Wedding, as well as performances by Australian ABBA tribute band Björn Again.

In the year 2000, ABBA’ s biggest hit, ‘Dancing Queen’, reached perhaps its biggest audience ever when Australian pop superstar Kylie Minogue performed it live in front of 114,000 people and a global television audience of 2.4 billion at the closing ceremony of the 2000 Sydney Olympics.

Kylie Minogue performs ABBA’s ‘Dancing Queen’ at the closing ceremony of the 2000 Sydney Olympics on Sunday, 1 October, 2000. Video: Olympics/YouTube.

Peter Hackney is the editor-in-chief of the Sydney Sentinel – and an ABBA fan since the late 1970s, when he was a toddler bouncing around to his mum’s ABBA cassettes.