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My a-ha.com review of the Royal Albert Hall concert

 

This is not going to be a traditional concert review - many other people will tell you all about the sound quality etc. It is a report of my experience as a whole....

Well, where do I start? By mentioning I have been an a-ha fan since I was 20 and Take On Me hit the UK charts? By explaining how devastated I was when the band "disappeared" without my ever seeing them perform? Perhaps by saying how I found out they were recording together again, quite by chance, one day?

Or maybe I should just tell the story of my trip to the Royal Albert Hall....

 

The day had been planned with military precision....I would finish work at 1.05pm, pop home briefly to freshen up and change, then hit the road...my children would be collected from school by a friend and another friend take them home with her family for the night....I would drive to London, park on the outskirts then get train/underground train to South Kensington and then a short walk to the Albert Hall in time for a light meal before the show....

Well, it almost worked that way! There was a signals problem on the underground, delaying my train for 30 minutes, then it had to travel very slowly at first....and then it was diverted so I had to change trains! After a brief pause to greet a familiar face from an a-ha fansite and check directions, I arrived very hot and flustered just in time to freshen up (again!) and take my seat before the support act. I was fortunate enough to buy one of the last programmes, although in my haste I couldn’t find where the T-shirts were being sold. I found my seat and discovered it was right in line with Magne’s keyboard...what a view I should have...I looked around the venue, which was impressive in itself – I had never been anywhere like that before. All the boxes looking so grand in their red and gold decor...

 

The support was a talented singer, good powerful voice. Not really "my thing" but I could tell she was good...and I happily gave my applause with everyone else. I wish I had caught her name, but I think the sound of my heart thumping in anticipation must have drowned out the announcement.

During the interval I chatted to the lady next to me and she had a look through my programme as they had sold out before she arrived. Then the lights dimmed – the moment had come! After 17 years of waiting – was it really true? Would I wake up and find it was all a dream after all?

 

The instant someone stepped onto the stage, the people in the arena leapt to their feet – me included. OK, so we knew it wasn’t Morten, Magne or Pål (or is it Paul now?!) but who cared – it meant they were just about to appear on the stage! The people around me were as excited as I was – it was wonderful to see everyone lose their inhibitions and get into the spirit of the occasion. Then they were here! It felt so unreal, seeing a-ha in front of me in the flesh, I had to pinch myself to believe it was true. The first person I saw through the sea of heads was Morten, I thought he was looked a little surprised at the reception, but I wasn’t really concentrating on analysing anything, I was too caught up in the moment. I had admired this man since I was barely out of my teens, and suddenly he was there before me in the flesh! I fought a mad impulse to run towards the stage; fortunately that soon wore off as I got into the music, joining in with Minor Earth Major Sky – a great concert opener. The excitement and atmosphere were intoxicating, so I couldn’t really consider the things other fans often notice – the mix, the sound quality, the strain (or lack thereof) in a voice. All I knew was a-ha were performing right in front of me and I was loving every second of it. I had been forewarned of the extra beat in MEMS, but I almost consciously joined most of the other fans in coming in too early, and enjoyed the look on Morten’s face which seemed to say "got ‘em again!"

After that point I saw very little, as the fans in front of me were taller than me and were also waving their arms in the air, but in actual fact it didn’t bother me. OK I would have preferred an uninterrupted view, but the music and the experience were the main reasons to be there, and no one was stopping me enjoying those! So if you are reading this and were in front of me, I was fine about it, ok – it was what I expected!

After MEMS, something from the latest album, You Wanted More. I haven’t learned all the words to all the new songs yet, but I happily sang along to the parts I know! Next another new one – Lifelines, the title track (and first UK single – out in July!). It’s a great song, but my memory of it being sung has all but disappeared amid the emotions I was feeling!

Then a-ha turned the clock back, with Manhattan Skyline – always moving but now doubly poignant, somehow – and I’ve Been Losing You. To my great surprise this was swiftly followed by a rendition of Cry Wolf – with several thousand noisy wolves in the audience!

Next a change of pace as well as a change of era with Time And Again, sung beautifully I thought, as the crowd in the arena swayed in time to the music. I was impressed with Anneli Drecker’s vocals, despite worrying a little beforehand whether I would like them! Then straight into another new number Did Anyone Approach You. I felt the drums were particularly effective here, there could be no doubting what song was beginning once they kicked in!

A couple of slow songs followed both performed as duets between Morten and Anneli. Turn The Lights Down felt almost like we were intruding on something private! Stay On These Roads done this way took a little getting used to, but now I love it, so again I was happy! The audience lapped it up, swaying and singing, waving arms gently and holding up torches and lighters.

Next was Hunting High And Low, a favourite amongst many UK fans. I can’t speak for everyone, but certainly all the people around me were singing as passionately as I was!

I am not really familiar with Locust – one of the few tracks I didn’t get "into" at the time, I suppose. However it was good to hear something a bit different – and when Morten uttered the word "Locust" at the end, I could feel the hair on the back of my neck stand up!

Then it was time to rock again with Scoundrel Days, and it was clear from the reaction that this is a popular song with many people. Again, one I do not know well, to my shame, although I do have the CD! But familiar or not, I loved it all! And then the opening notes of Take On Me hit our ears – and it seemed as though the whole place just erupted with excitement! People all around were dancing – I had an aisle seat and numerous times security men had to come and tell enthusiastic fans to clear the aisle as they were dancing in it! I thought the new treatment of this old favourite of the fans worked extremely well. It had been my favourite before MEMS was released, and sometimes fans do not like having their beloved songs "tampered with"! But this was great – rockier somehow but without losing any of the qualities I liked best in the original.

How could they follow that? Anyone who’s seen the Homecoming video/DVD or attended a concert on last year’s tour, must remember the dramatic ending with all the lighting effects....it made a great encore! But this time it was not the end of the concert, so what now? Of course, a crowd singalong! It was The Living Daylights, of course! After we had finished singing ourselves hoarse with that, the band said goodnight and left the stage. Naturally we knew they would be back, but we cheered and clapped as loud as possible so the guys would know we really wanted more!

 

When a-ha came back out, the noise from the crowd had not even begun to die down! They began the encore with Forever Not Yours, which of course was never released as a single in the UK, more’s the pity. Most people sang when they were not supposed to, of course, but I think Morten would have been disappointed otherwise, he did seem to enjoy teasing the fans when we got things wrong.....perhaps in revenge for all the teasing he gets for forgetting lyrics!!

The second song was Summer Moved On, one of my favourites. I am sure I wasn’t the only one wondering if Morten would manage the 20 second "aaaaask", and I have to say this was the one time I did notice he seemed to feel a strain on his voice....but he made it, sore throat or not, to receive a huge cheer from the audience.

Finally we were treated to The Sun Always Shines On TV – not my personal favourite track but it did very well in the UK so it was an appropriate choice and I truly enjoyed hearing it live. Another one that had us all singing! Then it was over, but the fans cheered and applauded for what seemed an eternity....some of us had to be asked to leave in the end!

The little comments from Magne, when I could hear them, were welcome, it made us feel extra special to be a part of their return to their old stamping ground! I have to admit I was so caught up in the atmosphere, Morten could have sung the ‘phone book and I would still have had a wonderful time. This much I had expected! However, what I did not anticipate was spending the best part of 2 hours on my feet (already aching after a long day) and dancing – something I had not done for 14 years prior to the concert! My arms were aching so much from clapping high above my head for so long, I was beginning to wonder how I would manage the 100 mile drive back from the station!

 

On the tube on the way home I saw several other people returning from the gig, and they all looked as happy as I was. I spent my journey sending frantic text messages to everyone I could think of, to tell them what an awesome evening it had been. Having not eaten earlier, I had to stop for food part way home, and I had the Winchester services all to myself! So there I sat at 1am, enjoying a sandwich and a cup of tea, sending a text to my sister for her to read when she awoke! I walked around all the next day with a silly grin on my face – I‘m sure people were wondering what I’d been up to!

The feeling of elation still has not fully worn off 6 days later, and I have another concert in October to look forward to.

Thank you so much Morten, Magne and Paul, it was truly the best night of my life.

 



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