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 couldnt find where the
T-shirts were being sold. I found my seat and discovered it was right in line with
Magnes 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 wasnt 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 wasnt 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 couldnt 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 Mortens 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 didnt 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
After MEMS, something from the latest album, You Wanted More. I havent 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!). Its 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 Ive 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 Dreckers 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
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 cant 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 didnt 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 whos seen the Homecoming video/DVD or attended
a concert on last years 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, mores 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
The second song was Summer Moved On, one of my favourites. I am sure I wasnt 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 Im sure people were wondering what Id 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.