“How does it really feel to have seen the longer term?”
So requested the lady behind the money register as I picked out an Abba Voyage commemorative T-shirt. “That’s the way forward for leisure,” she stated of the present I’d simply seen, her face all mystic and awestruck. “I assume so,” I replied as I handed over my card. She was in all probability proper, however I felt much less ecstatic than rueful.
Don’t misunderstand me: Abba Voyage, the reside area occasion at the moment occupying Pudding Mill Lane on the ends of east London, is nothing in need of a miracle. In a stunning technological regeneration, the Swedish supergroup has been reanimated, returned to 1977, and reborn as extraordinary “Abba-tars”. As a magic trick, the entire spectacle is totally dazzling. And though the figures have the occasional jolting syncopation of Sims characters (and the band’s voices and bodily gestures are modelled on band members now of their seventies), the voyage is an eye-rubbing marvel.
Becoming a member of the viewers in a lusty rendition of “Fernando” on a humid Monday evening, I felt overwhelmed with happiness and nostalgia. I embraced the hen-night power, danced within the aisles and channelled my interior Agnetha. My daughter, an Abba superfan, went hoarse from singing her lungs out. Chugging dwelling on the Docklands Gentle Railway, I puzzled if one can OD on serotonin.
Have I seen the way forward for leisure, nonetheless? I quite hope I haven’t. Apparently music executives the world over are actually planning holographic extravaganzas, and at upwards of £100 a ticket, the Abba Voyage enterprise mannequin will probably be wildly addictive. I can solely think about the 40mn Licks we’d see from the Rolling Stones sooner or later. Not in contrast to the 3D mania that possessed filmmakers about 10 years in the past, the idea of reside efficiency is about to enter a brand new period.
As with so many issues in our lives now, that is the age of deep-fake leisure. Following the movie business’s acquiescence to the Marvel universe, and ubiquity of the gaming aesthetic, it was solely a matter of time earlier than even reside efficiency grew to become topic to techno manipulation. Who wants precise our bodies on a stage when you may construct a convincing simulacrum? Why hassle wrecking your vocal cords over the course of a punishing residency when you may simply hit play on a recording?
Tougher to copy although would be the temper of euphoria that solely an Abba fan brings with them. I think about the thrill for musical holograms will possible burn brilliant however will shortly fall out of favour. What stays extra everlasting, nonetheless, is how blurred our cultural actuality is turning into. We’re cautious of how truthful our information is perhaps (witness the misreporting over the missile strike this week in Poland). However deep-fake leisure has now wiggled into each aspect of tradition.
Whether or not CGI, blue display, holographic or just pure fabrication, the boundaries between what’s actual or imagined have gotten muddled within the chopped salad of leisure. It’s particularly pernicious in programmes that current occasions as being factual historical past. The ninetieth sequence of The Crown arrived final week together with a volley of complaints concerning the sequence’ wildly fictitious diversions. Former prime minister John Main has vehemently denied having met King Charles to debate the then prince’s succession frustrations. (He appeared an ideal deal much less involved by the casting of Jonny Lee Miller, who has lent that greyest of political leaders a disconcertingly horny charisma). At this level within the Netflix drama, it appears quite pointless to bleat about misrepresentation. Nevertheless it’s dismaying to understand that audiences care much less and fewer for the reality of their fiction.
We appear to be caught in a cycle that locations extraordinary worth in making issues “look” genuine. Whether or not it’s Dominic West dressing up in the proper of tweeds, or Abba created in lasers, so long as every part seems the half, we appear much less involved by the substance. On TikTok, I watch compare-and-contrast movies in which you’ll watch the dramatic restagings of The Crown (and different “true tales”) subsequent to movies of latest reside footage. The impersonations, the wardrobes and intonation are so good that you simply scarcely know which is the true one. Leisure has change into a weird hybrid wherein the hole between digital and actual has shrunk to a hair’s width.
However whereas many are actually exploring the bounds of what may be finished to bend an viewers’s notion, there may be additionally a rising contingent who nonetheless crave the corporeal and actual.
As I write, I’m sitting in a presale queue within the hope of snagging a ticket for Blur, who will reunite for a single live performance at Wembley Stadium subsequent summer time. The band final performed a full set collectively in 2015, and for years a reunion has appeared unimaginable. Pulp have additionally introduced a string of dates after almost a decade of not enjoying collectively. That the bands have out of the blue introduced dates subsequent yr has set one million Brit-pop pulses aflutter. To see Damon, Alex, Graham and Dave on a stage once more? That actually could be a miracle.