By: David Naylor
How many times do you go to a concert and get four shows for the price of one? Well, this was the case at The Royal Albert Hall on Saturday, 24th May 2008. I have followed a-ha since the early days (23 years to be exact) and given my first concert was in 1988 standing up at The Portsmouth Guildhall dressed in ripped jeans and leather bootlaces on my wrists, things couldn’t get much better…could they?
The geniuses behind the mega success that is a-ha were performing as solo artists in their own right. A rare occurrence as the chance to do this has been difficult over the years.
First on stage was Magne F. An accomplished keyboard player, songwriter and all round established artist/sculptor. Magne emitted his own style upon us. In my words a kind of “rustic techno-pop” style with heavy undertones of what we know from a-ha.
Beginning with the title track from his new album, “a dot of black in the blue of your bliss”, he followed this with a fantastic song “Kryptonite” from his earlier album, ‘Past Perfect Future Tense’. His superb keyboard and guitar skills kept the audience wanting more. Later followed solo renditions of “Don’t Do Me Any Favours” and “Summer of our Youth” taken from the most recent a-ha album ‘Analogue’ finishing with “Come Back” again, taken from his latest album. Magne F is a critically acclaimed all round artiste worthy of all the success he has achieved.
Following Magne F came Savoy, a band led by a-ha guitarist Paul Waaktaar-Savoy, his wife Lauren Waaktaar-Savoy and drummer Frode Unneland. Again, Savoy have recognisable connotations from a-ha but complimented by what only can be described as angelic vocals from Lauren. The sounds of Savoy create a harmonious melodic sound which is …amazing!
Performing from the new album, ‘Savoy Songbook Vol. 1′ their set contained earlier songs as well as recent ones. Lauren sings on the song “Star” which is just beautiful. A wonderful song worthy of so many plaudits. “Whalebone” is a haunting sounding song followed later by the explosive track “Foolish”. Intermingled in this we find “Velvet”, a true classic featured on the a-ha album ‘Minor Earth, Major Sky’ Savoy have sounds reminiscent of Depeche Mode but execute their music in their own unique style.
Then followed Morten Harket. As he entered the stage, predictably the crowd erupted with screaming women (shades of 1988 entered my mind). Once the dust had settled, Morten began with songs from his forthcoming album, ‘Letter from Egypt’. One song in particular, “Movies”, has Morten at his very best. His vocal range and capabilities are probably one of the very best in the last 40 years or so. “Spanish Steps”, a song from his first solo venture ‘Wild Seed’ followed soon stirring memories of past years. “Shooting Star”, “Darkspace”, “There Are Many Ways to Die” and “The One You Are” came next, again from the forthcoming album. Morten truly commands the stage with his amazing vocals and constant relationship with his audience.
After, a small interlude with harpist Erin Hill. She played a-ha greats such as “Minor Earth, Major Sky” and “And You Tell Me” as well as David Bowie’s classic “Space Oddity”.
Then, to rapturous applause emerged a-ha. Back together for a small set, the crowd went wild. The early pop sounding track “Train of Thought” was amazing and this was followed by a surprise. Two new tracks from a brand new a-ha album currently in production giving us all something to look forward to later this year.
Then that was it! But after much clapping, cheering and stomping, the boys return for one last song. It could only be… “Take on Me”. I felt 17 again, smiling, singing and dancing in my own little world but with a few 1000 more. I have watched these guys perform at small venues to Wembley Arena and they never fail to provide.
Overall, a rare and unique insight into the singer/songwriters that are a-ha. They have pleased so many over the years and may they long continue to do so.
Morten, Paul and Magne, I salute you. Roll on this year for that new album.
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