Reviews

Review: a-ha live at the Royal Albert Hall

In 2006 a-ha played in a back lot of London’s ExCel centre as part of the British International Motor Show. I was there, and while the band were excellent (they are rarely less than that), as fans congregated in this rather grim, tarmac setting, it was apparent that the show wasn’t a sell out and there was a good third of the capacity free. They may have been enjoying a mini-revival at that time – thanks to the UK top ten hit ‘Analogue’ (the title track from their 2005 album) – but the appeal of seeing a-ha play live didn’t stretch much beyond the diehard fans, it seemed.

Thirteen years, one split, a farewell tour and a new album later… and the band are riding the crest of a wave powered by the evergreen appeal of pop classic ‘Take On Me’, which apparently averages 480,000 views on YouTube PER DAY! The song, with its groundbreaking video, is truly iconic and the reach of streaming has reactivated engagement levels enormously –  the world is in love with a-ha again, a bit like back in 1985 when they topped the charts both sides of the Atlantic.

To underline this fact, a-ha filled the O2 Arena a couple of years back with their ‘intimate’ MTV Unplugged tour and last night entertained a capacity crowd at London’s Royal Albert Hall, with a concert performance that kicked off with their debut album Hunting High and Low played in full (in order) and then continued with a further selection of hits (and the odd deep cut). When I interview Paul Waaktaar-Savoy a year ago, and asked him about the plans for the then newly announced Hunting High and Low tour, he said “I’m really hoping to do stuff we haven’t done before” and spoke of a desire to have “some new songs” in the show. More on that later, but first off let’s talk about the idea of playing a whole album in full, on stage.

There are pros and cons in this concept. It’s certainly a rare opportunity to hear album cuts that the artist might otherwise be unlikely to play, but the problem is that this includes the duffers as well as exquisite deep cuts. It’s a bit like buying those big multi-packs of crisps, there’s always going to be the audio equivalent of prawn cocktail. Choosing to play the album in order also removes a level of spontaneity from the event; you know what is coming next and that is quite significant. I actually found myself mentally checking off the songs, as we went through the album. A live event is not supposed to be a box-ticking exercise.

In some ways, you could say that the artist relinquishes control. They step on to a conveyor belt that starts with the album’s opening number and hop off until the last track is done and dusted. Speaking of control, it also denies the act the ability to create a proper ebb and flow to the concert – and audio ‘narrative’’, if you will. You are locked into a running order that was decided – in the case of HHAL – over three decades ago and while Paul Waaktaar-Savoy has said that he quite likes getting ‘Take On Me’ out of the way, early on, I do think it simply works better as an encore, when people have been looking forward to hearing it for 90 minutes.

Ultimately, the playing-an-album-in-full idea, is really pure marketing –  it’s what differentiates your new tour from the last. a-ha and their management clearly understand this and so last time we had an-intimate-acoustic-evening-with-a-ha, and this time it’s Hunting High and Low played in full. Clever acts have a concept to stir the interest and give people a reason to come back. From the artist perspective, whatever compromises this may entail are for the greater good.


The band opened with Take On Me (click image to enlarge)

So onto the show. The projections behind the band were stunning. The impressive mix of original video elements (‘Take On Me’), abstract visuals and film of eco-style landscapes (forest, seas, planets and the like) were all seamlessly blended with live coverage of the band on stage. Everything was pin-sharp and projected onto an absolutely enormous screen and it really worked a treat. A-ha arguably need this kind of lift, because none of them could be accused of being natural showmen, and only keyboard player Magne engaged with the crowd with any kind of ease and regularity (doing so with his usual wit and charm). As always, Paul remained studiously devoted to his guitar duties, and while Morten sung beautifully all evening, it has to be said that the guy has more ‘ticks’ than Nadal preparing for a serve, constantly fiddling with his ear-piece, making silent signals to the sound desk (presumably to adjust his ‘mix’ in his ear monitor) and occasionally looking like he’d lost where he was in the song. But that’s just Morten for you.

Before this tour, the band had actually already played Hunting High and Low in full – just twice – back in 2010, although both of these gigs (one at the RAH, incidentally) were with a full orchestra. So this tour is the first time they’re playing it in a ‘just the band’ setting.

The album sounded more or less as you’d expect live, save for a rearrangement of ‘Dream Myself Alive’ which reverted the song back to an form not dissimilar to the original demo (found on the super deluxe of the album). ‘The Sun Always Shines On TV’ (the song that outperformed ’Take On Me’ in the UK charts, let’s not forget) was as dramatic and amazing as ever, ‘Living A Boy’s Adventure Tale’ still sounds like it’s belongs in a Broadway Musical and of course ‘Take On Me’ was a stunning opener, where the projections fused video and live performance perfectly. ‘Love is Reason’ is still the weak link (prawn cocktail flavoured) and there’s no way it should be played ahead of classics like ‘Manhattan Skyline’ or ‘Cry Wolf’ but they promised to play the album in full and that’s what you get. I’d like also to give a shout out for ‘Here I Stand And Face The Rain’. I really love this song and the line “let’s stay friends forever” never fails to transports me back to my teens, and the days of discussing an unknown future with friends – life’s compromises and harsh realities somewhere far in the distance.

After a short interval, we were back for part two and because I’d made a point of avoiding reading reviews or checking out set-lists online, this was all going to be a complete surprise to me.

The ten-song selection that took us to the end of the concert was reasonably balanced between hits and deep cuts, but closer inspection reveals a massive bias towards the material from the 1980s. They only played two tracks (‘Foot of the Mountain’ and ‘Analogue’) from their last six albums, including nothing from 2015’s reunion record Cast In Steel, zip from recently reissued Minor Earth Major Sky (2000) and Lifelines (2002) and nada from the dark and dusty Memorial Beach (1993). I guess the thinking was if you are going to get people through the door with the promise of Hunting High and Low don’t be a party pooper and alienate them with a load of obscurities in the second half.

We did get to enjoy the two outstanding album tracks from Scoundrel Days (the title track and ‘The Swing of Things’) in addition to a fabulous sounding ‘I’ve Been Losing You’. ‘Stay On These Roads’ was truly beautiful and remains one of the best songs in their canon, while the biggest surprise – ‘Sycamore Leaves’ from 1990’s East of the Sun West Of The Moon – was a wonderful dip into prog-noir and was a great opportunity to observe Magne getting into the groove with some Ray Manzarek-style organ playing.

There was only one new song in the end, called ‘Digital River’. I’m not sure a world exists where a song with that title is any good, and indeed, it was a disappointingly bland and forgettable mid-paced number, with a frankly horrible chorus lyric/melody. This is apparently a ‘Cast in Steel’ outtake, but why not play the brilliant windswept ballad ‘Under The Makeup’ from that album, instead? It’s still relatively unknown, but unlike ‘Digital River’ it sounds like a lost classic.

The evening ended with the fanfare of Bond theme ‘The Living Daylights’ and the crowd were rapturous. Morten delighted some of the female contingent at the front of the auditorium by shaking hands and showing off his cheekbones.

I had throughly enjoyed the show but couldn’t help feeling a little disappointed at how it was aimed squarely at the casual fan more than the diehard. I’ve given up going to see Duran Duran because there’s only so many times you want to see a band play ‘the hits’ and with the Hunting High and Low tour having new dates stretching to the end of next year, it will be a while before the next ‘concept’ for an a-ha concert comes along.

On the way home, I came to the conclusion that being a band like a-ha in this day and age requires a two-pronged campaign, to keep everybody happy. This means regular arena tours designed for wide appeal and expanded physical album reissues – with demos and rarities – for the diehard students of a-ha. If both of those things keep happening then we can all stay friends, forever.

Paul Sinclair watched a-ha play the Royal Albert Hall on 5 November 2019. The tour continues –  check the website for further dates. The newly repackaged ‘Hunting High and Low’ super deluxe edition is released next week.

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The set list was as follows:

Part 1:

Take On Me
Train of Thought
Hunting High and Low
The Blue Sky
Living a Boy’s Adventure Tale
The Sun Always Shines on T.V.
And You Tell Me
Love Is Reason
Dream Myself Alive
Here I Stand and Face the Rain

Part 2:

Analogue (All I Want)
Foot of the Mountain
The Swing of Things
Crying in the Rain
Sycamore Leaves
Digital River
I’ve Been Losing You
Stay on These Roads

Encore:

Scoundrel Days
The Living Daylights

78 responses to Review: a-ha live at the Royal Albert Hall

  1. Hi a-ha. Please. Do. New. Album. Hopefully this. Tour. Come out. On. Blu-ray. Please. See. You. Again. Next year. Tour. Lifelong. Fan.

  2. Pingback:a-ha / Take On Me blue vinyl 7″ | superdeluxeedition

  3. Megan says:

    As someone who grew up in a small village in Hampshire (where a-ha were based around the HHAL time – also their fan club address was our village post office) I was so excited to get tickets to see them perform the whole album. I really liked the fact it was played in order.
    Would’ve loved to also hear Touchy and Cry wolf but you can’t have it all!
    The last time I saw Morten was (according to my mum) in the village newsagents 30 odd years ago

  4. Richard. says:

    First of all thanks for a great review.
    Needless to say: this is all about the money.
    I have always been a fan,ever since the breakthrough, that’s why I have mixed feelings on this tour.
    I was there when they did this the first time, at the same place on October 8th 2010.
    We all felt this was a special occasion as they took us down memory lane.
    Especially “Living a boys adventure tale” was an emotional moment for many of us.( did you know that this is Chris Martin’s favourite song from this band).
    Until this night this song had seldom been played on any of the set lists prior to this night.
    Mags said : this is our last concert in the Royal Albert Hall.
    Little did we know that they 10 years later, should have the biggest tour of their career ever.
    It was great night.
    I was there in Oslo when they said goodbye and saw fans from all over the world crying after the concert thinking it was over.
    It was another great night.
    After the unplugged and the electric tour, the time has now come to this concept.
    When three so different individuals that can’t stand each other, decides to go on another tour I can’t help but think, is it for us the fans ?
    Is it the desire to meet and greet those of us who love their music ?
    Or is it only the economic aspect of it ?
    As long as the cow has a drop left in their spines, let’s milk it for what it’s worth.
    Specially when the market value of the cow is that big.
    The surprise aspect is off course lost when the set list is like it is.
    Paul has always threatened to play som new songs but they never do.
    Have never seen an artist more uncomfortable on stage anywhere.
    I just wish I could appreciate this tour more than I do.
    This is so predictable and almost boring.
    On top of all, the record company will release the fourth special edition of “Hunting high and low” especially for us fans who still have some money left.

    I have paid for their cars and houses and therefore earned the right to speak my mind.

    Let’s stay friends forever.
    Knowing nothing is ever going to be the same again.

    • Richard Plunkett says:

      Don’t bother buying a ticket then? I was at the Albert Hall and I will be in Warsaw next week. I also have tickets for Wembley Arena next year. Of course it’s about the money but I’m happy to pay to watch them and I’m clearly not the only one (600,000 tickets sold for this tour and counting)

  5. KevinK says:

    Take On Me re-entered at number one on the official (physical) singles chart yesterday!
    https://www.officialcharts.com/charts/physical-singles-chart/

    There’s an intriguing new entry at number 23, Kate Bush with “NE T’EN FUI PAS”. Has the French 12″ had some UK availability/sales somewhere?

  6. Diane Mills says:

    I am a long time fan and saw A-ha at Leeds, Royal Albert Hall and Brighton – I really enjoyed the whole format – visually & musically. People forget that these guys are singing in their second language! They are still at the top of their game and hopefully time will show to doubters just how good they still are. I saw ABBA 11/11/79 @ Bingley Hall Stafford which started me on this Nordic/Scandi-musical awareness. I have proudly followed all the members of both groups over the years and do not intend to give up. Take On Me, Manhattan Skyline, Living Daylights will go into the hall of game along with Dancing Queen, Winner Takes it All, Fernando and Thank You For The Music.

  7. gary oliver says:

    when did everyone start saying deep cuts ?

    ( apologies if its always been a thing )
    .

  8. Cédric says:

    I just saw Chris de Burgh recently playing 2 albums in full back to back (Moonfleet and Into the Light) + some favorites. And even though it was a pleasure to hear both albums and therefore some deep cuts probably never played on stage before, I was missing the surprise of discovering what the next song was going to be. So, a part of the fun was lost for me. I still enjoyed the concert (and Chris is still an amazing and generous performer at 70, playing a good 2 hours and a half) but I wasn’t carried away…

  9. Erwin says:

    Thanks to Pauls enthousiasm for A-ha i’m now playing the HH&L album for the very first time. I bought the Take On Me single back in 1985 at age 12. I think it’s the first one I ever bought myself, after winning a contest at school. Decided to order the upcoming deluxe version.

    Thanks for the great review Paul, and that crisps discussion somewhere in the comments was great!

  10. Julie Iley says:

    I saw aha in leeds for this tour, I have to admit the music of aha always has moved me. Morten however did appear to dodge some of his normally easily achievable high notes. Even though aha has rarely engaged with the audience I did too feel as if they were bored and didnt feel the passion, or appear to show us this. The most enjoyable part of the evening for me was listening to the pals guitar enhance classic hits beautifully, this fella is most definitely the talent behind this group.

  11. Jeremy says:

    Thankyou Paul, really enjoyed reading your review. I’ve been a fan from the beginning, every song transports me back to my childhood, growing up, school holidays and girlfriends ect. I have seen aha many times.
    I missed out on the Royal Albert tickets this time, I’ve been watching the YouTube clips of this tour at various places alot with the intention of purchasing tickets to see these guys at the SSE arena next November. They just look bored, fed up, no engagement towards the fans apart from Mags. The question is do I buy tickets this morning or not?

  12. Claire T says:

    Morten is his own kind of special, we dont all fit a box that suits all. However as a fan from day one and a gig tally into double figures I have to admit feeling a bit non-plussed by Morten this time….. feel he is “shying away” (!) from the best bits from gigs of old. Maybe the vocal range is diminishing….. Anyways, it was as always a joy to be transported once more to carefree years and won’t stop the gig buddy and I being on the next round at Wembley. Great review by the way :-)

  13. Kennysucina says:

    Bruce Springsteen is the king of playing an album in full. “The Wild, the innocent and the E Street Shuffle” in Brisbane 2014 is my favourite ( not that I, or probably anyone else ) have heard them all. High Hopes came with a DVD of a full performance of Born in the USA, which is well worth a look. I assume ir is on YouTube these days.

  14. Paul Taylor says:

    I saw the Manic Street Preachers back in May on the This Is My Truth anniversary tour. They shuffled the order to leave If You Tolerate This as the final song of that segment of the gig. They then went straight into International Blue and followed it with another stream of big hitters, including a great version of Sweet Child Of Mine. They played a straight 1 hour 50 minutes without a break and it was a thoroughly enjoyable night. It’s the only ‘single album ‘ tour gig I’ve been to but I think the Manics executed it perfectly.
    I think it’s quite a brave thing to do in some respects with a few reasons why already stated by other posters e.g. duff tracks. I think I’d still prefer a gig with songs from all eras of a band’s catalogue if I had a choice

  15. Simon (Perth, Western Australia) says:

    I don’t get the whole album in order gig.
    I saw the Manics in London this year for their ‘This is My Truth…’ celebration….the first half of the gig was dull, going through the motions, audience around me chatting. I’ve seen the Manics loads…i’ve never seen them as dull. Then there seemed a sense of relief in both audience and band as the second part kicked off-all of a sudden spontaneous, joyful, bouncing.
    Just pick 5 or 6 tracks off it to do it justice…i don’t need those filler tracks that most albums have performed live, thanks…

  16. Terry Duckworth says:

    I agree about bands that only play ‘the hits’.

    2012: The Stone Roses at Heaton Park. Great comeback gigs. Great to hear those songs again.

    2016: The Stone Roses still playing the same set four years later. With only the substandard turd that was ‘All For One’ added as a new number.

    That reunion was one of the most cynical cash grabs of all time.

  17. martin farnworth says:

    One “album” gig I saw was Heaven 17’s The Luxury Gap. Glenn Gregory acknowledged it felt strange playing Temptation much earlier in the set. The obvious advantage to anticipating the duffers (although there are none on that album) is timing your toilet or refreshment break.

    Similarly on DD’s reunion tour at MEN when Simon Le Bon announced a new song there was an opportunity for anyone not a super fan to do so.

    As for A-ha playing Love Is reason it may well be the case some members enjoy playing it more than some of their classic hits performed thousands of times through the years.

  18. Eamonn says:

    Well-written review and I say that as someone who doesn’t know too much about the band save for their biggest hits. Might inspire me to check out some of the songs you praised. Nice work!

  19. David W says:

    I understand the appeal of playing a seminal album in it’s entirety, but knowing what’s coming next would bore me. But haven’t some artists done that live, but then re-sequenced the songs as they liked for a better live experience? Then you get both the songs you may have never heard live, but presented in a creative way.

    Didn’t OMD do that with Dazzle Ships (live)?
    https://www.discogs.com/Orchestral-Manoeuvres-In-The-Dark-Dazzle-Ships-Live-At-The-Museum-Of-Liverpool/release/7528217

    With Duran Duran, I could get behind them playing Rio (and Like and Angel) in whatever order they liked live, followed by a shortened regular show.

    • Dr Volume says:

      I’ve never been keen on ‘Classic Album’ shows either, but yes, bands can re-jig the set especially if the hits are front-loaded on the album- or indeed miss songs out all together. Saw Happy Mondays playing ‘Bummed’ a few years ago and they skipped ‘Brain Dead’ all together, changed the song order and some of the lyrics (and also played it straight & sober with a level of slickness and professionalism that made it sound barely recognisable to the original)

    • Michael says:

      When OMD have done album shows for Architecture and Morality and Dazzle Ships, they did not quite play them in the order originally released on record. For Dazzle Ships, they even broke off one track to save for the end of the encore… so they played the whole albums, but revised the order of things.
      I do hope Duran Duran do something interesting for their 2020 tour… I love Rio. I would accept that.

  20. Glenn says:

    Thank you for the review Paul. I am always interested to hear the thoughts of fellow a-ha fans. I was at the opening night in Dublin and I have to say I thoroughly enjoy the gig. I seen the bunnymen play ocean rain in its entirety and I quite like the concept of that, particularly if the album brings back lots of good memories for the listener.
    I have been an a-ha fan since the beginning and this was my third time to catch them live in dublin, the other two shows being 1988 and 2002.
    I was delighted with the second half of the set but you quite rightly pointed out their leaning towards their hay day 80’s period, something I didn’t even pick up on at the time. The only way I could have left there happier was if they had done a bruce sprinsteen and played for four hours, that way they could have included a lot more obscure tracks.

  21. Mr Smyth says:

    2 comments from me on this-

    1, The band that does the new album & reissue package tour best is Simple Minds. They know how to do them both well & give the fans a what they want, apart from the too delayed SFY issue. They are a country mile ahead of everyone else when it comes to this, not ashamed of their past & worried about being seen as a Nostalgia act, they know exactly what their audience wants while also still challenging.

    2, I saw A-ha years back. Brilliant back catalogue no question, I could listen to Paul play guitar all day but to go & see them live again? No way, Morten has a fantastic voice but he’s so dull & boring to watch. No charisma whatsoever & that totally ruined the experience for me. I bought the reunion live DVD & it’s just dull to watch. Each to their own.

  22. Nick Love says:

    That was a great article but I was distracted by that fact that there are apparently prawn cocktail potato chips being sold in the U.K. That sounds truly horrifying.

    • Paul Sinclair says:

      We also have/had Hedgehog flavour!

      • KevinS says:

        Do your taste buds a favour a pick up some of the Sprout flavoured crisps that Walkers have out for Christmas.

        Great gig review by the way.

        • Paul Sinclair says:

          For the record, when it comes to Walkers, I like: Salt & Vinegar, Cheese and Onion, Smokey Bacon, Beef and – at a push – chicken and ‘plain’. However Seabrooks crisps are the best. Glad you enjoyed the review!

          • John McCann says:

            Do you remember curry flavour crisps from the 70s,i think they where almost yellow with the flavouring.

      • Nick Love says:

        Wow – snack food manufacturers are truly fearless across the pond. In the US there are plenty of outlier flavors, and nothing approaching hedgehog for sure, but it’s 95% original, sour cream & onion and barbecue.

    • Yani P says:

      Prawn Cocktail crisps are magnificent

  23. Gareth Pugh says:

    Howard Jones did a show a few years back with his first two albums played in full but, whilst he didn’t mix up tracks from the two albums together, he did change up the running order within each album. He explained from the stage that, for Dream Into Action, because it was (by the end of its campaign) front loaded with the four singles and the title track all falling within the first 5 songs on the original record, ‘it’d leave us with a great wodge of some of my least favourite own album tracks all at the end!’ Tongue probably in cheek but he’d certainly been struck by the same sequencing thought as you Paul. PS my missus and I were also at the RAH Aha show this week – her ambition since her teens to hear ‘Living a Boys Adventure Tale’ played live now accomplished! PPS – you must learn to move the glory of the prawn cocktail crisp, sir ;-) and its crispy compadres the Worcester sauce and the pickled onion.

  24. AdamW says:

    The last time I saw Duran Duran they did “the hits plus a few from our latest album,” which is kind of what I expect from acts of that era who bother to release new music. Same for Blondie. I’m fine with that, since I don’t see them on every tour.

    I thought Peter Gabriel’s concert where So was played in order worked really well. He surrounded it with enough other interesting things, plus the album really has no duff tracks.

    If you’re going to do a “full album” tour, you can still resequence the songs and make the concert work. That’s what Massive Attack did for Mezzanine, and Bryan Ferry did the same for Avalon, to name two excellent shows I saw this year.

    You could be like Radiohead and do almost an entire show of deep cuts, only six or seven “hits” among the 25-or-so songs. Or “Weird Al” Yankovic’s tour from last year where he basically only did his original songs (except for the encore, where he did an “Unplugged”-style acoustic medley of a bunch of his more familiar parody hits).

    I think there’s room for all these kinds of tours, just pick and choose what you like. You don’t have to go see a-ha every time they come around. :-)

  25. Arnd says:

    Were they good? I mean good as in, showing a good musical performance?

    As an a-ha fan myself, I hate to admit this, but a-ha have a long reputation to be a poor live band. Rightfully so, it grieves me to say. They sound like their own cover band, as if they didn’t understand their own songs. This becomes painful with such great songs like Hunting High And Low. The emotional climax of the song, the part “i’m hunting high and low, and now she’s telling me…” is always wasted in live performances. I would expect a loud outburst of drums and guitar at that point, but there is nothing. Like falling into a hole. Knowing the song, my imagination adds what’s missing, but that’s not what I want to experience in a live concert.
    About Pal Waaktaar, I always wonder why he is even on stage holding a guitar. He is almost never heard. The only exception I remember was back in 2000, when he performed a wonderful solo on Mary Ellen Makes The Moment Count.

    • Mike says:

      How can you say you’re an a-ha fan when you’re savaging them in such a way. Poor live band. Every time I have been they have been fantastic I have heard pål on guitar solos and he rocked at the Royal Albert hall. Very harsh comments there I feel

  26. Philip Wilson says:

    Have been to a few album in full shows, and I love them. But then I love knowing what is coming next (to be honest unless I go to the first night of a tour, I’ve analysed the setlists already).

    Seen the Manics do Holy Bible, Everything Must Go, and This is My Truth tours, but on the latter, I was annoyed that If You Tolerate This, was moved to the end of the ‘album’ set, not played in it’s proper place. At least it wasn’t as bad as Metallica playing The Black Album in reverse though. Bruce Springsteen was doing The River in full, but dropped this idea when I saw him in Manchester.

    With some bands, an album in full tour is more likely to make me go and see them, nostalgia I guess. The Wonder Stuff are playing their first 2 albums in full later this year, and have previously done similar tours.

    I think as long as acts do ‘normal’ tours as well as these nostalgia tours, they can remain relevant. Weezer often play the Blue and Pinkerton albums in full, would love to see a green album show, in fact they could probably fit in all 3 in a show! Going to see The Darkness in December, they are playing their new album in full, plus the hits, bold move.

  27. Colin says:

    It was more disappointing for me back in 1985 to discover having been a B Side on the 1985 re-release of Take on Me that Love is Reason was also included on the HH&L album. Although I think it was great as a B Side I hated it when B Sides of singles were than also used as album tracks, especially when said album only had 10 tracks. Incidentally the original 1984 release of TOM had And You Yell Me as it’s B Side, also on the HH&L album. As for the comments on ‘knowing what was coming next’ is a bit of a none-sense really as you knew you were there to hear the HH&L album in full. I do however agree that it must have been frustrating not to even hear tracks from certain albums. I for one would have been disappointed NOT to hear personal faves like Dark is The Night and Cast in Steel, two of A-ha’s best tracks IMO. A band I am yet to see live and not sure if I ever will get the chance. It is good however to read an honest review and not just ‘telling people what you think they want to hear’, and how short was that concert? 20 songs, very short if there was no support act either! Cheers Paul !!!

    • Paul Sinclair says:

      Thanks Colin. It was about 45 minutes for each section, so not exactly a long gig. Debatable whether they needed an interval, but I actually like intervals so not an issue for me :)

    • Michael says:

      Some of the songs were extended rather than their usual length. Started at 8pm and finished at 10.10 pm with a 25 minute break I think so 1 hour 45 minutes playing time .

  28. Tamas says:

    I think Hh&l is a masterpiece of its time. Actually all songs are great, yes, even love is reason.
    I agree in terms of Mortens thicking. It is quite annoying to see.
    I am happy they seem to enjoy what they do and glad that lot of people come and see them. Thanks for the review!

  29. David McIntyre says:

    Not sure if I’m a fan of the full album tours although I did get to see Gary Numan perform Replicas and Pleasure Principle live in full including b sides etc and they were stunning shows.

  30. O(+> Peter B says:

    I’ve seen 2 “album” gigs: The Human League performing Dare (which was great because the album builds up to Love Action and Don’t You Want Me) and Swervedriver performing Raise (also great – there was a technical glitch for a couple of minutes at the end of side one, which was like the live gig equivalent of waiting to turn the record over). These gigs worked because there was no filler on either album.

  31. Yani P says:

    Watched ABC at the Royal Albert Hall doing both Lexicons in order and it worked really well for me at least. Bit annoying that the group next to me talked all the way through II as clearly hadn’t listened to it and didn’t care.
    Human League are a great example of how to do live gigs many years after their original moments in the spotlight. They are superb and to me it’s because they really make an effort with lighting and stage effects. It’s like they perform every time like it’s still the early 80s and kudos to them for that.

  32. Tcf says:

    I saw The Divine Comedy perform „Promenade“ perform in full and it was a dream come true!

  33. Glen says:

    Seeing them in Sydney in January with Rick Astley as the support. Very much looking forward to it. Thanks for the set list, Paul

  34. Michael says:

    Great review. The prawn cocktail comparison made my day. Thanky for the entertaining read,

  35. Chris Squires says:

    Last sequence concert I saw was Peter Gabriel playing “So” in it’s entirety in 2013. It was pretty much fabulous, although always that flash of disappointment when Don’t give up starts and a backing vocalist joins in…… Always wanted that “Ladies and Gentlemen, Ms. Kate Bush” there is a recording of that very thing happening somewhere on one of Peter’s gigs and you can hear the audience go absolutely batshit crazy, almost not caring about Peter any more.
    And I guess Before the Dawn was a sequence show in it’s own way.
    To me the sequence gig very much depends on the album. Some memorable albums are stronger than their parts and some are not. Brilliant singles can fool you into thinking an album is brilliant when it is 4 brilliant 2 good 4 poor. (some Police albums maybe and definitely some Abba albums?) rather than an album that is 10 solid tracks that flow.
    I would kick down several doors and eat my own arm to hear The Kick Inside from start to finish. But it, sadly, is never going to happen.

    Fair play to the A-Ha boys, they are doing it on their own terms which is marvelous.

    • Quante says:

      Hi Chris,

      Kate Bush performing with Peter Gabriel was on the original So tour at Earls Court in the 80’s – sadly not the night I was at.

      I’d agree the Police albums were hit or miss on song quality. Abba less so – the second half of their career is where the albums were of a high quality throughout.

      Cloudbusting played The Kick Inside as a complete album and that was brilliant – a real event; especially in London. Less so in Whitley Bay, where Mandy was ill.

      The best album played in full tours, outside of the ones already mentioned: Roger Waters playing Dark Side of The Moon and more recently The Wall. I was too young to see Pink Floyd perform them. If ever there were albums that work in their entirety live, then the peak Pink Floyd albums rank highly.

      • Chris Squires says:

        Absolutely agree about Abba, I should have put “definitely some early Abba Albums”

        I am not sure you can equate Me and Bobby and Bobby’s Brother or She’s My Kind of Girl on an album that contains the brilliant Ring Ring… with tracks like Kisses of Fire or As Good as New. They learned to ditch the throwaway song which some groups never did.

        Another one would be Welcome to the Pleasuredome, that for me at least is 5 or 6 stunning tracks and a bunch of filler. Wouldn’t want to hear that in it’s entirety. But watching them live, even without Holly up front, the best tracks are utterly bewitching with the best driving bass I have ever heard.

        • Craig Hedges says:

          40 years ago tonight I saw ABBA at Wembley Arena, I was only 7 so my memory is a bit sketchy but I do remember waiting for them to leave the arena and Benny waved at me!
          I would never have guessed that 40 years on that a hologram version of the show would be taking place… and that the tickets would be 20-30 times the amount to see holograms rather than Abba themselves.

          On the matter of seeing an artist perform an entire album I’ve seen Brian Wilson perform Pet Sounds a couple of times, Didn’t feel like I was ticking of the songs because the album really works as one piece, so it was natural to hear each song follow the previous.

          I didn’t think a-ha were ever happy with the Hhal album, they didn’t like Tony Mansfield production (does anyone know what happened to him, I really liked New Musik and his production sound), So it seems strange to tour it. There is a film being made about them called a-ha the movie which will be premiered next October. The plan was for it to show a-ha make the followup album to Foot of the Mountain, and then they split, not sure if that is still the plan the film but the interview with the director also stated that the three of them are no longer good friend which explains why there might not be another studio album. Cast in steel wasn’t really a proper a-ha album it was either Morten working with Pal or Magne separately.

          • J T says:

            Hunting High and Low instantly became one of my favorite albums and remains so today. I was a huge fan of that sound, I loved the Tony Mansfield production.

            I already had three or four of the Naked Eyes singles, still love “Always Something There To Remind Me,” “I Could Show You How” and “(What) In The Name Of Love” (that was Arthur Baker), they actually had a lot of catchy songs.

            But a-ha was a totally different depth of artistry and connection on Hunting High and Low. I was probably more hurt than they were that their huge success didn’t continue in the U.S.!

    • Glenn says:

      Your Kate Bush story reminds me of when Peter Gabriel introduced Sinead O’Connor at his 1993 WOMAD show in San Francisco. My recollection is that she received a louder response than he had when first coming out. I recall her singing ‘Don’t Give Up’ with him but don’t remember what else she sang on. Was great to see her.

  36. Mark says:

    Bands like manic street preachers have toured many of their albums in full. Does it ruin it if you know what’s coming next, may lessen the surprise, but. I’ve been an a-ha fan from the begining and I never saw many of the tracks from hunting high and low performed live. So it was a treat to hear all the other tracks. Loved the reworking of dream myself alive. Besides if people have a issue with an album being played from start to finish, well you knew this before you bought the ticket.

  37. Musiclover72 says:

    I was lucky to catch them last week in Leeds First Direct Arena (missed out on Royal Albert Hall tickets). I totally agree with your review and the fact Manhattan Skyline was missing from the setlist. It was my first time ever seeing them and have been a fan since 1985. I highly recommend seeing them and I am tempted to go again myself.

  38. Dom says:

    Saw the concert in Brighton last night. Did the same as Paul, found myself ticking HHALs tracks off. Was great to hear Dream Myself Alive and Train of Thought live. Would have loved to have heard Summer Moved On, Lifelines, Celice or Oranges on Appletrees (last one a long shot I admit) but shame the two early noughties albums were ignored. Morten did the fiddling with his earpiece and signalling to off stage personnel on almost every track, I actually found it quite distracting. Seems like it just wasn’t a problem last night with the sound set up and could well be, as Paul said, a tick. Overall very good and a great xmas present from my sister (a die hard fan) who had come over from Singapore just for the concert, now there’s dedication.

  39. Tony says:

    I agree with the part of knowing what’s coming , I saw Blur on their singles tour at Wembley years ago, no atmosphere or spontaneity, they played all their singles in order, I left early for the pub.
    I would have to have seen Bowie do Low, looks great on YouTube.
    Aha have done well to avoid the nostalgia circuit and play to their own audience.

    • Michael says:

      That Blur concert with the singles I have on bootleg, and I guess most of it came out in the box set, but it’s excitement is all at the beginning… when a few rare tracks got played… then it just feels lifeless once the hits start rolling in…. and a concert ending with No Distance Left to Run is a bit depressing.

  40. Stan Waterman says:

    Interesting review Paul , But looking at the set list surely this would have been better reversed! Opening with Bond and finishing on Take on me. On the subject of albums being played live any fantasy picks? Mine would be McCartney doing Ram. Cheers

  41. Kauwgompie says:

    Thanks Paul, I read this with great interest. I have never seen a-ha live and would really like to. Unfortunately they do 3 shows in LA (2 of which, a year from now, are already sold out!) but nothing else in the USA. I figured they would at least play in NYC but nothing, nada, zilch. I’m so disappointed!!

    • J T says:

      Hey Kauwgompie, same here, I’m still hoping to see them add a NYC date (or Philadelphia, Meadowlands, Atlantic City).

      They never did a Hunting High and Low tour here the first time around, not touring until Scoundrel Days was out, I would think a HH&L and ’80s-heavy set would draw a lot of people in the densely-populated Northeast. Hardly a day goes by where you don’t hear “Take On Me” when someone’s playing classic pop radio.

      • Klaus says:

        @Kauwgompie:

        Have you considered warching them play when visiting your folks back home in the Netherlands? Depending on where you’re based there, they do shows in late October/early November 2020 e.g. in Paris, Cologne, Amsterdam, Brussels, Hamburg or Copenhagen.
        Btw, you just missed out of them playing Amsterdam (yesterday) and Paris (tonight, but i’m quite sure that you won’t make it so fast), the upcoming weekend they’ll play in Oberhausen and Bremen.

        Best wishes from the Nether Rhine Area to NYC.

  42. Mark says:

    It’s very disappointing to hear the recent comments from Magne and Morten that they won’t be doing any more studio albums. Sad to see such a creative band basically give up and become a nostalgia act. Paul is still keen to do it, so i’m not sure what the problem is, beyond the usual Paul/Magne tensions. I think they’re without a record deal at the moment too, due to their Universal deal expiring, so that might not be helping matters!

    • Mark says:

      Unless morten said something differently, magne said definitely no album in 2020. He never said no more period .

      • Mark says:

        Richard Green BBC: “Is there any plan for a future a-ha album? Fans will want to know if there’s a follow-up to Cast in Steel even if it’s a few years down the line.”

        Magne: “No, I don’t think so. I think we’re quite happy to be on the road together from time to time and be able to celebrate our long-standing relationship with the fans who appreciate our music. So that’s kind of where our focus is at the moment and apart from that we lead pretty separate lives.”

        I can’t find the Morten link but he was interviewed by a Norwegian newspaper last month and said that a future a-ha album was “unlikely’.

        Things may change of course. Fingers crossed.

      • Mark says:

        And just today, in an interview with Billboard:

        ‘On releasing new music:

        Magne: I wouldn’t hold my breath on that one. It feels like we’ve recorded enough, given enough new music to the world as we have.’

        https://www.billboard.com/articles/news/8542980/-ha-mags-furuholmen-interview

  43. Steve Robertson says:

    LOve the gig in Glasgow, everuyone on thier feet the whole time.

    I was disappointed with the 2nd half as I was hoping for it mostyl to be deep cuts and stuff they rarely play, before an enore of hits.

    I saw them at the RAH when they played the album in 2010, from the choir seats at the back, whoch gave you a totally different perspective, and I preferred that gig, not just that they played Scoundrel Days in its entirelt the 2nd half.

    As a huge fan, I am considering the London gig next year, but im gonna wait and see if they change the 2nd half setlist.

  44. Daryl says:

    As a die-hard Rolling Stones fan, I would kill for a concept tour such as this! At least A-Ha are playing SOME rarities and the full album thing is at the very least, an interesting gimmick.
    Enjoy these gigs while you still have them – The Stones have been playing more or less the same setlist for donkeys years now! :’D
    I say all that with tongue-in-cheek, Paul. Really enjoyed the review. I must say I look forward to your occasional concert reviews with gusto!

  45. David Cornyn says:

    An extremely controversial review – prawn cocktail left till last? First one munched, Paul!

  46. Mike says:

    As a die hard fan it was a dream of mine to hear Hunting high and low in full and in the correct order There was not one song I didn’t like and I thought a-ha smashed the entire concert. Morten’s voice was on top form as were Magne & Pål. I would not say that this was just for the casual fan as the causal fans I know only think they have done two songs. Also some of the musical arrangements were different. Eg Here is stand and face the rain was stunning. Loved the tune at the end It’s a ten out of ten for me and I can’t fault it

    • Susan MayR says:

      I agree. I enjoyed every second . I loved the Album being played in full too. I was blown away with the Screens syncing the Songs and each and every Artist on Stage was in absolutely perfect Form. I like Mortens approach very much . Its who he is . I could see this again and again and intend to ! I loved the Album so much that it is one of a few I find the ‘ Prawn Cocktail ‘ good to hear. I was moved to tears in a few , such is the excellence of their combined talents. ” More ticks than Nadal” is very funny but then it’s in genius territory and makes for added interest. ( I miss Owen Farrels! ) . Not many Bands can command such an array of beautiful and exciting Songs. I would show them off too ! 10 out of 10 !!

  47. Ran says:

    “the guy has more ‘ticks’ than Nadal preparing for a serve”

    Ha!

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