Much as I like to live in the moment, it’s hard to do that when you go to see A-ha.
Every single moment that passes has an involuntary backdrop in the mind of the mid nineteen eighties; everything has a reference bleeding back thirty years to the back pages of the “Look-in” or guest appearances on Saturday morning TV. You can’t stop it. Why fight it?
Staggering towards the Hydro in my hope-to-see-over-the-person-in-front boots, I considered the middle-aged throng of which I was a part. Alongside me, the forty-three year-olds of Glasgow and the West picked their way across the Clyde, also confident in their exit/parking strategy. And while they looked like jaded educationalists wearily ready for a wee school-night night out, I suspect that most of them were also still thirteen in spirit, if not in body. Even since we saw A-ha back in the December of 2005, we have all moved on.
Will this be the time it is like going to see old Biff in concert? Or, will they still have it?
And so to the event…
It was the first time I had been to the Hydro, but not the first time I had seen A-ha.
(That was thirty years ago at the Caird Hall in Dundee, courtesy of my then-future-brother in law, who queued for tickets for me and my sister.
I regretted my outfit that night – a tricky one to gauge in Scotland in early December. I wore a geometric patterned blue and grey bat-wing long wool jumper. It must have been the coolest thing I owned, and sadly probably the warmest. Here’s my review of that gig, thirty years ago:
I was a proper A-ha fan then. Wall-to-wall A-ha. Scrapbooks of A-ha related cuttings. The first album on loop. The second album on loop. The third….
Well, it all got a bit sketchy after that. Bon Jovi and Europe were tuning up in the background amidst the sountrack to Dirty Dancing – and A-ha seemed to have disappeared to South America somewhere around “The Living Daylights” and “Stay on these Roads” or was it “East of the Sun, West of the Moon”… it all began to blur a bit. But they disappeared.
Or I wasn’t paying attention.
The early albums were magic: Morten’s unbelievable range of pitch and tone, the dodgy lyrics, the deliciously 80s synth riffs…)
ANYWAY, back to the present…
I don’t even know what you call it – stagecraft? Lighting? It had certainly come a long way in thirty years. In the Caird Hall I remember at one point a sheet was dropped at the back of the stage revealing a kind of pink jaggy light design thing. This week though, there were various relevant visuals, a wolf for Cry Wolf and dodgy alien type figures and stuff. And lights – a bit like a mobile create-your-own-migraine rig.
I managed to catch the pattern of the lighting and shut my eyes tight when the lighting people synced the lights with the music. Fortunately their early work is so engrained on my subconscious it was easy to anticipate.
So, how were the boys?
Morten had picked a good outfit – black jeans, black t-shirt, dodgy pendant, unbelievably broad shoulders and unquestionable evidence of a lifetime of committed gym use. Mags still had that “oh yeah, he always looked a bit like Henry from Neighbours” thing going on, but he did his usual nod to patter, unlike the mute Pal and reticent Morten. I enjoyed his introductions of all the other band members and his pronunciations of their names. All the lost phonemes.
But musically, it was great. Morten’s voice still as it was back in the day. Amazing. He had a wee break in the middle while the others got a turn of the mic, but fair enough – have to protect that voice – it is some amount of power he puts into it.
Oddly, there is now a girl in A-ha. The audience looked politely on, but I reckon most of them were pretty jealous of her getting to duet “Crying in the Rain” with Morten. But I think it is probably wise to have someone who can hit Morten’s high notes in an emergency.
There was a very good mix of the ancient and the more recent – probably, if anything, too much old stuff – but very crowd pleasing. And although we never bothered to learn the lyrics properly, we always managed to sing along, never 100% sure how it was meant to go, but hey.
The encores were great with a crescendo of nervous necessity for the finale of The Sun Always Shines on TV and Take On Me, which they then did. Phew.
I took myself and my vintage Take On Me World Tour scarf out to my handily parked car and made an efficient getaway, with thirty years’ worth of music and memories swirling in my head.