Blog 423: Butterfly, Butterfly — A-ha Live 2010

Oh, A-ha, why did you have to produce your best album since Scoundrel Days only to so cruelly tear yourselves away? You didn’t even come to Scotland for the Foot of the Mountain tour last year, and yet you surely would have sold out just as this year’s finale did (and well in advance).

Oh, A-ha. I love you, but it seems ours is a love that is doomed to languish in the past…

The Legacy

A-ha have produced nine albums in their lifespan; five before they split up last time, then four post-millenial. For a band you didn’t know beyond Take On Me (and possibly The Sun Always Shines on T.V. if you’re lucky), that’s not bad going.

The albums can be split into obvious groupings. There are the original three, very electronic; then the two 90s albums, more acoustic. Then the post-millenials that go all over the place, where Analogue is the disappointing outlier that doesn’t fit very well at all (back when they were trying to cash in on the likes of Coldplay citing them as influences).

With the release of definitive remasters of the first two albums, it’s clear to see that what they actually finished and released (at least in the early days) barely scratched the surface of their power. And now, after producing their best album since Scoundrel Days, we must come to terms with a future devoid of A-ha.

The Audience

Now that I have an audience benchmark in the OMD crowd, who unfailingly stand up, dance the whole way through, and generally have a good time. Unfortunately, A-ha cannot draw the same level of quality in their audience; most are sedentry, with a scarce few of us in the Front Circle (myself included, naturally) willing to stand up and drive the action.

When they walloped on stage with a stunning rendition of The Sun Always Shines On T.V., I almost thought there was going to be standing — a reasonable proportion pulled up, only to drift right back down again.

The worst thing, though, is that despite 25 years of stonking tunes, nine albums later, people were still only there for Take On Me. While I knew all the words to almost every song, they all sat like lemons. At least the woman next to me had a little spirit (Scoundrel Days seemed to tickle her fancy).

“Was that somebody screaming?
It wasn’t me for sure…”

A-ha, Scoundrel Days. And yes, yes it was me screaming. I have no voice.

The Setlist

Whoosh!

THEY PLAYED WE’RE LOOKING FOR THE WHALES, I CAN DIE NOW.

A slew from right across the board, even Forever Not Yours from Lifelines (last tour, in 2005 (they didn’t come to Scotland for the Foot of the Mountain tour last year), they quietly ignored that album entirely). Foot of the Mountain and The Bandstand made appearances, as did Stay On These Roads and Crying in the Rain and… We’re Looking For the Whales. I came a little, and when I say “a little”, I mean I literally creamed myself.

And they extended many of them too, delicious little interludes and dramatic new introductions building the tension while you try and work out just what song it’s going to turn into. That’s one thing I enjoyed last time — they do actually make the effort to rearrange their old songs, because let’s face it; if I want the album version, I own all the albums.

They also played for a damn reasonable one hour and fifty minutes; even counting the little instrumental breaks while the roadies adjusted the set a bit (for the likes of the acoustic Butterfly, Butterfly (The Last Hurrah) and Hunting High and Low), that’s good value. Even though OMD don’t fuck around, they usually only hit one hour and thirty.

And finally, much deserving of a mention, Summer Moved On — and Morten held that note all the way. Oh yes.

“And there’s just one thing,
Left to aaaaaaaaaaaaa…
…sk.”

— A-ha, Summer Moved On

The Verdict

Expensive tickets, expensive programme; but oh so worth it. While the audience were a damper, they couldn’t stop the remorseless tide of amazing music.

We’ll miss you, A-ha. Goodbye. And thank you.

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