“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 mentioned of the present I’d simply seen, her face all mystic and awestruck. “I suppose 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 dwell enviornment occasion at present occupying Pudding Mill Lane on the ends of east London, is nothing wanting a miracle. In a blinding 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 moist Monday night time, I felt overwhelmed with happiness and nostalgia. I embraced the hen-night vitality, danced within the aisles and channelled my interior Agnetha. My daughter, an Abba superfan, went hoarse from singing her lungs out. Chugging house on the Docklands Gentle Railway, I puzzled if one can OD on serotonin.
Have I seen the way forward for leisure, nevertheless? I relatively 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 likely be wildly addictive. I can solely think about the 40mn Licks we’d see from the Rolling Stones sooner or later. Not not like the 3D mania that possessed filmmakers about 10 years in the past, the idea of dwell 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 trade’s acquiescence to the Marvel universe, and ubiquity of the gaming aesthetic, it was solely a matter of time earlier than even dwell efficiency grew to become topic to techno manipulation. Who wants precise our bodies on a stage when you may construct a convincing simulacrum? Why trouble wrecking your vocal cords over the course of a punishing residency when you may simply hit play on a recording?
Tougher to duplicate although would be the temper of euphoria that solely an Abba fan brings with them. I think about the thrill for musical holograms will probably burn shiny however will rapidly fall out of favour. What stays extra everlasting, nevertheless, 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 attractive charisma). At this level within the Netflix drama, it appears relatively pointless to bleat about misrepresentation. However it’s dismaying to grasp 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 correct of tweeds, or Abba created in lasers, so long as all the things appears 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 up to date dwell footage. The impersonations, the wardrobes and intonation are so good that you just scarcely know which is the actual one. Leisure has turn into a weird hybrid during which the hole between digital and actual has shrunk to a hair’s width.
However whereas many are actually exploring the bounds of what will be performed to bend an viewers’s notion, there’s 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 season. 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 taking part in collectively. That the bands have all of a sudden introduced dates subsequent 12 months has set 1,000,000 Brit-pop pulses aflutter. To see Damon, Alex, Graham and Dave on a stage once more? That actually can be a miracle.