New a-ha book coming in March

Book cover

UK music writer Barry Page, known for his in-depth articles about The Story of Bridges, Paul’s solo projects and Morten’s solo projects, has written a new book called a-ha: Down To The Tracks, which will be published on 26 March 2020.

The 320-page hardback edition will cover a-ha’s whole career and all the various solo projects, with contributions from an impressive list of collaborators and people close to the band, the publisher This Day In Music Books announced today:

“In the first a-ha book of its kind, Barry Page looks back on an extraordinary 40-year musical odyssey. Aside from showcasing each a-ha album in track by track detail, the book includes a comprehensive look at both the band’s pre-fame years and each of the three members’ side projects, up to and including the release of Magne Furuholmen’s revered new solo album, White Xmas Lies.

Told from a number of different perspectives, this fresh take on the story mixes archived interviews and reviews, along with exclusive new input from a wide-ranging number of contributors, including a-ha’s Magne Furuholmen and Pål Waaktaar-Savoy, plus Dag and Jørun Bøgeberg, Viggo Bondi, Pål H. Christiansen, Anneli Drecker, Espen Farstad, Zoë Gnecco, Erik Hagelien, Matt Letley, Sven Lindvall, Robert Alan Morley, Tini Flaat Mykland, Martyn Phillips, Mark Saunders, Tonje Waaktaar Gamst, Harald Wiik and more.”

The book will also come with a special surprise:

“All copies of this edition will include a special collectable 7″ vinyl single which includes the previously unreleased ‘Miss Eerie’. Demoed by Bridges in early 1981, this embryonic version of ‘Take on Me’ was later christened by Morten Harket as ‘The Juicy Fruit Song’.”

a-ha: Down To The Tracks, which will be available as a limited edition hardback edition individually numbered 1 – 1000 and signed by the author, can be pre-ordered from the publisher here (UK £24.99 / US $32.00).

Tour dates added in Prague and Gothenburg

Two new dates on next year’s HHAL tour have now been announced:

28 October 2020: O2 Arena, Prague, Czech Republic
20 November 2020: Partille Arena, Gothenburg, Sweden

This will be the very first time a-ha perform live in the Czech Republic, although there is definitely a fanbase in the country. In 2015 the Cast In Steel album entered the official Czech album chart at #7.

Meanwhile, the concert in Gothenburg will only be the fifth time a-ha have ever performed in Sweden. And although they did an outdoor concert in Sweden last year, in Dalhalla as part of the Electric Summer tour, next year’s concert will be their first visit to Gothenburg since 1986.

These dates follow on from last month’s announcement that a-ha will also perform in Singapore for the first time ever next year:

21 March 2020: Singapore Turf Club, Kranji, Singapore

The total number of concerts on the HHAL tour has now reached 55.

Update 15/12: Make that total 56 instead, as the concert in Dubai is now sold out and a second show has been added:

10 February: Dubai Opera, Dubai, United Arab Emirates

More dates for 2020 are expected to follow, including a rumoured tour of South America.

Ticket details for all shows can be found on a-ha.com.

HHAL Tour featured in LSi Magazine

Magazine cover

a-ha’s Hunting High and Low Tour is the cover story of the December 2019 issue of Light & Sound International, a UK magazine covering “the professional use of lighting, sound, video, staging and rigging technology across the entertainment, presentation and events industries”.

Inside there’s a very extensive 9-page article about all the technical aspects of the tour, featuring interviews with a-ha’s longtime production manager James Maillardet, FOH engineer Olivier Gerard, system tech Toby Donovan, monitor engineer Sigurd Andresen, video director Icarus Wilson-Wright, camera director Charles Woods, video crew chief Jack Middlebrook and lighting designer Stu Farrell.

The loudspeaker rig used on this tour is d&b audiotechnik’s new KSL System, which was specifically chosen to support Morten’s vocal performance:

“Morten has issues around 300-400Hz. Despite being on IEMs, anything that might affect his hearing – standing waves and house resonance – can influence his pitching and was to be avoided. Because there is more rejection at the back of the box, the acoustics of the big arenas are less excited, and that is very much noticeable when I mix. (…) This is my first tour with a-ha and only our fourth show, but it’s all working very well”, Olivier Gerard says.

The article also goes in-depth about the new and impressive 10-bit LED screen supplied by UK company Video Design, which has a potential of displaying one billion colours, compared to 16,7 million colours on a regular 8-bit screen:

“In recent years, there has been a lot of attention put on [a-ha’s] use of video – they don’t just want a screen, they want meaningful images, something that connects them to their audience. When Icarus Wilson-Wright, our video director, first came to me and asked about using 10-bit video, I thought, ‘What is this? Will the punters notice?’ The truth is, it’s stunning, more impressive than Icarus could have ever conveyed in words. The promoter at our first show in Dublin spoke of the beauty of the video, as have audiences, house staff and security personnel at every show since”, James Maillardet says.

The whole article is also available online by signing up for a free subscription to the digital edition of the magazine at the LSi Online website.

White Xmas Lies concert in Oslo

Magne live at Kulturkirken Jakob, 4 December

Magne performed an exclusive White Xmas Lies concert with his band at Kulturkirken Jakob in Oslo this afternoon. The 1-hour concert, which was Magne’s first proper solo concert since 2008, sounded really good and was attended by an appreciative audience of specially invited Salvation Army and a-ha.com guests.

When the doors opened, the audience were greeted with warm soup and bread inside the church, handed out by Magne himself and others.

Magne, who switched between piano, acoustic guitar and electric guitar, was joined by an 8-piece band on stage; Karl Oluf Wennerberg, Even Ormestad, Morten Qvenild, Tini Flaat Mykland, Madeleine Ossum, Emilie Heldal Lidsheim, Ingvild Nesdal Sandnes and Dan Sunhordvik. On the last song they were also joined by a horn section from the Salvation Army.

Ten of the songs were taken from White Xmas Lies, but in addition Tini performed “You Can’t Have it Both Ways” – written by Magne for her 2014 album Undo My Heart (which was given out for free after the show).

Here is the setlist:

1. Snow is Falling
2. The Light We Lost
3. A Wintry Silence
4. The Season to be Melancholy
5. Caprice Des Dieux
6. This is Now America
7. You Can’t Have it Both Ways (Tini)
8. So Cold It’s Hard to Think
9. White Xmas Lies
10. Revelation Song
11. There Goes Another Year

See a short video clip from the show posted by Magne’s label Drabant Music on Facebook.

The whole concert was filmed by a multi-camera production and may end up as a TV-special soon. And even if this was the only concert this year, Magne is planning more concerts for next year.

As a warm-up for today’s concert, Magne performed “There Goes Another Year” at the lighting of this year’s Christmas tree at the University Square in Oslo on Sunday, 1 December. A couple of video clips can be seen here and here. He was also a guest on NRK P1’s Nitimen on the same day, which is available at nrk.no (starts at 28:30).

Update: It seems Magne also did a second concert at Kulturkirken Jakob tonight, but this time it was more of a closed, corporate gig.

Eight new tour dates added for 2020

3Arena, Dublin, 29 October
(Picture by Deirdre Ní Fhloinn)

Eight new European dates on a-ha’s Hunting High And Low Tour next year were announced today:

30 October: Le Zenith, Paris, France
10 November: BIC, Bournemouth, UK
11 November: M&S Bank Arena, Liverpool, UK
13 November: Arena Birmingham, Birmingham, UK
14 November: The SSE Arena, Wembley, London, UK
17 November: Forest National, Brussels, Belgium
18 November: AFAS Live, Amsterdam, Netherlands
21 November: Royal Arena, Copenhagen, Denmark

Fan pre-sale tickets will go on sale Wednesday November 6, with the general ticket sale following on Friday November 8. Remember to sign up for the official mailing list to get the pre-sale details.

This brings the total number of concerts on the Hunting High And Low Tour up to 52, with more dates for next year to follow.

Meanwhile, the tour continued at the SSE Arena in Belfast on Wednesday night. The setlist was the same as in Dublin the day before. Here is a selection of YouTube videos from Belfast:

Take On Me   Hunting High and Low   The Sun Always Shines On TV
I Dream Myself Alive   Here I Stand And Face The Rain   Analogue
Foot Of The Mountain   I’ve Been Losing You   Scoundrel Days
The Living Daylights

Pictures from Belfast by Carlos Maciá (click to enlarge):

The tour continues tonight, on Magne’s birthday, at the 3,000-seat SEC Armadillo in Glasgow. Happy Birthday, Magne!

a-ha’s Hunting High And Low Tour off to a good start in Dublin

a-ha in Dublin, 29 October 2019
(Picture by Carlos Maciá)

The Hunting High And Low world tour 2019-2020 opened at the sold-out 9,000-capacity (seated) 3Arena in Dublin last night.

As expected, the first half of the concert was the full Hunting High and Low album, followed by ten other songs after a 20-minute break.

One big surprise was the very first live performance of a great new song written by Paul called “Digital River”. This is one of the songs from the Cast In Steel sessions in 2015 that didn’t make it onto the album.

While there weren’t any other surprises in the setlist, several of the song arrangements had been updated, and there were also cool new intros – like the way “Analogue” started after the break. “Dream Myself Alive” was performed similar to the original demo version.

And while a-ha had six backing musicians on last year’s Electric Summer Tour, it’s now back to three; Karl Oluf Wennerberg (drums), Even Ormestad (bass) and Erik Ljunggren (synth/programming).

Impressive video screen and visuals
(Picture by Paudie Fahey)

The stage had a large and impressive video wall at the back, featuring all new video content created by Norwegian director Knut A. Helgeland. The quality of the visuals and the live editing seems to be far beyond anything used on previous a-ha tours. Additionally, the show started with Michael Patterson’s original short-film Commuter (1981) being shown, leading into “Take On Me”.

On Facebook, Helgeland wrote about his experience of working on the video content for the last three months:

“For an old, true a-ha fan like myself, it’s fantastic to be able to work so freely on the visual world of a-ha. I feel that we’ve created something quite unique, it’s simple and honest, and a bit smart, I hope. With a lot of fantastic footage (some filmed by myself, a lot from good helpers) which looks magical on the large 10-bit screen.”

Pictures by Carlos Maciá (click to enlarge):

 
Reactions from the Dublin audience on social media have been overwhelmingly positive, regarding both the performance and the new visual design. Norwegian newspaper Dagsavisen had journalist Bernt Erik Pedersen at the concert, who gives it a 5/6 review: “Does this work as a stadium show? Absolutely. Is it an event? Certainly.”

Pedersen suggests that this album format is something they can continue doing: “With this “playing the whole album”-concept they can keep it going for at least another decade – I’d be happy to come see them do East Of The Sun, West Of The Moon in five or six years.”

Setlist (with YouTube-links):
1. Take on Me
2. Train of Thought
3. Hunting High and Low
4. The Blue Sky
5. Living a Boy’s Adventure Tale
6. The Sun Always Shines on TV
7. And You Tell Me
8. Love is Reason
9. I Dream Myself Alive
10. Here I Stand and Face the Rain
(Intermission)
11. Analogue
12. Foot of the Mountain
13. The Swing of Things
14. Crying in the Rain
15. Sycamore Leaves
16. Digital River
17. I’ve Been Losing You
18. Stay on These Roads
– – – – – – – – – – – –
19. Scoundrel Days
20. The Living Daylights

Thanks to all YouTube-uploaders.

The pre-show music included “Mount Joy” from the True August EP.

The a-ha merchandise in Dublin all seemed to be 80s nostalgia stuff, if you’re into that sort of thing. Not even one t-shirt with a current band photo. There is a tour programme, but it reportedly only contains photos by Just Loomis from the 80s and the tour credits. But signed copies of White Xmas Lies are for sale, both the vinyl and CD.

Powered by WordPress