40 years of a-ha

New publicity shot by Stian Andersen

Today marks exactly 40 years since the formation of a-ha, on 14 September 1982. That was the day when Paul and Magne visited Morten’s home in Asker to wish him a happy 23rd birthday and welcome him as the new vocalist in their band.

Morten has described that moment in his 2016 memoir My Take On Me:

“On 14 September 1982 I was at home with my parents, when there was a knock at the door. It was not the first visit of the day, as it was my birthday. However, this particular visit would prove to be significant. I opened the door, and in front of me stood Paul and Magne with a potted plant, a Yucca palm. More than thirty years later, that palm is still at my parent’s house where it continues to grow and thrive. For me it’s still a symbol that reminds me of that day, which was not just my birthday, but also marked my decision to become a part of the band.”

And so began their journey; three very different individuals joined together by shared ambitions, determination and talent.

Tomorrow the story of a-ha continues, when the True North film premieres on cinemas in 29 countries around the world. Tickets are still available at ahatruenorth.com.

Tour finale at the Hollywood Bowl

a-ha at the Hollywood Bowl, 31 July 2022
(Screenshot from YouTube video by binarybruin)

The Hunting High and Low tour came to an end on Sunday, 31 July, as a-ha played a very special outdoor show at the Hollywood Bowl in Los Angeles.

This was concert number 72 of the tour, which originally started in October 2019 and ended up becoming their longest tour ever, due to the extended break caused by the pandemic.

“It is our grand finale and who knows if there will be another”, Magne said in an interview with The Orange County Register ahead of the LA show. “We’ve come so far down the road that there could be some sort of swan song and what better way to finish it off, if that’s what happens, than at the Hollywood Bowl with an orchestra? That almost sounds like it’s scripted.”

They were joined on stage by the Hollywood Bowl Orchestra, conducted by Thomas Wilkins, who played along on 10 of the 14 songs.

“So, this is definitely one for the bucket list. I think ever since we were kids and read about – and heard – The Beatles at the Hollywood Bowl this has been one of those moments you’ve been dreaming of. So thanks for making that possible”, Magne told the audience before he introduced the two new songs from True North.

The seven concerts in Brazil from 13-25 July included 19 songs and the full Hunting High and Low album, as did the concert in Napa on 29 July. But at the Hollywood Bowl it was back to a 14-song set.

Hollywood Bowl setlist
(with links to YouTube videos)

1. Sycamore Leaves
2. The Swing of Things
3. Crying in the Rain
4. The Blood That Moves the Body
5. Train of Thought
6. Cry Wolf
7. Forest For the Trees
8. You Have What It Takes
9. Here I Stand and Face the Rain
10. Hunting High and Low
11. The Sun Always Shines on TV
12. I’ve Been Losing You
13. The Living Daylights
14. Take On Me

Someone has also uploaded the entire concert as one video here.

The band will now probably take some much-deserved time off, before the release of the True North film and album.

The ticket sale for 15 September screenings of the 72-minute True North film, directed by Stian Andersen, will begin on 4 August through ahatruenorth.com. “I think the film is going to be on like 450 cinemas around the world – for one day. So don’t sleep or you’ll miss it”, Magne told the concert audience in Scarborough last month.

a-ha at Stavernfestivalen

At Stavernfestivalen

a-ha played their last European concert of this tour at Stavernfestivalen near Larvik in Norway yesterday.

Unlike the other Norwegian festivals last month, this time they played the full 18-song set (same as in Scarborough and Cardiff a few days ago). And Anneli Drecker made a return on backing vocals.

YouTube videos:
The Swing Of Things     Cry Wolf

Stavernfestivalen is one of Norway’s largest festivals and there was a predominantly young audience of 15-20,000 people.

“I can see there’s a lot of young people in the audience tonight. The next song is dedicated to you, who are going to look after the planet after we have finished f***ing it up”, Magne said as he introduced “You Have What It Takes”.

 
Photo gallery (by Jakob):

 
The tour will continue with seven dates in Brazil, starting in Recife on Wednesday 13 July, before two concerts in California rounds it all off – Napa on 29 July and the big finale at The Hollywood Bowl in LA on 31 July.

Stavernfestivalen setlist:
1. Sycamore Leaves
2. The Swing Of Things
3. Crying In The Rain
4. The Blood That Moves The Body
5. Train of Thought
6. Foot Of The Mountain
7. We’re Looking For The Whales
8. Cry Wolf
9. Forest For The Trees
10. You Have What It Takes
11. Analogue
12. I Dream Myself Alive
13. Here I Stand and Face the Rain
14. Hunting High and Low
15. The Living Daylights
– – – – – – – – – – – –
16. The Sun Always Shines on TV
17. I’ve Been Losing You
18. Take On Me

“I’m In” single release and album tracklist

“I’m In”, the first single from the upcoming a-ha album True North, was released today for download and streaming.

Here is the official music video, directed by Stian Andersen:

The new album can now be pre-ordered from the official True North web store, as CD, 2LP and an exclusive box set, along with new T-shirts. Release date 21 October.

Album tracklist:

1. I’m In (Furuholmen)
2. Hunter In The Hills (Waaktaar-Savoy)
3. As If (Waaktaar-Savoy)
4. Between The Halo And The Horn (Furuholmen)
5. True North (Furuholmen)
6. Bumblebee (Waaktaar-Savoy)
7. Forest For The Trees (Waaktaar-Savoy)
8. Bluest Of Blue (Furuholmen)
9. Make Me Understand (Waaktaar-Savoy)
10. You Have What It Takes (Furuholmen)
11. Summer Rain (Furuholmen)
12. Oh My Word (Waaktaar-Savoy)

a-ha announce new True North album details and first single “I’m In”

 

Today a-ha has announced the release date of their new album and film True North: 21 October 2022.

The first single is called “I’m In” and will be released this Friday, 8 July, along with a music video. It can be pre-saved using this link.

“I’m In” was originally shared by Magne on Instagram last year as a solo demo and he explains what the song is about in a new press release posted on a-ha.com:

“Magne, who wrote the moving “I’m In”, says it is “a song about total commitment and a show of support for someone who is troubled. Real commitment is a leap of faith. Everyone knows how difficult it can be to offer commitment and support unconditionally, but this is what it takes to make anything worthwhile happen – love, friendship, change, self-improvement, careers, a better world. Easier said than done of course but it begins with an attitude, then uttering the words. After this it is all hard work to realize whatever potential your commitment has in the world. Without this attitude everything just gets bogged down with conflicting thoughts, doubts and fear. Just say it: ‘I’m in’.”

Stian Andersen has directed the accompanying True North film, which will get a cinema release in late summer and a home video release on 21 October:

“In the True North film, a-ha perform and record with the orchestra. Also caught on camera in the landscape around Bodø, Magne, Morten and Paul discuss True North. In recurring vignettes, actors portray life in the north. The multidimensional film describes a narrative arc embodying the spirit of the new songs, showing how all of us are connected to the environment. Long-time a-ha collaborator Stian Andersen is the director. “True North is a letter from a-ha, from the Arctic Circle, a poem from the far north of Norway with new music,” says Magne.”

Release details from the press release:

    • “I’m In” is issued as an audio single on 8 July 2022. The music video, drawn from the True North film, is also released on 8 July 2022.
    • The True North film is released to cinemas in selected territories world-wide by Trafalgar Releasing in late summer 2022.
    • The True North album is issued on 21 October 2022. Editions include: jewel-case CD; heavy black vinyl (2 x recycled 12’’ vinyl); limited deluxe edition (with hard-cover book including 40 pages, 2 x LPs with glued sleeves, CD in a cardboard sleeve and an USB card); digital audio long-play for download and streaming. Pre-order is available from 8 July 2022 at ahatruenorth.com, where you can sign up for further information.
    • The True North film will be available for rental and purchase from 21 October 2022.

Barcelona, Nice and Montreux

Montreux, July 1st
(Screenshot from live stream)

a-ha have played three headline shows so far this week; outdoors in Barcelona and Nice and indoors at the Montreux Jazz Festival. The 18-song setlist was the same in all three cities.

The concert in Montreux was streamed live online (albeit with a 1-hour delay) through Qello Concerts. If you missed it, someone has also uploaded the show on YouTube.

While in Montreux, Magne took time to get interviewed by several Swiss news outlets. Two video interviews have been posted online; Le Matin and Blue News.

Magne also posted a picture from a visit to Shania Twain and her family, who live in Switzerland, while Paul posted some pictures of the view in Montreux. Morten posted a picture and video clip from Barcelona.

An unexpected moment occured at the concert in Barcelona on Monday, when Karl Oluf seemed to experience problems with his bass drum at the beginning of “Cry Wolf”. “We just need to change a drum. We have a drummer with a very strong foot”, Magne explained to the audience. This lead to a very extended intro and what Magne described as “the longest version of ‘Cry Wolf’ in history”. It can be seen in this video.

A video of the complete Barceona concert has been uploaded here.

 
Photo gallery from Barcelona (by Carlos Maciá)

 
Morten’s voice problems are still noticeable at times, and particularly in Montreux where he was also struggling with hearing himself in the venue. But he does his best, as he told the audience in Nice:
“My voice is still a little dodgy, but I do the best I can with it. So sing along if you feel like it, and always when I ask you to.”

Some videos from Nice on Wednesday:
You Have What It Takes   Various songs

Anneli Drecker did not appear at any of these three concerts, but she is currently working on a new Bel Canto album and may have other commitments.

Next up is two outdoor shows in the UK; Scarborough tonight and Cardiff on Tuesday, before returning to Norway to play at Stavernfestivalen next Friday.

On Instagram Paul revealed it was a challenging journey to get from Switzerland to the UK in time:
“Long day. Our flights got cancelled so we had to improvise… took us 18 hours to get here via [bus, plane, train and car]”.

 
Setlist in Barcelona, Nice and Montreux

1. Sycamore Leaves
2. The Swing Of Things
3. Crying In The Rain
4. The Blood That Moves The Body
5. Train of Thought
6. Foot Of The Mountain
7. We’re Looking For The Whales
8. Cry Wolf
9. Forest For The Trees
10. You Have What It Takes
11. Analogue
12. I Dream Myself Alive
13. Here I Stand and Face the Rain
14. Hunting High and Low
15. The Living Daylights
– – – – – – – – – – – –
16. The Sun Always Shines on TV
17. I’ve Been Losing You
18. Take On Me

Rock in Rio Lisboa Festival

The stage at Rock in Rio Lisboa

a-ha were in Lisbon yesterday to play at the Rock in Rio Lisboa Festival – their first ever concert in Portugal. And with 70,000 people in the audience, it was the largest show of the current tour.

“Thank you very much for inviting us to this beautiful city today! It’s a great honour to be here”, Magne greeted the Portuguese audience.

Going into stadium-mode they did a focused and excellent performance, creating some stellar moments along the way. A week off since the concerts in Norway seemed to have worked wonders, and Morten’s voice now sounded much better.

They were joined on stage by Anneli Drecker, who has been with them on tour since Bergen on June 15th, doing backing vocals. She last toured with a-ha in 2016.

Magne leading the audience singalong on “The Living Daylights”

Before “Crying In The Rain”, Magne talked about the shooting tragedy that had occured in Oslo on Friday night:

“It was a sad day in Norway today, where some stupid terrorist started shooting people because they dare to be different. And I just want to say that we stand together with the right for everyone to decide how to express themselves. And I want to dedicate this next song to the victims.”

The setlist was the same as the festivals in Norway, only replacing “Scoundrel Days” with “Train of Thought”. There was a live stream and TV broadcast of the concert in certain areas, which has been uploaded to YouTube in full HD.

Paul has also posted some video clips from last night on Instagram, filmed from the audience by his son Augie.

Lisbon setlist:
1. Sycamore Leaves
2. The Swing Of Things
3. Crying In The Rain
4. The Blood That Moves The Body
5. Train of Thought
6. Foot Of The Mountain
7. We’re Looking For The Whales
8. Cry Wolf
9. Here I Stand and Face the Rain
10. Hunting High and Low
11. The Sun Always Shines on TV
12. I’ve Been Losing You
13. The Living Daylights
14. Take On Me

a-ha at Over Oslo Festivalen

Morten on stage at Over Oslo, June 10th
(Photo by Jakob)

a-ha returned to the stage after a 3-week hiatus at the Over Oslo Festival this weekend, with two concerts on Friday and Saturday.

“Hello Oslo! Are you doing OK? We have been looking forward to being here today. Thank you so much for coming. I hope you’ve enjoyed yourselves and will do so for the rest of the evening. It’s a bit colder than earlier today, but try to keep warm”, Magne said when he greeted the audience of 6,000 people on Friday night.

In the days leading up to the festival, the band had been rehearsing indoors at Telenor Arena. In a VG article on Thursday, manager Harald Wiik confirmed that both Morten and Paul were diagnosed with Covid-19 on 23 May, and that Morten’s laryngitis was probably caused by Covid.

In the article Morten said it’s not been an easy recovery process:

“Some days have shown progress, other days I’ve been worse again. It’s a difficult balance between wanting to go back on stage and the risk of prolonging your illness. But the last few days have been consistently better and given hope that I can perform this weekend. The first test with the band yesterday was promising. If the voice shows the same kind of signals tonight, we’ll be playing shows on Friday and Saturday.”

When a-ha entered the stage at Over Oslo on Friday night, it became apparent that Morten’s voice was not yet healed. He sounded noticeably hoarse and avoided many of the high notes. Several times he held out the microphone to the audience for them to take over the singing.

Luckily, the audience seemed supportive and understanding of the situation, and Morten himself was in a good mood.

“Thank you dear audience for your patience and extended singalongs!”, Magne wrote on Instagram after the show, while Paul noted that “A great audience makes all the difference”.

The festival setlist was shorter than on the regular tour and obviously without any break in the middle. It included four of the songs that had been in rotation during the last few concerts in May; The Blood That Moves The Body, Foot Of The Mountain, We’re Looking For The Whales and Cry Wolf.

I have uploaded a video of The Blood That Moves The Body from Friday’s concert on YouTube. Another video with clips from different songs was posted by Aslak Ormestad.

 
Here are some photos from the concert on Friday, taken by me:

 
On Saturday the rain was pouring down on the festival area, but that didn’t stop another 6,000 people from turning up.

“You’ve survived the rain? Thank you for coming, and thank you for staying! I think you should give yourselves a big round of applause. I also think you should give an applause for Morten and Paul, who just went through Covid but still managed to be here tonight!”, Magne told the audience.

“It’s incredible that you’ve been standing here in the rain. I understand there’s been quite some weather. Fantastic”, Morten added.

A video with a selection of highlights from the second concert on 11 June has been posted on YouTube by Nichlas James Bates.

Setlist, Over Oslo:

1. Sycamore Leaves
2. The Swing Of Things
3. Crying In The Rain
4. The Blood That Moves The Body
5. Foot Of The Mountain
6. We’re Looking For The Whales
7. Cry Wolf
8. Scoundrel Days
9. Here I Stand and Face the Rain
10. Hunting High and Low
11. The Sun Always Shines on TV
12. I’ve Been Losing You
13. The Living Daylights
– – – – – – – – – – – –
14. Take On Me

All UK shows in May cancelled

Picture by Jakob

a-ha.com has announced that all four UK shows this week have to be cancelled, due to Morten recently being diagnosed with laryngitis:

Unfortunately, due to illness, a-ha’s shows at London Wembley The SSE Arena on Friday 27th May and Birmingham Utilita Arena on 28th May have been cancelled along with the already postponed shows at Bournemouth International Centre and Liverpool M&S Bank Arena. Customers for all shows will receive a refund from their point of purchase.

A message from the band:
“The band is absolutely gutted that we have had to cancel our shows in UK – our second home – this week due to continued illness.
Our deepest apologies to friends and fans with whom we were hoping to celebrate. thank you for your kind understanding and continued support!”

This means the next a-ha concerts will be at the sold out Over Oslo Festival with Simple Minds on 10 and 11 June, by which time Morten hopefully will be ready to sing again.

a-ha’s touring schedule in June and July is already packed, which probably made it impossible to reschedule the UK shows before the tour ends on 31 July. And extending the tour into August may not have been an option, as many of the crew may be committed to other tours at that point, the venues may not be available, plus a-ha will soon be shifting focus to the release of True North.

But they are scheduled to return to the UK to play at the Scarborough Open Air Theatre on 3 July and at Cardiff Castle on 5 July, where tickets are still available.

Bournemouth and Liverpool postponed

An official update about tomorrow’s and Wednesday’s concerts in the UK has now been posted:

We are sorry to have to inform you that both the a-ha shows in Bournemouth on May 24 and in Liverpool on May 25 have been postponed. Morten is still not fully recovered and is not able to perform.

Please hold on to your tickets and await further information from your point of purchase. We hate to disappoint even more fans with more postponements, but there is unfortunately nothing we can do but wait for Morten to get better and keep our fingers crossed for the shows in London and Birmingham. Stay safe in the meantime, everyone!

Meanwhile, there have been a couple of interesting new interviews in the last few days.

The website americansongwriter.com has talked to Paul about the current tour, his songwriting process and the upcoming True North album. The article also mentions that he’s planning to finally release his long-awaited solo album later this year.

In Germany, Eiken Bruhn has done a new interview with Magne for the newspaper Taz.de about the farm he co-owns in Lofoten, climate change, the carbon footprint of a-ha’s touring and True North.

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