by Amy Taylor
A review of the Manchester gig: 6 December 2005
It’s hardly the first time I’ve seen A-ha live. It won’t be the last. But for some reason I was awake at 2.00 am on 6th December and having to make a nervous trip to the loo. It wasn’t the first. (It wasn’t to be the last either.)
Maybe it’s because my husband was the owner of the other A-ha concert ticket. Let’s face it, at my first A-ha concert on 6th January 1987 at the Manchester Apollo, I was not expecting to be attending a concert nearly twenty years later with my husband – I was dreaming of being married to Paul Waaktaar (before he adopted the ‘Savoy’ of course). Well, I was only fourteen at the time….
It amazes me that wild-eyed women – not teenagers anymore – are still being dragged out by security at A-ha concerts. My primary reasons for not attempting to climb on stage myself are (a) I don’t want to get ejected from the concert and miss it, and (b) what the heck do I do next if I do actually manage to dodge the bouncers and get myself onto the stage? At the 2002 concert, I finally caught on to the fact that if you hang around the back of the Apollo theatre, you actually get the chance to see the guys leaving. More than this….I got to shake Morten’s hand. I gazed into the ‘come to bed’ eyes, held his hand and, well, froze solid. Climbing on to stages just wouldn’t work for me, would it?
But why should three Norwegian men, (who look to me as though they never let anything go to their heads ever), create such quivering apoplexy in me? As we drove into Manchester, I wondered if Morten, Paul and Mags ever get nervous these days? Are they going to the loo 10 times a day prior to going on stage? Somehow, I doubt it.
When I heard that A-ha were playing the MEN Arena – as opposed to the usual tried and tested Apollo theatre – I was worried. The Apollo is smaller, more cozy, more intimate and you get a nice atmosphere in there. Plus, I know where the artists entrance is. The Arena is huge, impersonal, and the atmosphere thins out the further back you go. And you can go back a long way.
When we got there I felt pretty lost. It’s like stepping into a little world. There are people everywhere. Thousands of them. Plus I had 4 inch heels on and had just descended an Everest’s worth of steps. We had seats in block D, row Q, i.e. we were on the floor and we could see the band and recognise them. Of course, I had the world’s tallest and broadest man stood right in front of me. It always happens.
Then A-ha came on. Somehow, all the lavatorial activity of the day and the nerves and the apprehension melted away to be replaced with an extraordinary energy. Dance? Did I!! Sing at the top of my voice? Just a bit. And so did everyone else. Another remarkable thing about A-ha is the fans. We are not here today, gone tomorrow fly-by-nights. No sir. We signed up in ‘85 and we ain’t leaving ever. Whilst A-ha are able to put out songs like “Keeper of the Flame’ and ‘Analogue’ (which sounded incredible live), we’ll be staying around for more.
A-ha don’t do Robbie Williams-style entertainment. Morten does not emerge onto stage on the back of a flying dragon, nor leave the stage by bungee rope. There are no costume changes or theatrics. With A-ha, we know we will be getting the music, the voice, and a good, honest light show. And that’s exactly what we want. (I miss Mags’ skateboard though – does he still have one? I like to think so.)
However, saying that (brace yourselves), at this concert, I was thrilled to hear my fantasy husband speak, and even crack a joke. When Paul and Mags changed places for Keeper of the Flame, Paul said – in his most arid and mirthless voice, “We played musical chairs. And I lost.” Priceless. I love that guy.
I wrote another review today (300 words all in) where I mistakenly said that they played at least one track off every album they’ve ever released. But where was Lifelines? Not a single song from the last album and I can’t understand why. Never mind, they’ve got a lot to choose from and they obviously wanted to revisit some of the old stuff, like Weight of the Wind, Living a Boy’s Adventure Tale and Manhattan Skyline. I’m glad they did – I was suddenly transported back 20 years and felt 20 years younger. It does one good.
But the new stuff is actually what I thrive on as a fan. It keeps A-ha fresh and relevant. New material is like an exciting gift that never disappoints. The melodies always hit the spot, the harmonies are breathtaking and the lyrics…well, the lyrics always stun me. Cozy Prisons. That song is about me. It really is. How do they know that stuff??? OK, maybe I’m not that unique then; I’m a type – and they’ve tapped into it and captured the essence perfectly. No other songwriter alive writes like that. I feel confident saying that. No other songwriter manages to make me really stop and listen and feel the way I do.
So I guess that’s why the thought of seeing them live seems such a big deal. These guys aren’t just musicians, they’re psychoanalysts, they deal in real, raw emotions and they aren’t afraid to explore them. They are romantic, but also strong and even relentless. They have an appeal that not only lasts, but refreshes itself and thereby becomes more enduring as the years go by. I put myself forward as evidence of this.
They left us with Dark is the Night and a heartfelt ‘thank you’, and a goodbye “for now”. I hope this means they will be back soon. I know they will. I hope they come to the Apollo again. I really would like a second shot at speaking to them. If I could have done so last night, now that I am sitting down, composed, in front of my computer, I would have said…..
No. Still can’t formulate the words. Still apoplectic.
My husband, Alan, actually sneaked right to the front to take photos. Bless him. The more distant ones were taken by either of us.