Royal Albert Hall, London
25th June 2002
In the 16 years I waited to see a-ha live, I aged from 6 to 22 and Morten Harket aged from 25 to 25. Admittedly I was in the back row of the Royal Albert Hall, but to me he looked great. And Magne and Paul didn’t look too bad either. The only British date on the tour accompanying Lifelines, the Norwegian trio’s second album since their comeback 3 years ago (although they’re coming back in December), this was their first gig here since 1993. Kicking off with the title track from their previous album, Minor Earth Major Sky, they played a set of 18 songs, mostly from Lifelines but with a few older tracks (I don’t really want to say “from their heyday”, but I suppose it was really) including Manhattan Skyline, Cry Wolf, Stay On These Roads, Hunting High and Low, The Living Daylights, Take On Me (during which the crowd went mad) and The Sun Always Shines On TV (during which I went mad).
The new stuff, especially Lifelines, You Wanted More and Forever Not Yours, charts how far the band have evolved since their synthpop days in the 80s; it’s now more mellow and mature, slick production and Morten’s wonderful voice saving it (just) from MOR mediocrity. They had to change to come back, and they’ve succeeded, even though they are more Radio 2 than Radio 1 these days. Still comfortable with their old tracks, the new stuff fits in comfortably. Morten can still hold a note; during The Sun… he warbled the long high notes for longer than in 1985, and his voice’s sheer emotional power in Hunting High and Low made me cry. (True.) The coloured LCD screens behind the band enlivened the stage a bit, but mostly the show was quite static. Paul did jig about a bit with his guitar, Magne did try to rock out from behind his keyboards and guitar, and admittedly Magne, Anneli the backing singer and Sven the bassist did to a little Shadows-style dance routine during Did Anyone Approach You, but Morten’s no dancing frontman like Dave Gahan. But he’s still brilliant, and he’s still 25.