Norway has a small, but eclectic number of bands and artists who are known outside of Scandinavia, a-ha being the foremost and commercially most succesful. So far the band have sold more than 100 million records. They also had the official Guinnes record for the biggest paying audience to one concert in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil in 1991, with 198.000 people paying to see them, three times as many as those who paid for Guns ’n’ Roses or George Michael at the same event, Rock in Rio.
A-ha started as a band in 1984 and their first single, Take On Me got some good reviews, but didn’t make it to the charts before they re-relased it with a new mix and a video that combined hand drawen cartoon animation and real video. The song peaked at #1 both in UK and on Billboard Hot 100. The video also became one of the easiest recognized music videos of that period, helping to establish the band as one of the biggest 80’s bands. Living Daylights is the theme song to the James Bond movie, and the albums from the mid 80s to 1994 all sold well.
From 1994-1998 the band went on a hiatus, focusing on solo albums and other things. They got together again in 1998, but has been on and off since then. Last year they rebanded and went on a world wide tour, Cast in Steel in the autumn 20015, and also from March-May 2016. I visited the first of two sold out concerts in Oslo at the end of the tour, which ends in Bergen May 7th.
Live a-ha isn’t necessarily the most exciting band to see. They don’t have much of a stage show, but the sound and lights are always good. I have seen them on two occasions before, at a football stadion in Oslo early 2000, and in Trondheim in 2010. The setup at Oslo Spektrum tonight was remarkably equal to the Trondheim concert, except for the visual effects. A-ha have always been skillful in gettting the best musicians to accompany them on stage. So also tonight, where the songs sounded very much like they do on their albums.
There have been rumors that this will be a-ha’s last tour. I do think the jury is still out on this, since it is based on an interview with Morten Harket in a Suiss newspaper. Paul Waaktar-Savoy has since contradicted this, saying literally that you can’t take everything Morten Harket says on face value. Personally I think they will come back once more. Their songbook is definitely one of newer pop music’s best, and is well worth listening to.
I’ve been losing you, Cry Wolf, Move to Memphis, Stay on these Roads, The Swing of Things, Cast in Steel, Crying in the Rain, Looking for the Whales, Velvet, Lifelines, Here I stand and face the Rain, Scoundrel Days, Sycamore Leaves, Humming a Tune, Foot of the Mountain, Hunting High and Low, The Sun Always Shines on TV, Under the Makeup, Living Daylights, Take on Me.
All photos are © Per Ole Hagen and must not be used without written permission.