A-ha takes on the 3arena, 29th October 2019
“Welcome to 1985!” a-ha’s usually tacit frontman Morten Harket greets a full house at the 3arena. Flanked by Magne Furuholmen on keys, and Pål Waaktaar-Savoy on guitar (all three clad in leather jackets, naturally), and Morten’s unwavering falsetto as dreamy as ever, you’d be hard pressed to tell this was a few decades later, give or take a few telltale wrinkles.
Tonight’s show- the first night of the Hunting High and Low Live tour- is a show of two halves, striking a delicate balance between a crowd pleasing trip down memory lane with songs like The Sun Always Shines on TV and a rarer outing for deeper cuts like The Blue Sky that showcase the band’s ashamedly often overlooked songwriting talents.
Free from the shackles of a support act, the show starts around 8pm. The five minute warning comes in the form of pencil sketch short film Commuter by Michael Patterson, the animator behind Take On Me’s infamous rotoscoped music video.
Latecomers who didn’t heed the stage time warning miss out on the sudden rushing of keyboards as the defining sound of a decade arrives. This may come as a surprise, surely every great showman saves the best for last? Little can be done, as Take On Me is the first track off of their debut Hunting High and Low, which is played in running order of the original release. For a-ha, it’s somewhat became an albatross around their neck, having had its own career over the last 30 odd years, from featuring on Singstar Popworld to its acoustic reincarnation in Deadpool 2. A quintessential part of pop culture, yes, but also a relief to get out of the way.
The Sun Always Shines On TV onwards, the spotlight shifts to Magne, who take the role of frontman. “Anyone old enough to remember the ’80s? Too old to remember? That’s a fun one in a few years!” Those of a certain vintage, of which there were many, certainly remember.
Morten et al are musical perfectionists, helped along by an airtight line-up of Norway’s Karl Oluf Wennerberg (drums), Sweden’s Even Ormestad (bass guitar) and Iceland’s Eric Ljunggren (synth/programming).
For a-ha’s newer tracks, it’s noticeably less polished and more rock oriented, particularly for songs like blistering rocker Sycamore Leaves, In terms of visuals we are treated to all four seasons- during a prolonged instrumental breakdown of Here I Stand and Face The Rain, a thunderstorm looms overhead, while Foot Of The Mountain takes us through Oslo after dark.
The powerful moments came when fans are treated to the live debut of new song Digital River, as well as revamping of classic Dream Myself Alive, which Magne asks us to “suffer through”. It’s a version we didn’t know we needed, and it breathes much needed life into the song.
There’s a sort encore to conclude the show in the form of eerie synth-backed Scoundrel Days, followed by Bond theme The Living Daylights. It’s probably the only song that could rival Take on Me as a finisher, which the crowd carries to the end. Magne says a short few words of thanks for “putting us up and letting us do what we love” as if they hadn’t been the sound of a generation, or three. And with that, they’re gone and taken all our girlhood dreams with them.