a-ha

a-ha: SSE Hydro Glasgow, 28 Mar 2016

If you go up to a complete stranger and ask them to name an a-ha song, there’s a high chance it’ll be Take On Me. And if you’d asked about 75% of the audience at the Hydro, I suspect you’d have got the same answer. Coasting somewhat on the seemingly constant wave of 80s nostalgia, a-ha have returned after really-no-honestly-we’re-breaking-up-for-good back in 2010. Their new album’s in heavy radio circulation, but really all anyone wants is to see them perform Take On Me, which is why the poor Manic Pixie Scandi Girl support act performed to a mostly empty arena.

Barely allowing time for the collective hormones of thousands of housewives to settle, Morten and co launch into a medley of I’ve Been Losing You and Cry Wolf, prompting many blank looks among the folk around me. In fact, if I had a pound for every time I heard ‘this isn’t Take On Me‘ or ‘this is a new song’ during the concert, I’d be able to pay for the shonky alternative health treatments Mr. Harket is a big fan of. After another obscure hit, Move To Memphis, we’re back into familiar territory with the lush Stay On These Roads. Morten’s voice is still that haunting mix of vulnerable little boy lost and keening, Bill-Withers-beating lengthy notes, and the staging was a rather nice mix of hand-drawn animations and Windows Media Player visualisations.

The middle of the concert sagged somewhat for me, mostly due to playing ‘the new stuff’ – not that it’s bad – although the ten minutes Morten graciously allowed for Magne and Pål to do solo songs Velvet and Dragonfly were a good chance to show off their different, more indie rock voices. Things picked up when they brought out their frankly underrated cover of Crying in the Rain and the title track from Scoundrel Days, and then… they were off. Oh. Maybe they’re leaving Take On Me till the encore, we thought. But no. We were treated to The Sun Always Shines on TV, The Living Daylights and Some Other New Song, and they were off again.

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This was getting distinctly odd. A few more minutes of hanging around and… a second encore, just for Take On Me. Finally! And in the middle of the first verse, Morten forgets the lyrics. That’s right – in the throes of his most famous song, he stuffs it up. Now, you’d think you’d have it well polished after a few decades, but there you go.

Another odd thing was how quiet Morten was for the whole concert. He spoke all of three words, leaving Magne to do most of the between-songs banter. He was offstage altogether for their solos. He spent a chunk of time hidden behind huge sunglasses. Creative tensions, rockstar allure or just being a bit of a douche? We’ll never know. Still, it was a cracking concert overall, so I’d give it an 8/10.

Alright, I’ve held off for long enough: yes, at 56 Morten still looks fantastic, and his cheekbones should be illegal. THERE, I’VE SAID IT.

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