Farewell to a-ha from Brussels


Ott 12 2010, 7:54

Mon 11 Oct – a-ha, Jimmy Gnecco

My first and final a-ha show... While I have been a fan since their first album and kept listening to all their new work, I never had the chance to see them perform live. So I read a few reviews from past gigs and was slightly worried that it might disappoint. But it didn't. It was splendid, marvelous, joyful.

Morten Harket might have become 25 years older than he was on Hunting High and Low, but he was as good looking as ever and sang as clean as if he was still 18 or so.

The opening act was Jimmy Gnecco who is not well known in Belgium. The girl standing next to me (who was probably not even born when Take on Me was released) was confused and thought she did not recognize a-ha anymore (really!). It could not help but feel that they did not had a chance for a proper sound check. At least, something was really rumbling in the low end and his voice, which is also quite clean and high, was not always strong enough to break through the rest of the sound. But they played a good set and half-way in, they were able to contact with the audience more.

And then we had to wait quite some time. Some techno music kept playing through the speakers of the venue, which seemed a bit stupid, considering the synthpop-music people came to experience. At 21h15 they lights finally dimmed again and the intro music began to play. It took a while, there was the noise of switching TV's and some effected voices, which seemed to be sampled from Morten. We already got a few glimpses of the three giant screens on the back of the stage. Nice. And a treat to the audience.

And then they finally began. With a good mix of older hits (The Sun Always Shines On T.V., my favorite Scoundrel Days, which was much better than a live recording I have at home, a really epic Stay On These Roads) and some more recent material. Somehow, the old and the new fit together really well. The newer songs from Foot Of The Mountain were (almost?) as good as their older work and The Bandstand was one of the many highlights, with Magne F sheering up the audience and Morten playing some electronic percussion.

The first part of the set finished with We're Looking for the Whales, which is a real improvement over the original album version, that was too poppy and light-hearted. The outro faded into a carpet of whale samples and synthesizer pads, allowing the crew to shift a piano on stage for the more intimate, acoustic part of the set. The latest hit (Butterfly, Butterfly (the last hurrah)) was really intimate and just plain beautiful. Strip of all the synths and what is left are rock-solid, beautiful songs, commonly with a sometimes non-trivial chord succession or nicely woven high-pitched melody. Even though I was expecting to have at least some false notes, I did not spot any (and as a musician I am quite critical on that). So he either was doing a good playback on pre-recorded singing (doubtful, as many of the phrasings were different from the albums), used good pitch-correction (maybe?) or he simply still has this incredible and sensitive high voice (definitely).

Instead of letting people shout for the first encore, they showed a slideshow of the band on different stages in their career. Somehow it started to look as a family reunion, which is not a bad thing for a farewell gig, with many songs really fitting in a farewell theme.

Initially I was surprised to find Analogue (All I Want) in the first encore, but it is a solid song and since the whole set was filled with their greatest hits, they had to chose something. The Living Daylights is still my favorite Bond-song, although I prefer the synthesizer album version over the orchestra single version. A nice song for the crowd to sing along.

And ending with Take on Me was expected, but it was the best way to end the show (even though the majority of the audience is not able to properly reach the depths and heights of the chorus, myself included).

I did read about a disappointing show last year in Brussels, but none of the complaints were justified on yesterdays event. The singing was spot-on, they really seemed to enjoy themselves on stage, the songs really rocked and the crowd loved it.

The two guys that backed up the music on drums and synths also did a really good job. The drummer made it all into a rocking live experience and ensured all the songs, which sometimes sound much more over-produced on the albums, fitted together well. The keyboard player was somehow invisible, but I imagine that a lot of the great synth wall-of-sound would not be there if it wasn't for him. And the boys from a-ha switched between synths, guitars, ukeleles and percussion from time to time, which I really love in a live performance.

The video projections were good. I might have been expecting a lot, after seeing Depeche Mode and Peter Gabriel recently, but it did not disappoint at all.

Any complaints? Well, my voice and legs were hurting a bit afterwards. And I somehow managed to miss the last train home and had to call a cab, which costed more than my ticket. And the waiting in the beginning was too long. And even though the show was sold out, only half of the venue was filled (but they covered the upper part with black curtains). And of course, now that I have seen a-ha, they end their musical career. But "Ending on a high note" is not a bad thing.


  • legonz

    A very good review... I was on Paris's show : i can't find the words to explain how this evening is one of the most magnificent nights of my life...

    Ott 18 2010, 18:05
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