In the cacophonic world of popular music, with its high-impact effects and productions, the music is often somewhat lost as it ends up being premeditated…The world of pop is a world where everything always has to be more than anything else. (Morten Harket)

A-HA, a.k.a Morten (Harket), Magne (Furuholmen) and Paul (Waaktaar-Savoy), the band from Norway that was so fascinated by the UK that settled here from the middle of the 1980s, count 34 years in the music industry and our hearts. Their debut album ‘‘Hunting High And Low‘ was released in 1985 right when MTV was gaining a momentum and the fascination with experimental electronica and industrial music was at its apogee. The band made an impressive start taking into account the cut-throat competitive aspect of the music industry those days. The very first song from this debut album, ‘Take On Me’, became a number one hit at the US charts while ‘The Sun Always Shines On TV‘ from that same album became number one at the UK charts.

The band was included in the Guiness World Record book twice, the first time in 2001 for the longest live note held (Morten Harket held a note in “Summer Moved On” for 20.2 seconds) and the second time in 2015, for having the biggest rock concert attendance, they drew an audience of 198,000 at Maracanã Stadium during Rock in Rio festival in 2015. Nine studio albums after ‘Hunting High And Low’ and following their split in 2010, the band announced their reunion in 2015, which was followed by a live show in London’s O2 Arena in 2016.

Having synthesizers at the heart of their compositions and the expressive lyrical and unique voice of Morten Harket as a guide, A-HA have always touched the most hard to reach emotional chords of their audience. I have always felt that some bands seem to have found a magic music recipe. And even though this recipe is not a secret, it cannot be replicated, because it is based on a unique aesthetic and musical style, an artistic identity,that the musicians have found and developed. A-HA’s magic, lays in the ability of their synth melodies and the long held notes, that make the mind travel. Different aspects of synthpop music have been explored, some bands focused on its minimal and abstract qualities, others at its ‘cold’ colours, but A-HA created melodies that were rhythmically diverse within the same song and also had Morten’s voice that took these melodies even further, stretching their impact and emotional reach thus taking the audience’s collective heart to places that feel both timeless and more visionary.

Listening to the band’s music is similar to talking with a friend about something and suddenly hearing this person say something so helpful that it is fully and in every sense relieving, like a calming sigh. The chorus of ‘I’ve Been Losing You’ is an example of what I am trying to say. The lyrics “I have lost my way, I’ve been losing you…” are being sung in such a way that instead of causing a deep dive into oneself, cause a spiritual ascendance of sorts. The performance inspires transcendence rather than self-accusation. It was in an era of great social upheaval, that these lyrics were written, so for a band to be able to refer to those emotions through such a beautiful voice and music, was a big deal. These qualities were always present in the music of A-HA whether they explored the indie rock aspects of their musical identity or they wrote synthpop songs and ballads. In terms of visuals, the band has always stayed true to their artistic character, whether they employed a characteristically American narrative in their videos (i.e. ‘Crying In The Rain’) or explored a more surrealistic and artistically critical side, as evidenced in the video clip of ‘The Sun Always Shine On TV’. This video was recorded in an abandoned cathedral filled with naked mannequins and could be viewed as a critique to the (sometimes) ritualistic relation between the audience and the performer. The fact that the band’s music still fascinates audiences today, is a result of its ability to emotionally touch this ‘collective heart’ in a similar way, and it is what makes it timeless.

“… we wrote ‘The Sun Always Shines On T.V.’, that Andrew Wickham’s secretary felt was a hit. She convinced him to make room for it. When we recorded it, we were really sick with influenza. Magne and Morten were lying in the studio on camping beds with high fevers.”(Paul)

A-HA’s tenth album ‘Cast In Steel‘ was co-produced by Morten Harket and Peter Kvint, was released in 2015 and featured a symphonic orchestra. This album placed more emphasis to guitars and drums, adding backing vocals, violin (Madeleine Ossum), cello (Tove Margrethe Erikstad) and viola (Emilie Heldal Lidsheim) to the composition, without losing the unique osmosis between the vocals and the synthesizers (i.e. ‘Forest Fire‘, ‘Living At The End Of The World‘), a signature of the band’s sound. Building on this collaboration with the symphonic orchestra, in 2017 the band realized the common goal they had with MTV, to organize an unplugged concert .So they offered two very special acoustic shows at Øygardshallen (Giske Harbour Hall) in the idyllic atmosphere of the remote island of Giske. These shows were later released in DVD/BluRay format under the title ‘MTV Unplugged-Summer Solstice‘. In that release the band included two new songs ‘This Is Our Home‘ and ‘A Break In The Clouds‘ along with acoustic versions of older songs including ‘The Sun Always Shines On TV‘, ‘Take On Me‘, ‘Hunting High And Low’. Towards the end of the show, A-HA had a surprise for the audience as Ian McCulloch was invited the first night to sing ‘Scoundrel Days‘ and ‘The Killing Moon‘ by Echo and The Bunnymen, while Yazoo’s Alison Moyet did a duet with Morken at the second night offering a new version of ‘Summer Moved On‘.

“Choosing Giske is like most of the things we do: It’s been 50% chance and 50% planned. We were discussing many different places to play these special shows — among them Manaus in the Amazon jungle, Berlin, London and New York. At the end of the day it was the Ocean Sound Recordings studio in Giske that made the difference. We knew that we could rehearse undisturbed in an extremely good sounding facility.” (Paul)

The band has embraced technology from the very beginning of their career. They were one of the few musicians to incorporate animation of hand drawn sketches in the narrative of a video clip (i.e. ‘Take On Me‘) and more recently, in 2016 to be precise they incorporated VR-technology in one of their shows. In a very special visual show at Oslo’s Spektrum arena which was made in collaboration with the Norwegian design studio Void, A-HA offered a unique experience both live at the audience and to Android and iPhone users through the YouTube app. The show was made possible with the use of motion detectors, 3D cameras and advanced coding, that reacted to the band’s movements, voice and instruments.

After their shows in Vienna, Munich, Zurich, Cologne and Oslo, A-HA will present their ‘MTV Unplugged’ show at the O2 Arena on February 14th and we will attend this show, looking to experience these inspirational feelings, find the emotional strength of their music, enjoy the power of the synth melodies and see what is that has made this band, such an important part of our lives.Do not miss this show.You can buy tickets from here:

“As a creative person it is almost easier to tap into this nordic mindest from a distance.  History is full of good examples of how iconic Norwegians in the past did their best work away from home; The writer Henrik Ibsen wrote on universal topics with a strong Norwegian tone while living in Italy, Edvard Munch’s melancholic force defined expressionism while living in Berlin — yet he simply couldn’t be from anywhere but this country. And of course there is Edvard Grieg, who took a lot of inspiration directly from folk music. His music always felt particularly resonant in our ears growing up. With such strong figures and influences defining what it is to be a Norwegian, it becomes part of what you are. Our darker, melancholic streak definitely harks back to these early influences. We feel connected to all that, which is why we thought returning home for this project was a very natural step.” (Magne)

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