May 3, 2016 a-ha Create Memories At Festhalle Frankfurt In Germany 4-24-16
Formed in Oslo, Norway, the trio known as a-ha have built a storied international career over the past three plus decades. Originally coming together back in 1982 when Vocalist/Guitarist Morten Harket, Keyboardist/Guitarist Magne Furuholmen, and Guitarist Pål Waaktaar-Savoy united, a-ha’s music was a wonderful mix of Pop, Rock, and Synthpop unique to others on the New Wave scene. This was never more evident than when they released their debut album, Hunting High and Low, in 1985; a record that is a magnificent listen from start to finish. Peaking on music charts across the world, breaking sales records, and garnering a-ha a Grammy nomination, they are now considered Norwegian music royalty. So much has happened for the band since then, and after what seemed their farewell tour in 2010, with three shows at Spektrum in Oslo, Norway, a-ha reunited in 2015. Touring to celebrate the 30th anniversary of Hunting High and Low, one would think it would be a short-lived reunion to honor their unique past, but interestingly enough, a-ha also released a brand new album, entitled Cast in Steel, back in September of last year.
A welcomed return by their dedicated fanbase, a-ha continue to tour into 2016 with the Cast in Steel Tour that is making waves throughout Europe. Harket stated, “I’m definitely looking forward to going back on tour.” He also added, “I think it will be great. We will ensure that everything is right for us, and it is the ultimate a-ha experience.” Exciting for fans as well, a bulk of the current tour was spent in Germany, and on Sunday, April 24th, a-ha visited the historic Festhalle Frankfurt in the city of Frankfurt. A perfect way to end a weekend in any corner of the world on a radio show prior to the show, Harket announced this might be a-ha’s last time playing Germany. A statement that could very well come to fruition, a-ha was ready to make it a night no one would forget.
With that in mind, Festhalle Frankfurt was filled with fans of all ages, even families attended the show. Everyone in the venue was in high spirits, dressed up, prepped with charged phones for pictures, videos, and messages to their loved ones, as well as friends, about the show. Then the lights went down and the show began with opening act Marcel Brell. A German singer, songwriter, and guitar player, Brell was accompanied by Hendrik Krause (bass) and Alex Höffken (drums) as the trio played beautifully mellow songs, combined with soft vocals that told love stories.
With an audience that seemed skeptical at first, Brell tried hard to break the ice, telling some jokes and stories about his life in Berlin. Warming up the room, the ice slowly began breaking and Brell did not give up as he continued with his humble stories between each heartwarming track. The cheering grew louder after each song, until many spectators finally began singing along to the last few songs. After only some thirty minutes of showtime, Brell thanked the audience for their patience and support as well as thanked a-ha for the opportunity of being part of their tour. Inviting everyone to chat with him and the band at the merchandise booth after the show, Brell made more than a few new fans.
Now warmed up, the audience was waiting in anticipation for a-ha. With ten albums to their name, including a slew of big-time singles, they were ready to take Frankfurt down memory lane, but also invite them to the magic that is Cast in Steel. Combining their history with a stage setup that featured a plethora of lighting, as well as huge video screens all around, had many curious what a-ha had in store for them.
Then, without further ado, the audience erupted into cheer as a-ha entered the stage and Furuholmen greeted everyone with a local phrase in German. A pleasant surprise, a-ha began the music with older tracks including 1986’s “I’ve Been Losing You” and “Cry Wolf” where the screens displayed glowing eyes before they played 1993’s “Move To Memphis.” A fitting opening considering October marks the 30th anniversary of a-ha’s sophomore album, Scoundrel Days, they kept the older tunes coming with “Stay on These Roads” and the uplifting “The Swing of Things.” Although, no matter what song a-ha chose, everyone in the venue was singing along. Mixing in Cast in Steel’s title track, Harket thereafter dazzled with his voice even more during a-ha’s signature cover of Carole King’s “Crying in the Rain.” Joined by Backing Vocalist Anneli Drecker, the two would duet on numerous occasions during the set, providing for a magnificent texture that resonated through the dome of Festhalle Frankfurt.
Continuing on, the screens provided vivid imagery including original music videos of the song performed and live feeds of Harket, Furuholmen, and Waaktaar-Savoy to give those further away an up-close view. Perfect for taking video and photos of, the lighting supported the atmosphere that the music and visual created, blowing the audience away. Complementing the overall vibe of the concert, Harket sang each track with ease, hitting even the highest notes as if it was nothing. They even offered newer generation a-ha songs like “Mother Nature Goes to Heaven” and “Lifelines” where Harket took a breather to let the band handle. It was during the latter track that Furuholmen requested everyone in the audience light their mobile phones, making the venue look like a lit Christmas tree, as he stated, or like a sky filled with stars. Causing goosebumps for everyone who took a moment to take a look around and enjoy the moment, it was simply breathtaking.
The selection of a-ha was a great balance to mix in with old favorites sprinkled throughout the show including “We’re Looking for the Whales” and the synth drenched 1985 classic “Here I Stand and Face the Rain” where Harket continued to impress with his vocal range. It was not only the range of Harket that struck fans, it was his ability to amplify in such unwavering fashion as well, making each song that much more powerful. Going on to to perform other tracks such as “Scoundrel Days,” East of the Sun, West of the Moon’s “Sycamore Leaves,” along with the modern “She’s Humming a Tune,” a-ha had the crowd in the palm of their hand. Complemented by Waaktaar-Savoy’s guitar playing and strong drumming by Karl-Oluf Wennerberg as well as accented atmosphere from Keyboardist Erik Ljunggren, the music sounded as perfect as the studio recordings.
Closing out the main portion of the set, a-ha had everyone roaring for the favorite “Hunting High and Low.” A track that helped launch the band into super-stardom, everyone took it in and hoped that it really was not the final moments of the night. With the band departing from the stage, everyone cheered for more, and then a-ha returned. All smiles and appreciative for the positive reception, they kicked off the encore with another big hit in “The Sun Always Shines on T.V.” before the venue lit up again with mobile phones for “Under The Make Up.” Then, taking the emotions of the night to the next level, everyone in the venue sang along for parts of “The Living Daylights,” completely taking a-ha back. Departing the stage again, the audience would just not let them go, so a-ha return for one final song. Without a doubt their most broadly recognized song ever, a-ha took everyone back in time with the massive “Take On Me.” Inviting everyone to dance along, no one was sitting as they jumped, grooved, and sang, feeling like children and loving it. To cap off the grand finale, the decade defining music video played on the screens behind the band for a flawless send off.
Simply put, it was an amazing show that left everyone speechless. The whole package of atmosphere, band, music, sound, light, and length was perfect. Harket, Furuholmen, and Waaktaar-Savoy played with and to the audience, smiling at them and singing to them all night long. The hour and half plus performance took many fans back in time and away from all the worries life brings along. Some would say that is exactly what a concert experience is all about, and they would be correct. Every fan left the venue with a smile on their face, hoping this would not be the last time they saw a-ha, but if it was, they have plenty of memories to last a lifetime.