A-ha have kicked off their ‘Hunting High and Low Live’ World tour with a brace of Irish dates, performing to around 20,000 fans in Dublin and Belfast. Taking to the stage at Belfast’s SSE Arena on Wednesday night (20th October 2019) for the 2nd show of the short stop, the Norwegians wowed the crowd, playing their iconic debut in full, as well as some of their biggest hits from across their catalogue.
The band’s shows marked the first time that they had played the cities back to back since their 1988 ‘Stay on these Roads’ tour, as well as their first gig in Northern Ireland since that visit.
With an animated intro in the rotoscoping style of the celebrated ‘Take on Me’ video setting the scene for what lay ahead, the Oslo act turned in a star performance from the off, opening with a rousing ‘Take on Me’, and a thundering ‘Train of Thought’, in tandem with the running order of the original album, which they're performing in full on this tour.
Greeting the crowd, keys man Magne Furuholmen said; “Hello Belfast, it's good to see you. It’s good to be back”, before joking; “Welcome to 1985!”
Following with another of their biggest hits in a stirring ‘Hunting High and Low’, the stunning light show brought the band to life, with the huge screen backdrop accenting the band performances with animations, widescreen vistas, and live band footage.
It was Morten Harket’s voice however, that shone brightest. From his measured lower tones, to his otherworldly soaring falsetto, the singer exuded an elegantly assured presence, pacing the stage in an purposeful but relaxed manner, with even his slightest gesture igniting the crowd. “I hear you. I'd like to hear a little more of you, if I may”, he politely requested during the closing bars of the title track, to a crowd that needed little encouragement.
From there, the show took off, with ‘The Sun Always Shines on TV’ raising the roof and prompting a standing ovation. With most of the songs remaining fully faithful to the album versions, as hinted at by instrumentalist Pal Waaktaar-Savoy during a recent eonmusic interview, others were given a reworking. ‘Love is Reason’ received a much more organic treatment, while Mags revealed ahead of ‘I Dream Myself Alive' that; “we’re going to do it in the version that we recorded before the album, so live with it and love it.”
Ending act 1 with a dramatic ‘Here I Stand and Face the Rain’, it was a much more comfortable and assured a-ha that returned for the second half, perhaps looser without the pressure of having to perform deeper cuts in the restraints of a full album performance.
With highlights including tracks of a more recent vintage in ‘Analogue (All I Want)’, and ‘Foot of the Mountain’, the band went on to perform both old - an uplifting ‘I’ve Been Losing You’ being a real set highlight – and new, in the perfect pop of brand new track ‘Digital River’.
However it was the closing ‘Stay on these Roads’ that saw a swell in the arena mood, ahead of blinding encores ‘Scoundrel Days’ and a singalong ‘The Living Daylights’, which closed what had been a phenomenal set.
Signing off, Magne said; “Belfast, thank you for inviting us back after all these years”, with Morten adding; “thank you so much. You've been a great crowd, a great audience. We love you!”
A-ha continue their ‘Hunting High and Low Live’ tour with shows across the U.K. form 1st – 6th November. For a full list of dates, visit a-ha.com.
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Check out our gallery from the show below. All photos by Darren McLoughlin.