Our Inner Abbatar
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 Tuesday, June 14th, 2022
Dear Mustafa,

If, like I did on Sunday, you take the Jubilee tube line to its easternmost point you arrive at Stratford. You then take the Docklands Light railway one station south and you arrive at Pudding Mill Lane, a station that is now dominated by the newly constructed Abba Voyage Arena. For yes I went, unapologetically, to the new Abba concert there two nights ago.

This is a truly extraordinary evening. The concert, which cost an estimated £140m to put on, used George Lucas’s Industrial Light and Magic company to re-create a brand new Abba concert, but performed by 3-D avatars (or ‘Abbatars’) from the year 1979.

In the years preceding this concert the four 70 year old+ members of Abba were kitted out into motion-capture body suits in a studio in Stockholm; here they sang and danced to their old back catalogue - allowing all their gestures and personal interactions to be captured. Then, using body doubles, the more athletic dance moves were re-created.
I can report that the full capacity 3,000 person stadium loved it from beginning to end, however, it was tinged with melancholy. The looks that the singers gave each other were no longer playful. This is likely because the actual singers were two septuagenarians gazing at each other, their immense accomplishments behind them and their future is now in the twilight. This feeling was magnified when digital copies of the actual members of Abba, as they are today, came out to take their bows and applause.  

The last time Abba played London in the flesh was at Wembley in 1979 and a ticket cost £10. 43 years later a ticket to see the Abba Voyage costs £100. This is a substantially ‘above inflation’ growth in cost, which, over this period the BoE website estimates to have been 3.3% and should have led to a ticket price nearer to £40.
In 1979 inflation in the UK had spiked to over 13%. There was an oil price shock after the Iranian revolution, there were industrial strikes and a new Conservative government. The similarities with the present day are all too obvious.

A couple of miles west of Pudding Mill Lane we will find Andrew Bailey, the hapless governor of the Bank of England. He is certainly hoping that the current inflation is as ephemeral as the ‘Abbatars’. Sadly for the BoE this inflation is very real and they are so far behind the market that the occupants of ‘Threadneedle Street’ have been lapped; they are now looking towards the Fed and its Chair, who is attempting to grasp his inner Abbatar of another icon of 1979 - ‘Tall Paul’ Volker - who through a series of deeply unpopular measures (including a recession) managed to get inflation under control.

Today’s Abbatars (Powell, Lagarde, Bailey and Kuroda) all reflect the same wistfulness, the half heartedness, and the tired look. We are, of course, entertained by their current performance but know it will not be enough. And furthermore all the relevant political band members are fading and listless. We are led by ‘Twilight Abbatars’ so we should adjust our expectations.

See you later this week in the Lake District. Chris.

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