New Arrangements, New Premieres & Cover Versions!
Performed Exclusively On Vintage Acoustic Instruments!
In the land of the midnight sun, the clocks tick slightly different than they do elsewhere. This is especially true during the summer solstice, when the sun hardly sets at all, bathing the small Norwegian island of Giske where a-ha played their first ever two acoustic concerts in an eerie twilight. Giske is a tiny island in close proximity to the city of Ålesund on the shore of the North Atlantic Ocean, an island so beautiful and, well, remote, that one immediately wonders why a-ha handpicked this specific location to play their long awaited first MTV Unplugged shows on the night of the 2017 summer solstice, right where the world seems to end.
a-ha booked the Ocean Sound Recordings studio, which looks out onto the ocean, to revisit their own back catalogue for two weeks together with producer Lars Horntveth, who had already been working on the acoustic arrangements for more than half a year. The nearby Øygardshallen (Giske Harbour Hall) turned out to be the perfect venue to stage their two first ever acoustic shows: They simply had to lay cables from A to B and then were able to use the studio at Ocean Sound Recordings to capture the shows perfectly. a-ha performed in front of an audience of just 250 people the Øygardshallen's glass front allowed the audience to gaze out into the pale night and onto a number of LED video steles that had been set up behind the band, serving as a minimalist backdrop to the concert. Suffice to say, the concerts were sold-out within minutes, as a-ha were to play "concerts so close to our audience like never before". As keyboardist Magne Furuholmen puts it: "These were by far the most intimate concerts we've ever given."
Yet the beauty of the North Atlantic Ocean, the light of the midnight sun and the exclusivity of the concerts are only one half of the story. The other half is that the idea of a-ha playing their vast catalogue of world hits stripped down to their very essence is indeed a promising endeavor.
For the MTV Unplugged shows, a-ha played 17 songs in completely new arrangements as well as two new songs and two cover versions on vintage acoustic instruments, accompanied by a backing band featuring Karl Oluf Wennerberg on drums, Even Ormestad on acoustic bass, Morten Qvenild on piano and various acoustic keyboards, Lars Horntveth on multiple instruments and Madeleine Ossum on violin and vocals, Tove Margrethe Erikstad on cello and Emilie Heldal Lidsheim on viola and backing vocals. Furthermore, a total of four guest stars served as duet partners for Morten Harket. Most notably, Echo & The Bunnymen's Ian McCulloch had been invited by Magne Furuholmen to sing "Scoundrel Days" and Ian's very own "The Killing Moon" on the first of the two shows. On the second night, a-ha were joined by Alison Moyet of Yazoo fame to duet with Morten on "Summer Moved On". Highasakite's Ingrid Helene Håvik guested on "The Sun Always Shines on TV" on both nights, while, last but not least, American singer Lissie did the same on "Ive Been Losing You".
During the encore, a-ha would play "as usual" their first and biggest hit to date, "Take On Me". But an unexpected chord change in the chorus and the skeletal arrangement not only allowed a new perspective on the song's lyrics, it also left the audience with tears in their eyes.
There are only a few bands in the world who can look back on similarly close ties with the music channel MTV as a-ha. Alongside the likes of Duran Duran and Yello, in 1985 a-ha were worldwide pioneers who immediately understood the power of the music video as both a narrative and commercial tool. Steve Barron's classic "Take On Me" clip is still a milestone of music video and in 2003 was voted by the MTV audience as one of the top ten best videos ever made.
Made in Czech Republic
1. This Is Our Home
3. I've Been Losing You (feat. Lissie)
4. Analogue (All I Want)
1. The Sun Always Shines On TV (feat. Ingrid Helene Håvik)
2. A Break In The Clouds
3. Foot Of The Mountain
1. Stay On These Roads
2. This Alone Is Love
3. Over The Treetops
4. Forver Not Yours
1. Sox Of The Fox
2. Scoundrel Days (feat. Ian McCulloch)
3. The Killing Moon (feat. IanMcCulloch)
1. Summer Moved On (feat. Alison Moyet)
2. Memorial Beach
3. Living A Boy's Adventure Tale
4. Manhattan Skyline
1. The Living Daylights
2. Hunting High And Low
3. Take On Me