“Hello New York, remember us?” asked A-ha keyboardist Magne Furuholmen to the sold-out crowd at Radio City Music Hall on April 12, 2022. “We started the tour two years ago before the world went to shit.” In 2020, the band kicked off a worldwide tour celebrating the 35th anniversary of their debut Hunting High and Low, before live performance and everything around the pandemic shut down. Playing Radio City again was a particular full-circle moment for A-ha since it was the second time the band performed at the New York City venue since Oct. 11, 1986, then amid the flurry around the first albumand their still-detonating mega-hit “Take On Me.”
“Thirty-six years,” said singer Morten Harket during the show, reflecting on the last time the band played the venue and their return to the sold-out hall. “How does it make me feel? Appreciated.”
Guitarist Paul (Pål) Waaktaar-Savoy, admits that the memory of that 1986 show is a bit of a fog. “My memory is pretty blurry,” laughs Waaktaar-Savoy, “but I do recall the chaotic and electric atmosphere.” He adds, “They had closed off the side street, and it was jam-packed with fans. Coming from Norway, we couldn’t believe we were playing such an iconic venue on our very first tour.”
Though, the mostly sold-out tour, which kicked off again in South America in March 2022 and the U.S. in April and will continue on through Europe and Brazil before closing at The Hollywood Bowl in Los Angeles on July 31, is a celebration of the first album, A-ha’s extensive catalog was also incorporated in the 18-song set. Opening on the bluesier “Sycamore Trees,” off the band’s 1990 album East of the Sun, West of the Moon, the entirety of Hunting, from “Train of Thought,” and “Living a Boy’s Adventure Tale,” to “The Sun Always Shines on T.V.,” and the encore “Take on Me“—the latter video, animated by artist Steve Barron, famously reaching a record-breaking one billion (now nearly 1.5 billion) views on YouTube around its 35th anniversary in 2020—was sprinkled in (in no particular order) between the brooding ”Scoundrel Days,” their cover of Carole King’s “Crying in the Rain,” and the band’s 1987 007 theme song “The Living Daylights,” prompting Furuholmen to conduct the nearly 6,000-capacity audience into singing the chorus.
“We’ve re-scheduled these shows two or three times already, so it’s been great to finally get to go,” adds Waaktaar-Savoy, who now lives in Los Angeles after moving from New York City, of the tour. “The reception has been wonderful. You can really sense that we have a long-standing relationship with the people that come out to see us play.”
Earlier in the show, the band was eager to introduce two new songs, “Forest For The Trees” and “You Have What It Takes,” off their upcoming 11th album True North, due out fall of 2022. “With so many older songs on the setlist,” says Waaktaar-Savoy, “it felt pressing to introduce some new ones as well.”
Recorded in the small town of Bodø in northern Norway, the band cut the 12 tracks for True North at the end of 2021, in addition to a film to accompany the album—some scenes set as the backdrop on the current tour. Adding more orchestration to the arrangements of the songs on True North, a follow-up to A-ha’s 2015 release Cast in Steel, the band also enlisted The Arctic Philharmonic, on the album, partly following suit with the band’s 2017 MTV Unplugged gig.
“The concept was to capture as much as we could in a live performance and we gave ourselves two weeks to get it all on tape,” says Waaktaar-Savoy. “We had a 35-piece orchestra to fill out the sound and that became a big part of the production as many of the hooks and lines we’d usually play with a synth or a guitar would now be placed with the orchestra.”