A-ha, Scarborough Open Air Theatre, Sunday, July 3

Words and photos by Dave Lawrence

A-HA, the Norwegian band famous for their ground-breaking video for the song Take On Me – which is currently approaching one and a half billion views on YouTube – are no strangers to the UK. Sadly, singer Morten Harket contracted laryngitis at the end of May which led to four big UK arena shows being cancelled resulting in the band’s summer UK tour being reduced to only two shows - one at Cardiff Castle, and their visit to Scarborough's Open Air Theatre on Sunday evening.

The three core members of the group, Morten Harket (vocals), Magne Furuholmen (keyboards and guitars) and Paul Waaktaar-Savoy (guitars) were supplemented by three musicians on drums, bass and additional keyboards but took a while to shake off a strange coolness. Seeing the band live for the first time I was surprised how little on-stage rapport there seemed between the band members which seemed odd for a band whose three founding members have been performing together since the mid-eighties.

York Press: A-ha performing in Scarborough. Photos by Dave LawrenceA-ha performing in Scarborough. Photos by Dave Lawrence

Harket is actually one of the least demonstrative and subdued frontmen I have seen, strangely static in the centre of the stage, often fiddling with his in-ear monitors and undecided as to what kind of eyewear to sport. The lack of interplay on stage between he, Furuholmen and Waaktaar-Savoy was so low-key that at one point of the show when all three were briefly side by side behind Furuholmen’s keyboard it resulted in cheers from the audience.

That however is not to say the band underperformed – Harket’s voice sounded terrific and they went down very well with their fans some of whom had travelled from Scandinavia for the show. Their excellent pop hits, most of which came towards the end of the set in particular were joyfully received.


Opening with Sycamore Leaves from 1990’s East Of The Sun, West Of The Moon album it was material from their first two albums Scoundrel Days - including The Swing of Things, Cry Wolf, and We’re Looking For The Whales - and their hit-heavy debut, Hunting High & Low that formed the backbone of the set.

A cover of Carole King’s Crying In The Rain appeared early in the set, but it was two new songs from an upcoming album – their first in seven years – and accompanying film called True North that were actually a highlight of the set. The issue of climate change and its challenges is at the core of the album and both Forest For The Trees and You Have What It Takes both sounded excellent piquing interest for the release due in the autumn.

The closing third of the set was very strong as the band hit their stride and, in particular delving into 1985 debut album, Hunting High & Low with I Dream Myself Alive and Here I Stand And Face The Rain paving the way for the title track during which the audience needed little of Harket’s encouragement to sing along.

The audience continued to accompany the band during an extended version of their Bond-theme, The Living Daylights, which rounded off the main set.

The band returned for an encore that comprised their number one hit The Sun Always Shines On TV and I’ve Been Losing You before ending the evening where their career began with a mass singalong to the jaunty Take On Me.

Opening the evening we had the popular return of Deco, a four-piece band who opened at the venue last year for Culture Club. Then, their set was notable for interesting mash-ups of songs like Wonderwall and Small Town Boy, but on Sunday evening apart from a cover of The Verve’s Bitter Sweet Symphony there was a move to their own material, and with songs as strong and memorable as Real Life and Rain that’s commendable.

The Scarborough season continues next Saturday when Manchester band Elbow, fresh from a fine performance at Glastonbury, take the stage. A few tickets remain if you wish to catch them – visit www.scarboroughopenairtheatre.com/ for tickets and more information on other upcoming shows.