Last fall, Norwegian synthpop trio A-Ha announced they were disbanding after 25 years and nine albums together, but not before a worldwide farewell tour called "Ending on a High Note." With seven dates slated in the US, A-Ha played only their second Chicago show ever Thursday night at the Riviera Theatre, their first since 1986.
Eschewing a typical opening band, the group cut right to the chase and opened with 'The Bandstand' from last year's 'Foot of the Mountain' album. Adorned in sleek suits and backed by a drummer and guitarist, A-Ha looked and sounded better than ever while a huge background screen flashed various pixelated images of everything from hummingbirds to Obama to complement the song lyrics.
After playing 'Foot of the Mountain,' the band moved onto older material. Sophomore record 'Scoundrel Days' was the most represented album with six songs including 'The Swing of Things,' 'We're Looking for the Whales' and 'Manhattan Skyline' where lead singer Morten Harket opted to use a megaphone instead of a pedal to distort his voice. Harket's signature falsetto chops remained intact on the operatic 'Summer Moved On' and the love ballad 'Stay on These Roads.' "The last time we were in Chicago was a long time ago," keyboardist Magne Furuholmen told the crowd. "You've been very patient."
The band dipped into their James Bond theme song, 'The Living Daylights,' from the titular 1987 film, replete with Bond-esque images of silhouetted gyrating women and a barrage of bursting flames on screen. For a "change of pace," the backup band abandoned the stage and left the three members to perform two stripped-down versions of the glockenspiel-fueled 'And You Tell Me' and 'Early Morning' from 'East of the Sun, West of the Moon.'
Before the first encore, A-Ha walked off stage and screened a bittersweet photo montage titled "25 Years in the Making," which featured old band photos throughout the decades accompanied by an instrumental score. Naturally, A-Ha savored the heavy hitters for the end -- during 'Hunting High and Low,' the title track off their landmark 1985 album of the same name, Harket transformed the audience into a choir. 'The Sun Always Shines on TV,' also from 'Hunting', flickered clips from 50 years of popular TV shows and garnered a standing ovation.
Finally, it was the moment everyone was waiting for: 'Take on Me.' Instantly recognizing the opening keyboard sequence to their biggest and only US hit, the audience squealed in excitement as visuals from the iconic video oscillated on screen. Relishing their final minutes, the band stood together onstage, bowed before their loyal fans in curtain call fashion and waved one last goodbye.
A-Ha play their final US show in Los Angeles on Sunday and their last-ever show in Norway in December.