'[...] Magne talks about 'The Living Daylights', how a-ha chose their name, and about the band's disintegration in 1993:
"I think we all felt a little bit battle fatigued. I know certainly from my point of view, I was really sick of fame. I got to a point where you understand why people get lost with their success. Success stops meaning something to you, it becomes something that empties you out, instead of fills you."
"It's hard for people to understand if you haven't been in that position. It's interesting because I had a long talk with Chris Martin about that in Barcelona a few weeks ago. And I said that, I said you have to find a way back into enjoying going on stage every night. Because you put out so much energy that in the end you stop taking something back. And when you stop taking something back, it gradually hollows you out and takes things out of you." '
Obviously I am not a performer myself, so I can only guess at all this description encompasses - between the hours/days/months on the road, the time away from loved ones and the things that in your normal daily life give you energy and connection and a sense of purpose, the effort spent practicing and developing a stage show the fans will enjoy, the lonely dressing rooms, which are necessary to give you time and space to prepare and decompress, and the eager audience you greet every night - you try to give them a good concert experience, putting a ton of energy out on stage, and then you may feel compelled to give even more of yourself on an individual level when approached by fans outside the venue or at the hotel - it's no wonder the end result can be a kind of emptiness if you can't find balance in it somewhere.
The key to finding the balance could be perspective: on the one hand you might feel like all you do is for other people, and people want more and more of you, and they don't care if you've had a good time or if you felt any connection or if you are proud of the performance you've given; on the other hand, you can allow the audience's enthusiasm to lift and fill you up, you can match your energy to theirs to create a kind of connection and shared experience, and you can receive greetings and appreciation with an open heart and maybe actually feel a fleeting, tenuous friendship with those you meet. The situation itself doesn't change, but your response to it does. One response drains you, one response fills you up - and the beauty is that you can adjust your own perspective, so that you can be conscious that you have received something in the process of giving so much of yourself, and you were not just emptied out.
We could probably all apply that perspective to many aspects of life, and be much better for it :-) We don't always receive the acknowledgement we hope for after working hard and putting our heart into things; in that case it is up to us to find ways to confirm for ourselves that we're making a difference for others, and that will keep us energized.
Anyway, when I read that quote from Magne back in late 2010, I couldn't help but look back on recent shows and recognize that the guys in general did seem pretty hollowed out. They performed with energy and gave it all they had, but there was a spark missing and I think that was only natural when they were approaching an ending. There was so much pressure on the final tour, I am sure they were very relieved when it was over.
The band we saw on the 'Cast In Steel' tour was definitely energized again, and even at the end when you'd expect everyone to be tired and ready for a break, I got the impression that Magne at least had somehow maintained that balance throughout the tour and was not at all 'hollowed out'. I heard so many stories over the past year about how Magne played and sang his heart out on stage and then was warm and gracious when meeting fans, how he seemed to be really embracing the experience - which some people were surprised about, given that he was apparently the one who wanted a-ha to end before. Maybe people thought he only reunited with the band because of FOMO/ego/money/whatever, and were worried he wouldn't be as engaged as before, but I knew that isn't possible for Magne - if he's in, he's in all the way.
All the stories I heard about band interaction on this tour reminded me of the vibes I got from the 'Lifelines' tour. I read all of the over 160 fan reviews on a-ha.com at the time, as well as everyone's posts on the international mailing list, and the common thread seemed to be that the guys were having a good time and engaging with the fans a lot. There was one fan story in particular that has stuck with me all these years, I had to go back and find it so I could quote from it here (but seriously, follow the link and read the whole thing!):
After the fantastic concert, I decided to go along with some friends to the hotel where the band was staying. I admit that, at the beginning, I wasn’t expecting much from it, but it wouldn’t hurt going there. Arriving there, I imagined seeing many security people and bodyguards everywhere or something like that. I was completely surprised to see Mags and Paul totally at ease, among some people, in the hotel’s lobby. I couldn’t believe my eyes. And Mags was wearing socks and slippers! That couldn’t be real…
My friends, much faster than I was, went right to ask for autographs and some pictures of the guys. Maybe because I was so nervous, who knows, I walked really slowly towards Mags. Everything was coming across my head: “What if he distreats me?”, “What if he doesn’t answer me?”, “Am I with a good breath?”. I was so afraid of getting disappointed… I didn’t want, in any way, to destroy the good image that I had created about him. It had been years and years of admiring and respecting. I wasn’t prepared to find out that my biggest idol wasn’t “that much”. But as soon as I called him, he turned to me with a wide smile and returned my few words of appreciation and admiring with a unique kindness. If I already was a fan of this remarkable musician and artist, at that moment, I started being a much bigger one of the human being he showed me to be. He was no longer a simple image on my CD’s covers. I had his autograph and we took pictures together. More than everything, I had his attention. Socks and slippers. I just couldn’t believe it…
How wonderful is that? Juan expresses here what I think many fans feel when they approach their idols, I couldn't really say it any better. And Magne's response to him is seemingly his normal way of interacting with fans - it is actually a very rare story when someone says he seemed too preoccupied to talk or was a bit short with them, and often they acknowledged it was not the best time to approach (like in an airport or in an 'off duty' setting). People have described him approaching them when he could tell they were too shy to come up to him; how he stopped his car outside venues to greet fans when the other guys went straight in; how he remembered them and even details about them from previous meetings (one woman said he asked after her mother, who had been ill when they met briefly a year previous..!).
For myself, I remember seeing Magne after a concert in London, and feeling a bit nervous about approaching him. He actually came up to me and said, 'Hi, I'm Magne' with such a warm smile and his hand extended to shake mine. As you can imagine, I was a bit stunned that he would introduce himself to me, after all I was at the show and had to know who he was. It was such an unexpected act of graciousness and kindness to bridge the gap between us that way.
(Small aside - whenever I hear 'Ignited' by Martin Halla, the lyrics 'I'm delighted / that you know my name' remind me of that meeting in London. Mostly I can absolutely relate to that feeling of gratitude and humility when you get the chance to meet someone you admire so much; but also because Magne was humble enough to introduce himself and make me feel as if he did actually care that I was there. And that isn't just my story, I have heard it many times from others.)
All this to say that whatever Magne is doing to ensure he is 'taking something back' and maintaining his energy and enthusiasm for touring seems to be working for him. I hope this means he had as good a time as I did at the shows, and that there will be more concerts in the near future (solo or with either of his bands).
Now seriously, go read that fan review from Juan :-)