ABBA the Concert: Meta-ABBA

ABBA the Concert
Regency Ballroom
San Francisco, CA
March 10, 2013

ABBA the Concert: Meta-ABBA

It’s a dilemma.  When reviewing a tribute act, do you review the source material or the tribute?  How can I review ABBA the Concert without discussing the relative merits (or lack thereof) of ABBA?  Certainly, both ABBA and A-the-C were in turn cheesy, catchy, fun, compelling, touching, ridiculous, sublime, trite, earnest.  It’s amazing that a band, that has been essentially defunct for over 30 years, can inspire enough devotion for several hundred people to show up to see essentially an historical re-enactment.  However, ABBA’s songs are so well-crafted and catchy, I could see ABBA the Concert continuing to be performed for new generations to come.  Of course, most of the members of ABBA the C were, at best, in diapers at the time of ABBA’s heyday- with the exception of the bass player who had actually been a member of ABBA and, though often in the background, was very clearly a high caliber player.  Still the remaining members of A-the-C were not slouches.  They are definite fans and their re-creation was certainly enthusiastic.

Of course, most people are aware that ABBA is one of Sweden's most proud exports and going to ABBA the C with your Swedish girlfriend is a unique experience.  Not many know that Waterloo was originally performed in Swedish nor can sing along with gusto nor do many know that Dancing Queen was first performed for the royal couple in Sweden.  If you think that ABBA was popular world-wide that is a drop in the ocean compared to the Swedish hysteria for ABBA in the 1970s where every little girl fancied themselves an Anni-Frid or Agnetha.  Appropriately enough, ABBA the C is also fronted by four Swedes.  However, if you think the audience at ABBA the C was just Swedes and their reluctant boyfriends or gay men, not quite.  ABBA may have been from Sweden but they have long been claimed by the rest of the world as their own and the audience was very diverse.  

ABBA the Concert broke no new ground but that was entirely the point.  From the outfits to the songs to the wigs, this was strictly a nostalgic show.  But ABBA the Concert definitely showed great respect for the source material and performed fairly faithful renditions of most of the biggest hits.  They performed particularly energetic versions of Mama Mia, Take a Chance On Me, and Does Your Mother Know?  There were plenty of opportunities for sing-alongs and the crowd was quite excited to participate in this celebration of ABBAtasticness.

The original ABBA
ABBA songs can sound dated at times but listening to them live brought them to life so that they almost sounded current.  One thing that struck me was how many of their songs have sad lyrics which belies the stereotype of the band’s upbeat, light-hearted melodies.  Songs like Name of the Game, Fernando, and Chiquitita are all filled with poignant longing and uncertainty in relationships.  These songs were mostly featured early in the first set.  The second set resembled the light-hearted rom/com musical hit Mama Mia much more.  Then, Sunday’s show became a party, maybe in part due to it being the final night of the tour, the band seemed determined to just have fun.  And of course, that’s what you want when going to an ABBA tribute.  Nothing deep or meaningful just a good time, and that’s what the concert was.

Side Note:  On the way home, JL and I checked out the new art installation- the Bay Bridge Lights and (no pun intended), it is spectacular.  I'm envious of people with a Bay Bridge view.  If you haven't already, go see the light!


Anonymous said...

Benny Andersson (The first B in ABBA) himself recently mentioned in an interview that people should understand and feel the sadness of the songs to really know ABBA. My comment to that is: Just listen to the joy in the songs Dancing Queen, Waterloo, Ring Ring, Thank you for the Music, Super Trouper etc. The happyness of those songs weigh up whatever sadness one can find in other ABBA-songs.

stevenjared0853 said...

This is an amazing concert and hope this information will help me in arranging my brother’s music event. Booked a beautiful venue NYC from internet and searching for great party supplies for this event. Hope to have a grand event.