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REVIEW: ABBA The Concert – Segerstrom Center for the Arts, Costa Mesa

Updated: Jun 19, 2020

“Thank You For The Music!”

You can dance, you can jive, and have the time of your life at this one-night-only celebration of the music of enduring pop sensation ABBA. It’s a joyous look back at the career of one of the world’s most beloved groups of all time, performed by a charming ABBA-esque quartet backed by musicians from ABBA’s own original rhythm section.

ABBA The Concert has been dazzling audiences around the world for well over a decade with its authentic recreation of the costumes, sights and all the iconic hits of ABBA, the world-wide sensational Swedish pop band that formed back in 1972 that rolled out hit after hit on the pop charts. Now ABBA The Concert takes you back to that time when bell-bottoms and big collars ruled the dance floor, playing hits like “Waterloo,” “Dancing Queen” and the smash hit, “Mamma Mia.”

Few can forget the huge impact Agnetha, Bjorn, Benny and Anni-Frid made on modern popular music and many mourned when their rule of pop ended voluntarily ten years later. But with their numerous top-selling albums, their songs are still played around the world on radio, having well over an estimated 380 million in total record sales. While there have been hints of new songs by the band or even an ‘avatar’ type of reunion with the four original members – Agnetha Faltskog, Bjorn Ulvaeus, Benny Andersson, and Anni-Frid Lyngstad – regrettably, none of this has happened yet.

Fortunately for ABBA fans in Orange County, the Segerstrom Center for the Arts welcomed to their stage ABBA The Concert for a December 30th end of the decade celebration, the acclaimed cover band that looks and sounds just like the original foursome. The packed venue enjoyed a night of ABBA’s greatest hits performed flawlessly. The dazzling band kicked off the night with the danceable “On and On and On” and they continued with “Gimme, Gimme, Gimme”, “Take a Chance on Me” and “Money, Money, Money,” among many others. The band also stayed true to the original ABBA fashion statements they made in the early days, performing on stage with identical clothing style, while keeping us up on our feet while they performed ABBA's most iconic hits likes “S.O.S”, “Fernando,” the tear-jerker “The Winner Takes It All” and “Does Your Mother Know.”

Most people are aware that ABBA is one of Sweden's most proud exports. In fact, not many know that "Waterloo" was originally performed in Swedish or that “Dancing Queen” was first performed for the royal couple in Sweden. If you think that ABBA was popular world-wide, it would be a drop in the bucket 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 Concert is also fronted by four Swedes, but the music, of course, has long been claimed by the rest of the world as their own.

Back in 1996, Martin Håkansson and Christian Fast was a big part of starting the ABBA-tribute band Waterloo. Quickly they became known for their fantastic ABBA-sound and ABBA-look-a-like performance. And now audiences and the press all agree…this is the closest to ABBA you will ever get.

The lead guitarist for ABBA The Concert has no reason to doubt that fact. ABBA is the second-highest selling pop group of all time, behind only The Beatles. The Swedish group’s songs have inspired a musical, two films based on said musical, and kept ’70s discos thriving across the globe. And all this from just eight studio albums released over the band’s short ten-year career. The reason for their enduring success?

“It’s pop evergreen,” says Fast. “Benny Andersson is so advanced harmonically, he’s very innovative when it comes to creating melodies. You can hear it’s all well-crafted songwriting. If you redress the songs today with modern production, they would still stand the test of time.” That enduring quality of ABBA’s music is replicated in the success ABBA The Concert has enjoyed with their tribute act. Fast was one of the group’s founding members in 1996, and since then, they’ve played to crowds in over thirty countries and regularly sell out all their venues.

In 1998-1999 Tom Beimel, Marcus Olsson and Maria Almlöv joined the group. In 2003-2005 Jonas Lidholm, Johan Löfgren and Charlotte Berg also joined, and back in 2007 Mia Ternström, Marica Lindé, Matilda Lindell and Sandra Wallin made the band complete. Together they were ”Waterloo The Band.” But, because of all the confusion (there was another band with the same name) the 12 members decided in September 2013 to take a new name, The Visitors.

Since then, they have been touring Sweden, Europe, Asia and USA. In 2007 they were a part of a sold out ABBA-tribute called ABBA The Show in London, England and subsequently did two longer tours in Germany. They have spent years touring Europe and Asia, and have had the privilege of doing over 20 extensive tours in the USA, with promoter 21st Century Artist Inc. renaming them, ABBA The Concert – A Tribute to ABBA.” In this production, Patrik Lundström became one of the front-singers, and performed with the band in 25 states with sold out venues like The Wolf Trap outside DC, The Fillmore Miami Beach, The Melody Tent Cape Cod and The Hollywood Bowl in LA.

And now ABBA The Concert brings to the Segerstrom one of the greatest pop phenomena ever back to life. Their voices were perfect and their harmonies were right in step with the ABBA sound. Yes they have the hair, and yes they have the costumes, but it usually takes so much more than that. I’ve seen tribute bands and they have the look of the band, but their sound isn’t even close. ABBA The Concert was spot on. That’s not an easy thing to do.

Watching the evolvement of the audience that night was like a caterpillar changing into a butterfly. Most of the audience, which was an over-40 crowd (and mostly in suits and ball dresses) was reserved somewhat because of the prestigious venue they were seated in. And when the show first started, the audience seemed quite subdued. The music was great, and spirits were high, but the crowd was so quiet, perhaps surprised by the almost unbelievable sounds coming from center stage.

Then all of a sudden things changed. I’m not sure if it was just the wine kicking in or not, but from the start of the second set, the energy of the crowd was totally elevated. Most people were up in their seats dancing and singing right along with the band. That enthusiasm of the crowd gradually became an ear-splitting roar for the rest of the concert. In fact, the entire audience pulled out their phones in a totally dazzling moment of euphoria, put them on flashlight and waved them in the air with the music.

Of course, the pinnacle moment of the evening was “Dancing Queen,” making everyone feel like it was 1976 again. ABBA fans of all ages were totally lost in the song and just danced their hearts out. It must have looked amazing from the stage to see so many people having so much fun.

As an inveterate fan myself since ABBA’s first hit, their incomparable music still fills my soul. One of their closing encore songs was perfect: “Thank You for the Music!” And thank you, Segerstrom Center for the Arts for this extraordinary evening. I am still reveling in the afterglow. Perfect seats, perfect sound, perfect performance! I think I was surrounded by the happiest people on the planet as everyone in the room was rocking and grooving for almost two hours with this ‘crème de la crème’ of ABBA cover bands.

Chris Daniels

Arts Reviewer

The Show Report


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