Sunday, 4 October 2009

Joepie, September 1979: A triumph for new ABBA-show

A report about the opening night of ABBA’s 1979 tour from Belgian magazine Joepie.
More than 20.000 overheated spectators of all ages have given ABBA an unforgettable start of their world tour ’79, that kicked off in Canada. The ovation was so overwhelming that Agnetha, Anni-Frid, Björn and Benny had a hard time to keep their emotional tears from flooding. In their voices, the emotions of pure joy were shining through as well and it wasn’t until the fourth song that they could control their inner feelings of joy and gratitude. But what did it matter, ABBA was there live, with a new, gigantic show that would last more than two hours and every member of the audience was on top of the world because they had managed to get hold of a ticket for what’s now already being called ‘the tour of the century’.

Every single seat in the giant hockey stadium in Edmonton had been completely sold out, only a couple of hours after the tickets had gone on sale. A long queue of thousands of young fans kept waiting in line until the show started, hoping to be able to obtain a ticket at the last minute.
Meanwhile, the enthusiastic happy few in the hall formed a tremendous choir that made the venue shake to its foundations. Seldom had one seen such a crowd of genuinely happy people together.
Backstage, stricken with nerves, the four ABBA-members could hardly believe their ears. Obviously, they had expected a warm welcome, but they couldn’t have imagined that their fans would turn it into such a marvellous, unprecedented spectacle. On stage, an exquisite ABBA-logo was flashing on and off to the rhythm of the applause. When ABBA’s backing musicians appeared on stage, dressed in spotless white suits, the roars and screams even gathered strength. This would last until the four ABBA-members appeared in the spotlights, despite an instrumental medley of ABBA’s biggest hits. Indeed, the intro was even dragged out longer than foreseen because this supersonic welcome had taken Agnetha, Anni-Frid, Björn and Benny’s breath away. This was quite an experience!
When ABBA finally appeared at the microphones, in a scene of blue, red and yellow lights, it seemed as if an earthquake had set in. The stadium was shaking to its foundations. The crowd erupted in one movement. One long ABBA-outcry was tearing through the intense reception.

Agnetha and Anni-Frid’s voices broke a little in the opening song ‘Voulez-Vous’, out of pure gratitude. They looked adorable in their white outfits, coloured with light and dark blue stripes in a V-shape. Stage manager Björn introduced the group right away, then turned to ‘my ex-wife’ Agnetha, who subsequently took on ‘As Good As New’. After that, it was Björn’s turn to take the lead in the rocker ‘Rock Me, Roll Me’, followed by Anni-Frid’s lead vocals in ‘One Man, One Woman’. Obviously, each time accompanied by the beautiful vocals of the other ABBAs.
A touching moment was when the children’s choir of Edmonton joined ABBA for an exuberant ‘I Believe In Angels’. Björn couldn’t have been more right when he said afterwards: “I enjoyed this so much that I think we should do the song once more”. And naturally, the song was reprised. ABBA promptly decided to make an appeal to a local children’s choir for every subsequent performance.
With a multitude of hits, the concert was taken from one highlight to the other, at which Agnetha, Anni-Frid, Björn and Benny changed into new, striking costumes three times. ‘Fernando’, ‘SOS’, ‘What’s The Name Of The Game’, ‘Mamma Mia’ and many other chart-toppers were sung along to by the entire audience over and over again.
In the end, the ovation just wouldn’t end and if it weren’t for their manager Stig Anderson, who guided ABBA, soaking wet and exhausted but happy after several encores, to their dressing-room, they would still be performing in Edmonton as we speak! Björn expressed ABBA’s joy poignantly, right after the performance. “When you’ve experienced something like this, then there can’t be any talk of quitting!”
These are the words that ABBA-fans from all over the world have been waiting to hear.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

This is actually quite an amazing story, because Edmonton is known in Canada as a very quiet and subdued city for the most part, certainly less so than the more exhuberant Calgary or flambouyant Vancouver - it is really nice to read this amazing report 30 years and 8 months after the concert - I just wish I could have been there!

As a footnote, the Northlands Coliseum where this concert took place was then brand new, and a few years later the legendary Wayne Gretzky would lead the Edmonton Oilers hockey team to several National Hockey League championships there.