It was the ultimate ABBA triumph: after an almost two-hour-long show at the Coliseum in Edmonton, Canada, 14.000 spectators were cheering the Swedish supergroup on. It was ABBA’s first live performance after two and a half years, the first concert on the American continent and at the same time the kick-off of their mammoth tour lasting several months through the USA and Europe.
ABBA likes to start their tours high up north. And Edmonton in the federal capital Alberta is the city that is situated the highest up north in Canada.
September 13 was ABBA day in Edmonton: the radio stations played ABBA hits non-stop, and continuously the radio reporters reported the latest news about the rehearsals at the Coliseum. Even late in the afternoon, before the concert, ABBA was on stage to put the finishing touch to their show.
Then the time had come. A narrator announced that ABBA would put on a ninety minute show, without a break. That’s why the concert attendees made sure they had a sufficient supply of sweets, popcorn and coke.
The lights in the hall faded, the deep blue curtains at the end of the hall (where usually ice hockey is being played) were illuminated, festive organ sounds were resonating.
When the curtain was lifted, ABBA was standing on stage in a bright red light. On the left Björn, then Agnetha and Anni-Frid and ultimately Benny who rapidly walked from the organ in the background to the piano in the forestage. During the first chords of the opening song, Agnetha and Anni-Frid were stretching both arms widely. Their beautiful capes in silver and white with the reversed ABBA triangle in three different shades of blue established a large triangle.
In the whole ABBA show, the colours white and blue were dominating and triangles were the predominating shapes. In the background, triangles in different shades of blue – the official ABBA trademark for this tour – were looming in front of a white wall and in all the costumes of the musicians, white was the dominating colour. Even the roadies were wearing snow-white overalls. With the ultraviolet light, the whole stage looked like a giant ice crystal.
They were enthusiastically welcomed by the audience with their opening song ‘Voulez-Vous’. After this latest hit, Agnetha and Anni-Frid went backstage, to take off their triangle capes. They came back in a skin tight white jersey with blue stripes on the upper part. Around their hips, they had wrapped a refined white-blue triangle cloth, that was yet again removed after a couple of songs. White leather boots completed their white-blue stage outfit.
Björn was wearing a shiny jersey in bright violet, completed with a white jacket and white boots. Benny was dressed in white trousers and a white jacket over a naked upper body. On his chest, a blue tie was dangling.
‘Knowing Me, Knowing You’ was the second song, after which Björn introduced all the group members. The last one to be introduced was Agnetha with the words: “The tall blonde, my former wife. And I’m not sure if she is as good as you.” This was a hint to Agnetha’s next song ‘As Good As You’. Subsequently, on her way to the microphone, Agnetha walked past Björn and jokingly insinuated that she was going to give him a blow to the jaw.
After that, Björn performed his solo ‘Rock Me’, whereby he was rocking wildly across the stage. This was followed by a song for Anni-Frid: ‘One Man, One Woman’. Then something unusual happened: Agnetha announced a song that was written by one of the backing singers and ABBA switched parts with their backing group: all of a sudden the guitarist had become the lead singer and the backing singer was sitting at the piano. The ABBA stars retreated to the background: Björn was playing the tambourine, Benny was handling the rhythm section and Anni-Frid and Agnetha joined the backing singers.
From then on it was blow upon blow: Agnetha sang ‘Chiquitita’, Anni-Frid ‘Money, Money, Money’ (with a cigarette holder in her hand). They performed ‘SOS’, ‘Fernando’, ‘Name Of The Game’ – one hit after the other.
Then came another surprise: after two verses of Anni-Frid’s song ‘I Have A Dream’, both ABBA girls went backstage and came back with 20 children. They came from a children’s choir in Edmonton, and they finished the song with both girls. The audience was so ecstatic that they had to repeat the last verse. Many a time during the show, Benny’s piano was raised on a hydraulic platform, so that he could play standing up, like he did in ‘Gimme A Man After Midnight’, ‘Take A Chance On Me’, ‘Does Your Mother Know’ and ‘Summer Night City’. Anni-Frid offered a special surprise as well. When she appeared on stage during one song wearing a hat and a large Oilers T-shirt – the Edmonton ice hockey team – she got an extra applause from the audience.
For the last three songs, Agnetha and Anni-Frid appeared on stage in a dark blue jersey. And during ‘It’s Gotta Be Rock ‘n’ Roll’, all four of them were centre stage, romping around, while the blue triangles in the background suddenly started moving and an illuminated ABBA logo became visible. The audience was raging with excitement.
However, this was the finale of the concert. But obviously the 14.000 spectators were clapping their hands until they got an encore. The four Swedes came back on stage. Benny was provided with an accordion and together they sang ‘The Way Old Friends Do’, a sentimental song that tells the story about old friends that will always stay together. And this was followed by the big bang: the song was segued into ‘Dancing Queen’, the biggest hit that ABBA ever had in the USA. The ovations seemed to have no end.
14.000 delighted audience members left the hall in Edmonton. And the four Swedes can rest assured that they will gain a lot of new fans with their amazing stage show on this tour.