Thursday, 17 June 2010

Muziek Expres, January 1977: Spontaneity is taboo with ABBA

ABBA, the only pop sensation that Sweden has ever produced, has succeeded in conquering virtually every country in the world with their specific hit sound. A commercial and clever presentation, wherein the two beautiful girls Anni-Frid and Agnetha make the heart of a large number of men beat faster, is not an insignificant factor in the unlimited success of ABBA. It’s just a shame that the spontaneity that ABBA exudes isn’t real...

That’s why you will be deceived when you think you will be able to organise a nice and smooth interview with ABBA. The conversation is not on their schedule and therefore they won’t go through with it. Subject closed. Nothing is left to chance with the Swedish top group and the (tiny, for that matter) possibility that one of the members could say something in a spontaneous impulse that might damage the image of ABBA, is ruled out in advance.

Guarded by a substantial number of tough-looking blokes, ABBA goes backstage to wait for the moment that they are due on stage. Passing by, Agnetha recognizes me, she produces a quick smile and walks on. Her eyes remained expressionless – it was a rehearsed smile that should only be used while bumping into a vague acquaintance.
Then a man walks on stage and shouts that ABBA is going to perform, as if the venue, packed to capacity, didn’t already know that. What happens next is astounding: while the cheering of the audience increases to hurricane level, the Swedish quartet rushes on stage and starts a show that, as it were, bursts with spontaneity. It seems as if everything that ABBA is doing in the spotlights is thought of and executed on the spot. You immediately forget that this happening is the result of countless rehearsals, moving and dancing lessons – again and again every day, until there is one hundred percent certainty that it will come out during the performance like this and not in any other way. It’s fake, and at the same time it’s not...

In fact, it’s one big, swinging stage play that is being executed by ABBA, faultlessly directed by choreographers and vocal coaches. But that doesn’t make it less fascinating, because the four performers are all professionals. Agnetha and Anni-Frid are not only flaunting their extremely attractive exterior – they are mesmerizing an entire audience with it, which makes a part of the amazed audience show slightly hysterical tendencies. On top of that, musically the show is well-crafted as well, because Björn and Benny are exquisite composers, who have the hit sound literally in their fingers.

When the show, including the preconceived encore, is over, the letdown comes: ABBA walks off stage and changes again. It seems as if somewhere in their brains a switch is turned that turns off all emotions. With stern looking faces resembling slightly spoiled children, they walk to their dressing rooms. Immediately, some kind of small gorilla is stationed in front of the doors. A nervous little man is running to and fro with drinks, that are sometimes refused by one of the ABBA members when he or she doesn’t feel like it, so that there’s nothing left for him to do than get some other drinks. ABBA is a world-famous group and meanwhile they have acquired the accompanying arrogance and conceitedness. Which, by the way, doesn’t mean that Agnetha, Anni-Frid, Björn and Benny are unfriendly people. It’s just that being friendly and spontaneous in public isn’t programmed and therefore it’s not executed.
But that’s the only little inaccuracy in the, for the rest, untainted ABBA pattern.

1 comment:

Monica said...

Wow, pretty negative comments by the writer of this article. Too bad about that.