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Concert review from January 1975, Suosikki magazine
The band Abba gave a concert at the Finlandia Hall at the end of January, and at the same time an example of how much the success of a concert situation can be based on the visual, on the props meant to please the visual senses.
As the part of the visual perception in Abba's performance was remarkably great, so great that with some exaggeration you could say that music in this case was subordinated to the choreography.
And in fact, the Abba quartet didn't actually look after the musical side of things, at least when it comes to the playing. That was the responsibility of the Swedish band Beatmakers, who apart from accompanying the singers, also was the warm-up band,
Beatmakers gave on their solo gig the impression of a band, whose roots are deep in the 1960's pop music. Only the the timbre was slightly typical of the 70s, a little bit metallic.
This was best noticed in some songs based on a repeated chord progression. Synthesizer spaces were successfully created within the intro of Stevie Wonder's 'You are the sunshine of my life'. The tonal tension itself was lost with the excessive phrasing of the lead singer. The compulsory old rock number was this time 'Sea Cruise'. It was saved from being ordinary by the wind instrument riff added to the chord pattern in the latter half of the song. All in all Beatmaker gave the impression of a better than average pop band, who however lacked enough personality to be anything but a good accompanying band.
It is not fruitful to apply the usual pattern of a concert review to Abba's performance. The role of the music in an Abba concert is the same as that in a disco: to be in the background to create an atmosphere. The main thing, and also what the audience were most concentrating themselves on, was the performers' outfits, behaviour on the stage (choreography, gestures, expressions) and the atmosphere created by lighting.
The most interesting part was the play being acted on the stage and the roles. The core group of Abba is based on two men and two women. Abba is utilising the gender roles and the erotic tension hiding in the roles between a man and a woman very successfully. Tensions are created and released continuously. Obviously the most relevant thing is the sex play between Agnetha and Frida. The roles get swapped all the time, but main roles are divided like this: the stage roles of Agnetha and Frida are a combination of an innocent little girl and an alluring “femme fatale”.
The forever smiling Björn is participating in their games as an active man of action, while Benny is taking part behind the piano mainly as the “quiet man” and the “philosopher”.
In practice the game goes on by changing positions on the stage, expressions, gestures, different expression of affection and by changing outfits behind the stage.
Abba is creating in their concert quite a fast disco atmosphere: songs follow each other in a non-stop fashion. Key moments are placed just right in the performance, the running time considered. A virtual climax was experienced at the Finlandia Hall, a kind of a visual orgasm, during the penultimate number (the last number was the obligatory Waterloo), which was the festive promotion of the new single. The Abba members were fired with showers of light by Claes af Geijerstamm. It felt like the whole stage was shaking and quaking with Abba.
Musically the entertainment package of Abba is Swedish export pop. Its distinctive feature is internationality, combining schlager music, popular in continental Europe, with the bubble gum pop/glam rock style. The export article is sex (Swedish?). There are no other distinctive “national” characteristics in Abba's performance. An international race demands assimilation, conformity, overemphasising a characteristic. The Abba show was a skilfully created synthetic entity.
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