Talent in action

ABBA : Convention Center, Anaheim, California. By Paul Grein

With the help of a six-man band and three backup singers, ABBA did a masterful job of duplicating the complex sound of its record hits on this sixth stop of its maiden North American tour.

What the group needs to work on is injecting more personality into its set. Presenting seamless versions of its many hits isn’t enough: the members have to let us get to know them on some personal level. How are they finding the States? Why haven’t they toured here before? It doesn’t matter what they talk about, but it is important that they relate to the crowd beyond polite wiggles and smiles.

Costuming was a small problem, with the ladies (Anni-Frid Lyngstad and Agnetha Fältskog) garbed in identical jumpsuits that made them look like interchangeable Golddiggers. They would be better off with clothes that suited their respective personalities.

But all of this is nitpicking really, considering that the ample 1¾ hour, 22-song set included such aural delights as Voulez-Vous, S.O.S. and Take A Chance On Me.

The show featured a surprising amount of bold rock ‘n’ roll, including the next 45, Gimme! Gimme! Gimme (A Man After Midnight), which replaces the old ABBA sparkle and effervescence with a rawer, nastier Hot Stuff sound. And the show caught fire toward the end with such exhilarating rockers as Does Your Mother Know, Waterloo, Dancing Queen, Summer Night City and Hole In Your Soul.

Another highlight was a solo spot by Tomas Ledin, one of the backup singers, who performed a raucous Not Bad At All. Ledin is cutting a solo LP with ABBA engineer Michael B. Tretow, due next Spring.

While through much of the show the group took the jukebox approach and simply dished out perfect reproductions of its hits, there were some small, ingenious bits of business that added new dimensions to the tunes.

Frida at one point sat on a barstool dangling a long cigarette holder to accent the - sultry Money, Money, Money, while she and Agnetha flirted suggestively with the guitarist on Does Your Mother Know, a send-up of underage boy-crazy teasers.

The most dramatic bit of staging came on the soft lullaby I Have A Dream, when 20 Los Angeles area youngsters selected by the local UNICEF chapter filed onstage to sing along.

The group, led by Benny Andersson and Björn Ulvaeus, did loosen up considerably as the set progressed, presumably as the warm audience response eased its first-time-out skittishness. As the tour unfolds and ABBA continues to loosen up, the personal qualities it brings to the show will hopefully come to match its impeccable musical standards. Transcribed for ABBA World

Billboard (USA) · 6 October 1979 (Page 46)

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