Akron Symphony with ARRIVAL:
Victoria Zetterburg talks about the music of ABBA
by Mike Telin
After winning the Eurovision Song Contest on April 6, 1974 with the song Waterloo, the Swedish pop group ABBA went on to firmly establish themselves as one of the greatest acts of all time. And like many bands from the past, ABBA has spawned a number of “tribute bands” that keep ABBA’s unique musical style alive. On Thursday, October 25 at 7:30 pm at the Akron Civic Theatre, the Akron Symphony Orchestra under the direction of Christopher Wilkins will welcome ARRIVAL from Sweden. The evening will take you back to the time when ABBA truly ruled the airways with hits like Mamma Mia, Take a Chance on Me, Voulez Vous, S.O.S.,Dancing Queen and many more.
“To perform ABBA’s music with a symphony orchestra is really powerful,” ARRIVAL founder Victoria Zetterburg told us by telephone from Sweden. “They did use a lot of symphonic instruments on the recordings, and if you listen to a lot of the songs, it is perfect to perform them with a symphony orchestra. It’s really amazing.” Since the group's founding in 1995 in Gothenburg, Sweden, ARRIVAL has quickly become one of the world’s most popular ABBA tribute bands. The group's tours have taken them to more than 40 countries and they have appeared in several radio and television shows around the world.
So what caused Zetterburg to form the group? “I saw an ABBA tribute band in Gothenburg in the 1990’s and it was really, really bad, and I was like, No! You can’t do that. There were only six people on stage. It’s impossible to do a proper ABBA show with only six people. You have to have all the backup singers and musicians to do it justice. There are a lot of ABBA bands who are making fun of them, and I don’t like that. ABBA is really good music, and they are one of the best bands ever.”
One of the best bands ever indeed, and while the group had a relatively short history (1974 – 1982) and rarely toured, their numerous recordings and videos kept their fans more then satisfied. “Everyone has a different favorite song,” says Zetterburg, “but it’s the same with the Beetles, who like ABBA, did so many different kinds of songs. I mean you can’t compare Fernando to Dancing Queen or Money Money, they are totally different. But everything was always perfect, and all of the albums are really good.”
What does Zetterburg see as the secret to the success of ABBA’s recordings? “I once asked Michael Tretow, the engineer for all of their albums, and he told me that it was too much of everything,” she says, laughing. “They did it just like Phil Specter. They created a wall of sound by recording everything again and again and again.” Zetterburg also adds that in addition to Benny Andersson being one of the best keyboard players ever, both he and Bjorn Uleavus used the Agnetha and Anni-Frid’s voices as instruments. “Instead of using maybe another keyboard they used the voices. You can listen to an ABBA song over and over again and you will always discover new things all the time.”
Staying true to ABBA requires that attention be paid to many details like movement and costumes, but Zetterburg notes that first and foremost, for ABBA it was all about the music. “ABBA was not into dancing, the music was the most important thing. Today people need fifty dancers, lasers and a big Wow! factor and sometimes I think the audience gets tired of it. If you go back to the 50’s 60’s and 70’s, it was really basic. ABBA did a song, I let the music speak, and I think that sums them up, although all the 70's bands like Queen and Zeppelin had stage clothes, and ABBA was the same. They put on their fancy clothes, sang the songs and that was enough.” ARRIVAL works with designer Owe Sandstrom, who designed all of the original ABBA stage costumes, and is the only ABBA tribute band with exclusive rights to the designs.
Why is it that people still need their ABBA fix? “A lot of people didn’t get to see ABBA live because they did very little touring,” notes Zetterburg, “but they made a lot of videos, and the music, it just takes people. When we go on stage we see that people know all the lyrics to all the songs. But for us the energy is really important, and it’s important for us to get the audience into the show.”
Listen to an Akron Symphony podcast with music director Christopher Wilkins here.
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Published on ClevelandClassical.com October 23, 2012
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