Music Review of Abba Forever

Buxton Opera House 05.10.19

The enduring popularity of the Swedish Supergroup just seems to keep on growing, nearly forty years after the band split up, never having since performed together. With a successful sequel made of the hit film ‘Mama Mia’ and the continued success of the stage version, there is a constant demand for the authentic Abba experience, with no shortage of tribute acts happy to oblige. In the case of Abba, there is one tribute band whose fame and success seems as almost enduring as that of Abba itself; Bjorn Again. This means that any serious Abba tribute act will inevitably face comparisons to both the original band and their most illustrious imitators (now in their thirtieth year).

The show got off to a slow start with the curtain rising to reveal the whole band standing silent and motionless before singing a few bars of ‘Dancing Queen’ at a slow pace. This was unfortunate because having given up the element of surprise, some energy was lost when the band suddenly kicked into a spirited rendition of ‘Waterloo’. As a result, it look a little longer than might have needed to fully get the crowd warmed up.

…A key difference to Bjorn Again is that Abba Forever are all about just giving a professional & faithful rendition of the Abba experience whereas Bjorn Again incorporate a lot of comedy into their act. This was even evidenced in the names, with Abba Forever always referring to each other (in convincing Swedish accents) by the proper names of Abba members as opposed to Bjorn Again’s comic variations. This is probably a wise move because whilst many clearly prefer the incorporation of comedy, others will see it as a distraction from simply enjoying authentic Abba sights and sounds. Musically, it is very hard to tell the two bands apart from each other, or from the original Abba for that matter, which is how it should be.

This reviewer has seen at least three other Abba tribute acts down the years and Abba Forever are certainly a class act with a strong following, virtually selling out the mighty Buxton Opera House. Comparisons to Bjorn Again should be taken as a compliment because Abba Forever are certainly a stand-out tribute to Abba in a crowded market. Their crystal-sharp sound and excellent musicianship are as close as you’ll get to hearing Abba songs authentically performed live, with a slick show of over two hours duration covering pretty much every popular Abba song. The singing was remarkable with both ‘Anni-Frid’ and ‘Agnetha’ performing with power, feeling and gusto (and at times hitting higher notes than their real Abba counterparts!). The ‘boys’ gave ample support, sounding indistinguishable from the real Benny and Bjorn.

The show featured at least eight full costume changes (compared to only three in a Bjorn Again show!), all of which were faithful reproductions of actual Abba outfits from throughout the band’s ten years together, starting with the Eurovision Performance costumes from 1974 (minus Agnetha’s cap for some reason).

The two girls in Abba Forever performed with more or less perfect synchronicity, with athletic dance moves and actions, for the most part taken from actual Abba performances and videos.

If it took a little time to warm the audience up, Abba Forever had the entire theatre in the palm of their hand by the end of the show with the noise of the clapping almost equalled by the sound of the cheers and whistles. A nice final touch was to make an appearance in the theatre foyer a short while later and there was no shortage of people, both young and old, wanting to be photographed with the band who had given such a pleasurable performance. Amongst tribute acts, Abba Forever are certainly in the top drawer.

Reviewer – John Waterhouse
on – 5/10/19