We should have danced all night | Inquirer Entertainment

We should have danced all night

/ 09:22 PM May 13, 2013

ROSS Taberner as Björn Ulvaeus

Ewa Scott of the tribute band AbbaMania introduced her group by the first names of the members of the 1970s European super band Abba. She referred to lead guitarist Ross Taberner as “Bjorn,” her husband and organist Steven Henry Scott as “Benny,” fellow female lead vocalist Nyree Burt as “Frida” and herself as “Agnetha.”

Ewa/Agnetha did this midway through AbbaMania’s 20-song set, just before they launched into “Knowing Me, Knowing You.” By that time, though, the near-capacity crowd at Newport Performing Arts Theater in Pasay City had gotten the drift: The show was about the songs, not about the singers and musicians.


Big sound

On its website abbamania.co.uk, AbbaMania is touted as Europe’s premier Abba tribute band. In an earlier interview with Inquirer, the band said it prided itself in recreating the “big sound” of a live Abba show.


In this April 29 gig in Manila, last of a grueling seven-stop tour that also saw the group perform in venues across the country—from Palawan to Davao to Bacolod—AbbaMania did exhibit the vocal chops and grand musicality to approximate the original Abba in its heyday (1972 to 1982). But for practically the entire duration of the Manila concert—held at the Newport Performing Arts Theater, Resorts World Manila,  Pasay City—there was the glaring absence of the audience dancing to the songs. For this, AbbaMania wasn’t to blame.

Appreciative applause

STEVEN Henry Scott as Benny Andersson

The energy that should otherwise come from the crowd just wasn’t there. Not that these people didn’t appreciate Abba music. They paid good money to see and hear a tribute band play faithful and true—right down to the outfits and disco moves—to what is arguably one of Europe’s most successful pop bands ever. There was appreciative applause at the start and end of each timeless song. But for 20 opportunities to “get up and get down,” clapping just wasn’t good enough.

Abba’s iconic songs define 1970s groove music—easy to listen to, easier to move to—and not dancing to it was like yin without yang, Mutt without Jeff, rice without ulam. Imagine sitting down through “Dancing Queen.”

Consider some of AbbaMania’s song choices, aside from “Dancing Queen”: “Voulez-vous,” “Chiquitita,” “I Had a Dream,” “Waterloo,” “Thank You for the Music,” “Fernando,” “Take a Chance on Me,” “Super Trouper,” “The Winner Takes It All,” “Lay All Your Love on Me,” and “Mamma Mia.” Even in  videoke sessions, people dance to these!




NYREE Burt (left) and Ewa Scott as Frida Lyngstad and Agnetha Fältskog, respectively

Nelia Lim, promoter of the Philippine tour, said that everywhere else in the country, audiences had gone wild. “The concerts in Palawan and Davao were especially memorable because of the audience’s energy,” Lim elaborated.

At the Newport Theater, Nyree/Frida came close to begging the audience to stand up and move before she sang “Take a Chance on Me.” The crowd obliged, but many were still lethargic on their feet—as though they had been rudely roused from a nap. After that, they promptly slunk back into their seats, determined to sit out Ewa/Agnetha’s rendition of “Money, Money, Money.” And they did, like turtles retreating into their shells.

Why was the Newport crowd so sedate? Our theory is that the theater seats were too comfortable, and the venue’s layout wasn’t conducive to dancing. Only when AbbaMania was down to its last number, “Mamma Mia,” and encore, a replay of “Dancing Queen,” plus a medley, did the crowd jump to life—or were they just rushing for the exits?

As for those who did dance (yes, there were pockets of resistance)—it might have dawned on them that, indeed, it could be their last chance to hear Abba “live.” Then back they would go to channeling their own secret Agnethas and Fridas, Bennys and Bjorns.

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