My Concert of ABBA

 

In November 1979, I was 16 years old. It was three years since I had known about ABBA and I became a fan.

From several months, I had my ticket for the concert.

In Belgium November the 3rd happens to be during All Saints-holidays, which is fine because, as I never attended a concert before, I could use the first three days in the month exploring the area around the concert hall.

Forest National is the largest concert hall in Belgium, it can accommodate 9.000 people and of course for the concert of ABBA, 9.000 seats were occupied.

At that time, communication was difficult and my only source for information about the group came from music magazines that I bought each week..

No one around me loved ABBA. My colleagues at school thought that it was more like Dad's music while my mother thought it was far too clean. I had therefore lived my passion for ABBA with loneliness until I discovered about the International Fan Club ten years later!

My first astonishment was therefore: "Where do all those people who love ABBA come from? How is it possible that I do not know any of them? There were complete families, young people like myself and least young people. Despite this, I remained alone, I knew no-one.
 

As, finally the lights turned down, an unknown music began, out of a large silence. I was wondering if I was at a wrong concert. Yet the scenery was there, I knew it, l saw it on pictures before. And suddenly the first notes of "Voulez-Vous" begin.

 

I explode; girls around me begin to scream. I look out for Agnetha but all I can see look like two kites in the middle of the stage. But yes, one with blond hair and another one brown. They are here. The bursting noise around me is going on, Brussels just gives a welcome to ABBA.

Just after that, comes "If It Wasn't For The Nights", a song that I'm not yet familiar with. Finally, Björn speaks to the mike.

We are in Brussels and he knows perfectly well that, in order to avoid upsetting anyone, he should speak French AND Flemish. He therefore decides to speak English and I don't understand anything.

But "As Good, As New" follows, and it's a song that I like very much. Agnetha is in the front, and as you can imagine, I was secretly in love with her even if I didn't dare to admit, event to myself.

Then comes the turn for Frida to sing with my favourite ABBA song at that time, "Knowing Me, Knowing You".

After that, "Rock Me" shows that not everybody in the hall is a real ABBA fan because some people seem to be unfamiliar with the song.

Frida then speaks to us but still in English.

A guy, all blond appears and starts to sing and jump at the same time. How awful! How could they include such a clown in the show? Fortunately, once "Not Bad It All" is completed, "Chiquitita" arrives. This is not my favourite song but after Tomas Ledin, anything is better.

Frida comes back to the front with "Money, Money, Money'' and then "I Have A Dream", two songs which sooth my mind since they are not my favourites.

But here comes "Gimme! Gimme! Gimme!" and the hall explode again. It is calmer with "S. O. S." but I start to cry with joy while I listen to Agnetha singing for me this beautiful song.

"Fernando" was the first song that I knew by ABBA. In concert, it comes in a different way because of the explosive atmosphere in the hall, quite a contrast compared to the tranquillity in the video that we all know.
"The Name Of The Game", "Eagle" and "Thank You For The Music" remind me of The Movie that I saw, just one year ago with the dream of the journalist who is also the dream of us all. Then comes "Why Did It Have To Be Me?" and I wonder why this song is here, but seeing Frida dancing, I think this choice was made to enable Agnetha taking a rest since she is indeed not here.

"Intermezzo Nº 1" plays obviously the same role, but this allows me to see how Benny is happy with his piano. As he was on the side, I had not fixed him until that moment.

A silence arrives, Benny isn't there anymore, the lights turn down before they turn up again, showing Agnetha at the piano! She plays and sings a song but which song? I have no idea, but l listen and admire. It isn't really the style of ABBA, but never mind, it's good, it's new.

Once "I'm Still Alive" is completed, another unknown music begins, but quickly, the first words remind me of "Summer Night City" and when the song really starts, the audience explodes again. But this time, people stand up, some run towards the front of the stage and I just follow them. I find myself crushed by a whole bunch of people, but just in front of me, Agnetha and Frida sing. Nothing matters anymore.
"Take A Chance One Me", "Does Your Mother Know" and "Hole In Your Soul" arise and we all jump together. The moment is impossible to describe, people around me sing, scream, and cry. I just listen and look at everything, moving along with the crowd.

A moment of silence before Björn, and then Benny talk to the mike, Agnetha and Frida join in for another song unknown at that time: "The Way Old Friends Do". A magical moment and since nobody can sing, we can just listen to Agnetha, Frida and Benny's accordion. The hall feels like a church with all the lighters lit.

ABBA waves before disappearing.

Filled with sadness, I am waiting for a response from the audience. Nobody moves, what is happening? But no, the lights illuminate the stage again and very quickly come "Dancing Queen" with an endless introduction: Agnetha and Frida are actually missing. But they finally arrive running and the song can begin. The audience sings with as much power as the girls, the music comes from everywhere: This is another moment that one can't describe and it will remain engraved in my memory forever.
Finally, Björn speaks for the last time and "Waterloo" concludes the show.

ABBA and all musicians come greeting and, far too quickly, go away. The lights in the hall come back, and this time the people begin to go out. I remain frozen in front of the stage. Technicians even start to dismantle the equipment of the stage. They really look in a hurry! My ears buzz and I don't know what to do.
It never came to my mind to look out for the artist's entrance. I therefore slowly went to the exit where I saw all these people going out, without knowing myself where I was going, I just followed them in the streets. It was late, it was cold and all I had in my head was just the music of ABBA.

I finally found the bus that I followed, walking up until home where I arrived two hours later.

The next day, I was sick and had to remain in bed, spending the rest of my holidays locked at home, because of a cooling.
With the technical equipment that I owned at that time, I managed to record an audio cassette with the songs of the concert in the same order. Only the feeling was missing along with three songs that I would have to wait for a very long time.

This was the most beautiful day in my life until my daughter was born, eleven years later. Later on, in 1994, I went to a concert with Björn Again in a very small hall in Brussels. There may have been only 100 or 200 people attending but once again, the right feeling was there.

ABBA was not here, but their music was. And ever since, everytime that I can, I go to these small concerts with groups who play and sing the music of ABBA. It's always a good moment even if the girls don't sing so well because today the whole world knows about ABBA and the feeling is usually very good. I think that I saw ten times the show with Björn Again, with four different girls but always with the same music and the same feeling.
 

It is therefore the advice I can give to all those who have never seen ABBA in concert. If you have the opportunity, go to a show with the music of ABBA. It is the closest you can get from what I experienced in 1979.

 

   
Brussels 1979                                                        ABBA in Concert

 

 

Erik Liebstaedter - November, 3 2009: 30 years already!