1D BOX Bjorn helps recreate ‘The ABBA Experience’
By Tom Weber
Post-Bulletin, Rochester MN
If you believe Chat Holtzman, it’s easy being Bjorn again, and it doesn’t involve a church.
"Basically, show up on time and don’t miss the plane," said Holtzman, who plays Bjorn Ulvaeus, of ABBA, in Bjorn Again: The ABBA Experience. The show, which pays tribute to the Swedish band that struck worldwide gold with the hits "Waterloo," "Dancing Queen," "Take a Chance on Me," among others, will be at Rochester’s Mayo Civic Center Nov. 13.
Holtzman, of course, was understating the difficulty of re-creating, on stage, what amounted to a phenomena. ABBA consisted of Ulvaeus and his songwriting partner Benny Andersson, and vocalists Anni-Frid Lyngstad and Agnetha Faltskog. The band’s first single, "Waterloo," was released in 1974, and by 1982, after selling millions of records, the members of ABBA called it quits.
Fans, though, weren’t sated, and in 1989, Bjorn Again was born in Australia. Since then, the various troupes of Bjorn Again (there are now five) have done more than 5,000 concerts in over 50 countries. Fueled by the success of the musical and movie "Mamma Mia," the music of ABBA is undergoing yet another revival.
Holtzman, who has never met the real Bjorn, talked by phone from his hometown of Calgary, Alberta.
How did you get into Bjorn Again?
The management company is based in Calgary, and about seven years ago they were looking for some people. I showed up, did the auditions and hit the road.
Were you a fan of ABBA’s music?
No, I wasn’t, because I wasn’t that familiar with it. I’m 34, so it was a little bit before my time. But having said that, we have eight-year-olds to 80-year-olds in our audience. We just played Epcot for the third year, and it’s amazing how many of these eight-year-olds are dancing and singing along.
What was the secret to ABBA’s success?
If I knew that, I’d have my own dance band. They’re well-crafted songs. A lot of the lyrics really speak to people.
What song does the audience most respond to?
"Dancing Queen." I don’t know what it is about that song, but it seems to be everyone’s main event. People like "Fernando" a lot, too.
Now that you’ve been playing this music for seven years, what do you appreciate about it?
Definitely the songwriting prowess from Bjorn and Benny — great, great songwriting.
The songs are deceptively simple.
Yes, deceptive is a good word for it. It’s definitely not three-chord rock. Benny and Bjorn were quite the studio champions, too.
How do you recreate on stage what they did in the studio?
Well, we all sing and play — there’s no lip-synching. The rest is a secret.
Remember these songs?
ABBA songs have a way of imbedding themselves in your brain. The band’s hits:
- "Waterloo" 1974.
- "SOS" 1975
- "I Do, I Do, I Do, I Do" 1976
- "Mama Mia" 1976
- "Fernando" 1976
- "Dancing Queen" 1977
- "Knowing Me, Knowing You" 1977
- "The Name of the Game" 1978
- "Take a Chance on Me" 1978
- "Does Your Mother Know" 1979
- "The Winner Takes it All" 1980
If you go
What: Bjorn Again: The ABBA Experience, a Riverside Live concert
When: 7:30 p.m. Nov. 13
Where: Mayo Civic Center, 30 Civic Center Drive S.E., Rochester
Tickets: $30 and $21.75 general, $29 and $21 for senior citizens. Tickets available at the civic center box office, at the Riverside Concerts office at City Hall, and through Ticketmaster at Macy’s, online at www.ticketmaster.com and by phone at 252-1010.