Abba fans in London: Unreal to see the show

The Australian Abba fans at the newly built stadium in Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park in London are looking forward to the “Abba voyage”. Photo: Pontus Lundahl/TT

Among the thousands of Abba fans gathered in London, excitement is rising ahead of the premiere of “Abba voyage” – and the most faithful have travelled across half the globe to see the Abbatars on stage.

TT 08:01 – 26 May, 2022

“It feels unreal to finally see the show,” says Roxanne Dickson, who along with a group of Australian Abba fans meets TT’s emissaries in front of the stadium in east London.

Despite persistent rain, feverish activity is taking place in front of the newly built stadium in the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park area of east London, where a collection of construction workers are trying to make sure everything is in place ahead of the premiere of “Abba Voyage”.

Even a crowd of curious fans have gathered at the venue in the hope that a living member of the Swedish group will unannounced appear – and some of the fans who have come to the British capital to see the historic performance have travelled further than others.

Opposite the stadium, a group of Australian Abba fans have sought shelter from the rain – and despite the classic British weather, the mood in the group is at its peak.

For Roxanne Dickson, wearing a yellow t-shirt, adorned with the Abbas – also the owner of one of the world’s largest Abba collections – it was also obvious to travel to London – despite the long and expensive journey.

“Absolutely – and now it feels unreal to finally see the show. This is all a very emotional experience for me,” she told TT’s broadcaster.

Even for Ian Cole, who has written a book on Abbas’ songs, it was obvious to travel to London as soon as the news of the Abbatar show was released – but just going to a concert wasn’t enough for the Australian superfan.

“I’m going to see four shows, which I’m very much looking forward to. And it will be exciting to say the least to see how it turns out – we don’t know what awaits us,” he says.

Beloved in Australia

The Australian fan base gathered outside the stadium in east London is also a testament to the special standing Abba has in the country. Ever since the 1970s, the group in Australia has been loved by loyal fans, praised by the band Bjorn Again – who at their concerts play Abba songs in front of cheering fans – and celebrated every year during a multi-day festival in the small town of Trundle.

One reason for the love affair is Abbas’ legendary tour in 1977, when 160,000 people watched the 11 concerts the group performed over 13 intense days.

The tour’s most legendary gig was the so-called “rain concert” in Sydney, where a huge downpour, followed by a mass invasion of insects that caused Benny’s white piano by the end of the concert to be dyed black, did not prevent the group from playing in front of an audience of 30,000 people.

For Roxanne Dickson, who at the age of six was one of the spectators on that wet Sydney night, it is also extra emotional to soon see the Abobes in London – albeit in digital form.

“My mother, who was a big Abba fan, had taken out a loan to take me and my sisters to that concert. It was an experience I’ll never forget, and now it feels like being back there again,” she said.

“Have given me friendship!

Many of the motley group gathered outside the stadium in Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park on this rainy May day also testify that the love for Abba is about so much more than just music.

Fans Louise, Cotton and David tell us that they met back in 1989 at a gig with Bjorn Again – and that they have since remained close friends.

And according to Cotton, who not only wears a T-shirt that reads “I love Abba,” but whose cap is also adorned with the group’s name, it’s also the friendship between the fans that makes Abba so unique.

“I’ve been longing for this concert for 40 years – and it feels great to experience it together with all these friends. Because Abba has given me friendships that last a lifetime,” she says.

“In other places, people look at me obliquely if I wear an Abba print t-shirt, but in Australia I’m always met with smiles. Because there we are not ashamed because we like music that makes you happy.

Roxanne Dickson is one of the Australian fans in London. “It’s going to be a very emotional experience,” she said. Photo: Pontus Lundahl/TT
Ian Cole is set to see four of the performances of “Abba voyage.” “I hope to hear both the biggest hits and more unknown songs,” he says. Photo: Pontus Lundahl/TT
The Australian fans testify to how much Abba means to them. “We have a special relationship with Abba,” Cotton said. Photo: Pontus Lundahl/TT

Facts: Abbas’ relationship with Australia

Abbas’ 1977 tour of Australia began the country’s special relationship with the Swedish group. In her autobiography, Agnetha Fältskog has described the experience: “There was fever and hysteria. There was an ovation and sweaty and obsessive crowds. Sometimes it was horrible. I felt like the audience could grab me never to let me go.”

The 90s films “Priscilla, Queen of the Desert” and “Muriel’s Wedding” gave the relationship a revival.

In “Priscilla, Queen of the Desert,” three drag queens embark on a tour in a ratty bus in the Australian wasteland, delivering Abba interpretations in front of a not infrequently unsympathetic audience.

In “Muriel’s Wedding” from the same year, Toni Collette’s awkward Abba fan delivers lines like: “Now my life is as good as an Abba song. As good as ‘Dancing queen'”.

In the Australian resort of Trundle in New South Wales with about 600 inhabitants, an Abba festival has been held since 2012. The event attracts thousands of people every year, many wearing classic Abba outfits, who participate in singing competitions, party and listen to bands such as the Australian cover band Bjorn Again.

Source: Abbafans i London: Overkligt att se showen

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