Benny

The ABBA Experience 2013 copyright Vince B Thorne

I was privileged to attend the Star studded event Thank you for the Music which was held at Hyde Park on Sunday 13th September, Vince Thorne Reports …

It’s impossible to think of a more perfect pop group than Abba, and then it’s probably because there isn’t one.

An evening dedicated to the band’s songwriting duo, Benny Andersson and Bjorn Ulvaeus, brought out 37,000 ABBA Fans some dressed as their heroes to Hyde Park London where they were to be treated to a star studded line up of Artists including (Kylie Minogue, Chaka Khan), (The Feeling, Nerina Palliot, Jason Donovan, Lulu, and a host of London’s West End players on their nights off to run through some of the most hummable songs in pop history. With Musical Director Anders Eljas, The Original ABBA band and the BBC concert Orchestra we were in for a treat!!

I was privileged to get VIP tickets for this event which was complete with arm band , food and all the Champagne that you could drink, when I entered the VIP area I noticed Benny Andersson drinking a can of Coke, I had it in my mind that he always drank wine !!

I was privileged to be introduced to Benny and Bjorn and had photos with them; they are so laid back even though they are up there with songwriters such as Lennon and McCartney. E veryone seemed to be at this VIP bash, Catharine Johnson, playwright and screenwriter for Mamma Mia, Judy Craymer the lady who came up with the idea to create a stage show around ABBA songs as we all now know as Mamma Mia. She also authorized production of the recent 2008 film starring Meryl Streep and Pierce Brosnan. It was great to be there at the heart of all this.

Chris Evans, wired and wearing a seventies jumpsuit revved up the worshipping crowd, in to a frenzy. Even the two guests of honor were moved by the rapture of their audience, “You British,” said Benny, “are bonkers.” Little could slow this party juggernaut. Lulu’s ‘Gimme Gimme Gimme (A Man After Midnight)’ set the middle-of-the-road tone for the evening. Rockers The Feeling got the crowd waving hands to ‘Knowing Me, Knowing You’, and Nerina Pallot’s ‘The Name of the Game’ was an early highlight, despite her great vocals being swallowed by problems with the sound.

Some of Benny and Bjorn’s less familiar; post break-up material got the biggest cheers of the night, notably a suite of songs from Chess, the 1986 musical written with Sir Tim Rice. Elaine Paige gave a suitably impassioned rendition of ‘I Know Him So Well’ with another former Chess star, Siobhan McCarthy, but where was Barbara Dickson? Anthem also from Chess performed by Christian Jon Billett and finally One night in Bangkok delivered in true style by Marti Pellow.

Chaka Khan belted out with gusto The Winner takes it all and a second appearance by Rockers The Felling with Does Your Mother Know really got the crowd going.

The night threw up some B&B rarities. First, an old Benny instrumental, now with added Bjorn lyrics, which became a comic Gilbert and Sullivan-y short dedicated to the event, ‘Rowing on the Serpentine’. Complete with accordion, Benny and his team of fiddlers, the Orsa Fiddlers, played a suite of songs from their back catalogue.

Though the biggest cheers of the night went to Kylie Minogue, who gave a sparkling performance of ‘Super Trouper’ and accompanied Benny Andersson in a delightful piano-driven version of ‘When All Is Said And Done’, the unexpected highlight was from Wicked’s Kerry Ellis. She gave the first UK performance of “You Have to Be There”, a tearjerker from Benny and Bjorn’s forthcoming Broadway venture, Kristina which opens in New York late September

But the night did not end there The Cast on the stage Musical Mamma Mia gave a great performance of Mamma Mia, Dancing Queen ad Waterloo, then the whole ensemble came back on stage to sing a Thank you for the Music Finale to a fantastic Fireworks display, this took me back to 1977 to ABBA the movie and the Australian Tour as at the end of each concert all the musicians came back on stage to perform the very same song.

After the crowds left the party was still in full swing in the VIP area and Benny and the Orsa Fiddlers played a medley of their music to the clapping and foot stomping of all of us, it was so surreal I thought I was dreaming, a superb evening with some of the greatest pop songs ever written.. What more could you want on a Sunday evening!

Vince


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My Signed Program and VIP Badges

Benny Andersson with the Orsa Fiddlers

The Cast of Mamma Mia Perform