Abba women harmonize at sold-out Radio City Music Hall debut 1979
ONE way of looking at Abba, the Swedish rock quartet that sold out Radio City Music Hall in its New York debut Tuesday night, is that it has turned itself into a deliberate caricature of what the world thinks Swedish people must be — beautiful, blond and coldly perfect. Clearlythe world has responded to the group’s records with glee: Abba makes the claim, however unsupported, of having sold more records than any other act in the history of music.
Abba is an acronym for Agnetha Faltskog, Bjorn Ulvaeus, Benny Andersson and Anni‐Frid (nicknamed Frida) Lyngstad. The music they make on records is an extension of what was once known as “Euro‐pop.” It lacks the drive and passion of real rock‐and‐roll, substituting busy textures of electronic keyboards and strings, guitars, percussion and the soaring, multitracked harmonies of the two women. The music is often just as clever and complex as the British progressive‐rock bands, but is saved from their fussy pretensions by the hummable charm of the tunes and the innocent trivia of the lyrics (sung in lightly accented English).
Only once in its career did the group assay a sterner idiom, in its next‐to‐last album. But the climax of that album, “I’m a Marionette,” which suggests darker things about women and performers and specifically about the women performers in Abba, went unsung Tuesday night.
Abbe hasn’t toured much. But the fact remains that for all its success around the world, it has never really “broken” in the United States, and touring is generally considered a necessity to sell lots of records here. Perhaps for that reason, Abbe is only now mak ing its first United States tour.
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