ABBA live has been a difficult topic almost from the beginning. The ABBA members always had a difficult relationship with live performances. Especially Agnetha didn’t feel completely comfortable with touring and being on stage.
For me touring was about everything I didn’t like; too long away from the children, long journeys, changing hotels every day, time changes. Perhaps just because the whole thing was so hard, the audiences’ enthusiastic reception was a fantastic contrast and an incredible joy. The moments when the songs, the orchestra and the audience are totally absorbed by the music are wonderful and make all the hard work and innumerable concerts in strange towns in different continents worthwhile. You forget your ego and go into another state. You convey something of yourself, but the audience also gives a lot in return.
One thing that I particularly noticed in Australia was that it makes no difference whether there are five thousand or fifty thousand in the crowd: I was still equally stressed and nervous. It seems the greater your success the greater the audiences’ expectations and impatience, while at the same time you demand more and more of yourself. The surrounding mechanism becomes incredibly complicated, with more and more people involved, people you never get time to know or even recognise. I imagine that it would be even worse to perform before small audiences in a little bar than in front of a big crowd. It is more intimate, revealing, almost like working in close-up the whole time – where every feature and expression is seen. When you’re standing on stage in front of a huge sea of people, there’s a certain anonymity. Obviously, what helped a lot was the assurance between the four of us, the musicians and everyone else on stage.
Also, the longer ABBA was around the more there was the goal to sound live as equal as possible as on their studio recordings and even with the distance of several decades now they often describe their live versions as inferior and therefore not suitable for release.
The forgotten chapter
Because of ABBA’s mixed feelings about live performances it probably is no surprise that ‘ABBA live’ is a neglected aspect of ABBA’s career. ABBA’s reluctant policy regarding more live material becoming available is just one aspect. Officially published background material, photo books or even some more stories told by ABBA themselves are still rather rare. The anniversary year 2014, celebrating ABBA’s victory with Waterloo in 1974, brought some significant and long-awaited additions as until then the bonus interview on ABBA The Movie Limited Edition was one of the very few releases offering a more in-depth view on the backgrounds. However, especially the first tours (but not only those) still are badly remembered or documented. In most of the numerous biographies and photo books about ABBA the concerts are a neglected aspect as well.
This is not only sad because it does not tell the full story. Looking at the databases and archives of the photographers, photo agencies and TV stations one can also see how many great and interesting pictures there still are – undisplayed, unpublished. The official and inoffical audio and video material available shows that there’s much around which nobody has to feel ashamed of. Perhaps the museum will push releases of ABBA’s and Polar’s own material in the future and especially the Wembley album hopefully is a sign for a generally more relaxed feeling regarding live and tour material.
As of spring 2016 there are rumors about an upcoming 1977 live album in 2017 and also a new release of ABBA The Movie. (ABBA Intermezzo magazine #78)
There’s always a special atmosphere backstage, a nervous one. People are running back and forth calling to each other. It often feels like being at the circus. During the years, I’ve learned how important it is to relax, to have a moment to yourself before it’s time to go on. Our children are often backstage when we perform. Mostly, we resemble a circus family. Everyone helps each other with clothes, make-up, hair styling, going for coffee and so on. It provides security and a group feeling. You’re a part of somthing more than just four people who sing together. Worst of all are the minutes just before you go on. You’re made up, clothes all in order, bursting with enery, but you can’t take the stage. You have to wait for your cue.
Agnetha in International ABBA Magazine #8, July 1982
I’m often struck by the thought of how unfair it is that all the praise goes to those who stand in the spotlight. You must never forget the importance of the people who work backstage. When we do something big like a TV special or a tour, we have an entire team of people who strive to see that everything goes as smoothly as possible for us. If everything is working, you can go out and give the audience your best. Just as important as their being skilled professionals is their being nice people. If the person doing my make-up is in a bad mood, I get into a bad mood myself. The people who create our clothes have to know our personalities in order to make the right things. When I stand at the front of the stage and received the applause of the audience I would like to give a part of that praise to everyone who has worked behind me.
Benny in International ABBA Magazine #8, July 1982
With ABBA we were trying to make good recordings, we spent time in the studio. We didn’t too many tours because we needed time to write and be in the studio. And it was never easy to reproduce what we did in the studio. With my orchestra now [BAO] it’s a totally different thing. We meet, we play and then we record that. It’s actually the total opposite. Basically it’s like we just play, everybody at the same time, one, two, three, and then we record that. So it’s a big difference, it’s for fun.
Benny in the documentary ABBA P.S., 2014
Touring is very tiring, but it’s also very, very nice to meet the audience and to be on stage when you have been there for maybe half an hour you get warm in your clothes and you really can take in everything.
Agnetha in the documentary ABBA P.S., 2014
I loved to be on stage, that’s for sure. I loved every minute of it. [...] You go into a kind of role and you are there . The exchange between the audience and yourself and the musicians and everything is such a powerful energy. So that’s wonderful, whereas in the studio you work quite differently. It’s very detailed and you work and you work and you work, maybe on the same things over and over again to get the perfection. So of course you have to rehearse a lot before a concert tour, but on the other hand when you are there on stage you just deliver and that’s a lot of happiness to do that.
This site tries to collect what is known about ABBA’s live performances: basic facts, trivia, links to press articles and fan reviews, information about recordings and published material. However, although one goal is to provide an overview about the fan recordings, please note that you cannot download any recordings here, this site is for information only. It only includes collaborations of the four ABBA members as a group, activities as solo artists or members of other formations aren't listed here. The work is constantly in progress and new content will be added all the time.
Links and sources regarding individual concerts are listed on the page for the particular venue. More general material which covers a wider part or even the complete tour is listed on the main page of a tour. Staff is mentioned as far as known. The main sources for data, articles and pictures on this site are listed below. Much information also was collected from several ABBA books.
Sites used for information (in random order)
Specific information is linked directly on the sub-pages of this site. Additional information and pictures (tickets for example) were picked up at numerous fan sites, forums, ebay or other sites over the years when this site wasn’t even considered to be created. Not all origins can be remembered anymore and the original source for things often cannot be identified anyway. Please excuse, if sources aren’t mentioned here.
ABBA Omnibus – information about most of the venues and set lists was taken from there
The pictures and links used on this site are to illustrate each venue. This is a fan site where no money is made by the webmaster whatsoever and where pictures and anything else is purely for the fun and information of ABBA fans.