Freitag, 29. September 2017

Never mind the daft lyrics and fake accents, these lookalikes are absolutely lush!

Sensational... even more Abba than the Abba themselves

Very first thing that strikes me, as I enter the landscaped gardens of Flora Mediterranea, is just how flamboyant everyone’s dressed: metallic blue draped gowns, glittery cat suits, lurex pants studded with sequins and earth-goddess hairstyles all round. And that, I’m tempted to say, is just the men. The other thing is the unashamedly retro music. Blurring out of the p.a. system is Boney M’s “Daddy Cool”. This doesn’t feel like 2017, somehow. More like 1977, I’d say.

I’ve come to what is actually a top-of-the-range garden centre in Haslach, a sleepy village right at the heart of the Hallertau. It’s the sort of countryside bolthole where you'd expect to see a performance by someone like the Holledauer Hopfareisser or Erdäpfelkraut. But an Abba tribute band of all people? A4U, as they’re called, are one of the dozens of ABBA tributes currently touring Germany. Copycat bands are big business in this country, with their own festivals, their own stars, and, so it appears, their own fans too. Judging from their larger-than-life costumes, these die-hard retros certainly aren’t making light of it. What dumbfounds me is not so much the comic costumes but that no one here seems at all troubled that the group they’ve come to see isn’t actually the real thing. 

Curiously, when it comes to tribute bands, Germans talk less of “cover” and more of “revival” music. I’m not quite sure how the word sounds to German ears but it makes me think of a singer who’s been sick and poorly but now he’s recovered. Come to the concert and celebrate! Come to think of it, “tribute” is an odd choice of word too. The Oxford Dictionary defines it as “an act, statement, or gift that is intended to show gratitude, respect, or admiration”. From what I can gather pricewise, tribute bands certainly aren’t gifting fans with anything. Their sole purpose is to make money.

Pondering the misuse of English words in the German language, I eavesdrop on two middle-aged females seated next to me. Scrutinising the two “Abba” males larking around on stage in spandex playsuits, one turns to the other and says ‘Oooh, those boys are so much sexier than Benny and Björn!’ My own take is that this look-alike Benny appears a lot less healthy than the real one. The skinny guy can't weigh more than 60 kilos, max. I can't comment on his sidekick “Björn”, but as for the girls, the imitation Frida is only half as red as the original. This one’s more pink.

Yes, I know my Abba stuff. And, as a lifelong fan, I’d have paid good money to see the real deal live. I’m not too sure about this one here though. Whatever concert you go to here in Germany, whether real or imitation band, it’s expensive. That’s because German authorities tax live musicians at such an exorbitantly high rate it almost hurts. Or so I’m told. 

Luckily, however, I’ve got into the show free of charge. And this is something you can easily do in Germany if you’re tired of forking out for ridiculously over-priced tickets: Offer to review the event for your local newspaper. Regionale Zeitungen, it seems, are usually so short of staff that they rely to a great extent on freelancers to fill their pages. I’ve saved hundreds of euros this way: Acts like Chris de Burg, Cliff Richard, even the Beach Boys (or what’s left of them, at least) – all in return for reviews. 

So now I’m doing it for our local paper, the Hallertauer Zeitung. I hope my Deutsch is still up to it though, as I haven’t written German properly since completing my final thesis for university over twenty years ago. 

To give the “copycats” credit, they do actually sound quite like the Swedish originals. Especially when it comes to Dancing Queen, and Agneta sashays ostentatiously from one side of the stage to the other. At the end of the song she calls out, in a fake Swedish English accent, “Wheesper in your neighbour’s ear I’d like to get to knoooow you!’ It’s the ultimate in audience participation – and a sure tell-tell sign that they’re just about to break into Knowing me, knowing you

Yes, that other earworm, the one that starts “No more carefree”. When I first came to Germany, I couldn’t quite understand why some people found these opening lyrics so funny. Until a lady quietly took me aside, reached into her handbag for something and showed me. 

Never mind the daft lyrics. And never mind the predictability of the running order either. After Knowing me, knowing you always comes Mama Mia, doesn’t it? That’s probably what’s brought us all here in the first place, what we like most about ABBA – they’re just so predictable. No points then for predicting the final song. Some of the crowd have already donned their Napoleon hats, gearing up for Eurovision’s greatest hit. 

Mindful that the Hallertauer Zeitung requires my report tomorrow in order to make Monday’s edition – and that I’m going to have to look up words like “copycat” and “tell-tell sign”, which I don’t know in German – I skip the aftershow. And, mercifully, all those other those Boney M hits.

I hand back my press pass, shake the glitter dust out of my hair and, humming Mama Mia here I go again, head for home.

Sensational....joining the stars on stage

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