I think in large part due to the phenomenal success of “Mamma Mia! The Movie” last summer which was released shortly after last year’s San Diego County Fair concluded, the organizers of the San Diego County Fair thought it fitting to bring in an ABBA tribute band as a headlining act for the 2009 San Diego County Fair at the Del Mar Fairgrounds. Fortunately the organizers picked what I consider to be the world’s best ABBA tribute band out there. That tribute band is Arrival, who like ABBA, also originate from Sweden and the show Arrival is touring under is called “The Music Of ABBA”.
Headed by Vicky Zetterberg (who portrays Anni-Frid “Frida” Lyngstad) and joined by Jenny Gustafsson (who portrays Agnetha Fältskog), Arrival brought a wonderful touch of Sweden to San Diego, not once, but twice with two shows on July 2, 2009. The afternoon show began at 2pm and while the program states the afternoon concerts are hour long shows, Arrival played for a full two hours bringing a complete ABBA show to those down at the fair early enough to catch the afternoon show. I was personally fighting with traffic and the whole mess with parking so I didn’t make it to the Heineken Grandstand Stage until 2:30pm but I did get there. Arrival were performing “Gimme! Gimme! Gimme! (A Man After Midnight)” as I arrived.
The show was equally as wonderful as every other time I’ve seen the previous two times I had seen Arrival. They are a tribute band who truly get everything right. From the costumes down to the authentic ABBA choreography to the authentic Swedish accents that only true Swedes can do. To see my past raves about Arrival, click here to see my recap of the show I saw in Austin, Texas and click here to read my review of their show I saw in Anaheim, California.
This time, instead of Finn Sjöberg, one of ABBA’s original guitar players, Arrival was joined by Roger Palm, one of ABBA’s original drummers. (Finn is currently on tour with ABBA The Show and in the last week played with them at the Hollywood Bowl in Los Angeles, See FinnSjoberg.se to see where he will be playing next (with several locations in the US coming soon)). Roger Palm waved to the crowd and played the drums for a few of the songs. He didn’t get on the microphone and share any anecdotes about playing with ABBA as Finn had done last year. Maybe he’s a little shy, but in any case, it’s always fun to see the people who helped bring the original music to life come help give an added touch of authenticity to Arrival’s stage show.
I stood in the back of the floor section for the afternoon show. It was a wonderful vantage point because I could stand in the center section and with the grandstand behind a wall taller than me I was able to freely enjoy the vantage point and dance along to the songs without being seen by the majority of people there. (What can I say, I’m a little shy when I dance.) I waved to Vicky a couple of times while Jenny was singing and she did wave back once, so I wasn’t quite sure she recognized me or not.
One of the highlights of being in behind the floor section was I got to watch this one older gentleman in a wheelchair who on several songs got up out of the wheelchair to sway and dance as best he could to the songs. He was clearly enjoying himself. In fact, the woman who was with him popped the brakes on his chair a couple of times to start wheeling him out of the grandstand but he stopped her both times and put the brakes back on so he could keep enjoying the show. I loved it.
While Arrival were off stage between the main set and the encore, I took the opportunity to head down to one of the freshly vacant seats in the front row. I don’t know why the previous occupant thought the show was over without hearing “Dancing Queen” to conclude the show, but in any case, I took the seat and when Arrival came out again to perform the encore starting with “Summer Night City” it looked like a spark of recognition when Vicky saw me and then gave an extra big smile. So she might not have recognized me waving from the back of the floor section, but definitely from the front row.
Following the show I hung out for a little bit hoping I would get a chance to say hello to Vicky but I was shooed out of the grandstand by one of the security folks. As I headed out front I ran into Rolf Ivraeus (who portrays Benny Andersson), and I said it was a great show. He didn’t recognize me from being the guy who wrote the ABBAMAIL website reviews of Arrival from last year, which is fine. So in any case, I didn’t get a chance to say hello to Vicky this time around. I hope she and the rest of the band had a great time while they were here in San Diego.
For the evening performance, I was joined by my friend Tyler Blair, and we had a great time checking out the fairgrounds and then got some great unreserved seats in the grandstand not too far from where we sat a week ago when we saw the B-52’s play on the same stage. As with most unreserved seats, you tend to show up early to get decent seats, so we had a great time chatting about iPhone applications and music. I just happened to have my iPod Touch with me and a set of earbud headphones in my pocket so I had a chance to share some obscure ABBA related recordings with Tyler. He was interested in some of the Swedish material I had on there so I made sure to give him a chance to hear Frida’s original version of “Fernando” and explain that technically the ABBA version is a cover. Tyler said he’d never heard in Swedish before and I didn’t tell him he was about to hear the first verse again in Swedish performed live. I thought it would be a nice surprise.
Tyler was familiar with almost everything and he and I were both singing along to the music, which is another thing I tend to be a bit too shy to do in public mostly, but since Tyler was singing along, I was in the spirit and joined in too. We also could see all the various people throughout the grandstand who were singing and dancing along. The songs were the same as the afternoon show, and it seems while I thought I missed a whole half hour’s worth of songs in the earlier concert because of my arriving a little bit late at the grandstand turns out I only really missed a couple of songs.
The audience overall seemed to really enjoy the show and it was great to see such a sizable audience here in San Diego turning up to enjoy an evening full of ABBA music. And I’m especially thrilled that the ABBA tribute band this audience go to see is the world’s best ABBA tribute band. Many thanks to the promoters of the San Diego County Fair for bringing in Arrival. And many thanks to Arrival for coming in all the way from Sweden to spend an afternoon and evening bringing ABBA to San Diego. And big thanks to Tyler for making it out to see the show. All the others I invited to join me, you don’t know how much of a fantastic concert you missed.
And oddly enough, these two Arrival concerts marked my third and fourth time I’ve seen Arrival. This now brings them into a three way tie along with Corey Hart and Dolly Parton as the artists I’ve seen the most times in concert. Normally I wouldn’t count tribute acts in the running but Arrival are so good, they truly are the most authentic recreation of ABBA that I’ve ever seen. And I’ve seen a bunch of ABBA tribute bands. Some were good and some were bad, but I’ve always had a great time at each of their shows because they all celebrate some of the finest music to ever come out of Sweden. Arrival just happens to be the best of the bunch in my book. Find out more about Arrival at Arrival.se.