Benny Andersson Orkester, also known as BAO for short, recently released an album aimed at the English speaking market under the name of Benny Andersson Band. To commemorate the Swedes taking over the presidency of the EU, the Benny Andersson Band headlined a Swedish festival in Hampstead Heath on July 4th in a free performance just slightly north of London.
It’s not the first time the Benny Andersson Band has performed for a mainly English speaking audience. The band has performed previously in Glasgow as well as in Minneapolis. Brining a touch of Swedish folk along with several other styles of music, an evening with the Benny Andersson Band is always an eclectic experience. One of the joys of seeing Benny Andersson perform is his true love for music. He is clearly in his element and it becomes a pure joy to see him perform the music he’s crafted in both the most traditional of Swedish styles as well as his own pop styles.
Those expecting to hear a slick ABBA style performance would be clearly disappointed by what Benny dubs “14 middle aged men” and two vocalists, the incredible Helen Sjöholm, and Tommy Körberg. The very traditional folk and vocal styles are often more reminiscent of a big band era performance than a modern pop band. The band plays a variety of styles of traditional dance music and often encourages dancing while they play instead of a more traditional concert performance. Because of this their performances often last far longer than traditional concerts. When I saw the band in Minnesota a few years ago, they played for four hours. The London performance lasted for two and half hours and according to the reports that have come in, the show was excellent.
One of the highlights of the evening is the new song, “The Story Of A Heart” which also serves as the title track for the English language collection. Many of the songs are new translations of previously released songs as well as several of the instrumental pieces from BAO’s previous three albums. The “Story Of A Heart” is the first pop flavored song penned by Benny Andersson in well over a decade. Lyrics for the song were written by Benny’s musical partner, Björn Ulvaeus and serves as the lead single for the album. Fortunately, amateur video footage from the live performance in Hampstead Heath is available and can provide a little touch of being in London to see the Benny Andersson Band perform.
And Benny doesn’t ignore his ABBA classics as the Benny Andersson Band adds their own spin to several of the classics. Several songs were performed including including “Why Did It Have To Be Me” as seen here.
Although perhaps the true highlight of the performance was following the final encore, where the band had left the stage and the fans in the audience started an impromptu sing-along of the ABBA classics “The Way Old Friends Do” and “Thank You For The Music.” What a way to end a show to have the audience sing songs not performed in the show. I wish I could have been there.
To read some of the fan reviews of the concert, please visit, icethesite.com, run by my good friend Dominic Wallis.