When it comes to ABBA Tribute Bands, Arrival from Sweden is the world’s best. It is the most authentic recreation of an ABBA concert you’ll ever see, and Vicky Norbäck-Zetterberg, founding member of Arrival, has gone to great lengths to ensure the most authentic show possible, including enlisting the help of ABBA’s costume designer, Owe Sandström, to recreate some of ABBA’s signature costumes and choreography that’s be researched to match how ABBA originally performed the songs live. All the music is created live, unlike some ABBA tribute bands that actually bring recordings to sing to their shows. And who can resist authentic Swedish accents as they are real Swedes who are able to accurately sing the songs the way ABBA did.
Arrival’s performance in Palm Springs was part of the 2010 Evening Under The Stars charity event benefiting Palm Springs AIDS Assistance Program. The event was held on the grounds of the O’Donnell Golf Club, just a short walk away from Downtown Palm Springs. As the event was $395 a plate for the charity dinner, I was attending as a guest of the band. I had the opportunity to hang out with the band before and after the performance along with a couple of other guests the band invited.
It was fantastic to meet up with Vicky a couple of hours before showtime and we got a chance to have a great conversation about ABBA music, how Vicky has gotten to know Benny Andersson when starting Arrival, how she auditioned for the role of Donna in the Swedish production of “Mamma Mia!” and some of the crazy politics involved in work visa in order to bring the best ABBA tribute show into the United States. Vicky was also excited about the band having motor homes to use as dressing rooms for the show as they’d never had that opportunity before. I also got to meet her son, who she brought out on the tour with her and we enjoyed the gorgeous California weather we had on the weekend.
When it was time to start getting ready for the show, she took me over to the guys trailer to hang out with the rest of the band. A couple of them were playing some original generation Nintendo games on a laptop with original Nintendo game controllers that were modified to connect to USB ports. I chatted with one of the Americans with the group and we talked about traveling, some of the fun experiences crossing International borders, such as the fun I always have with US Customs at Canadian airports as a Canadian citizen with US Residency.
Shortly before showtime, the other guests and I were taken out to a table to await the start of the show, the tables were being served dessert at the time, so we were given some wine and cake and as the final bits of the award presentation and auction took place, I had the chance to chat with the other guests of Arrival, and then the moment we were all waiting for, the concert began with the sound of helicopters landing just as ABBA opened their 1977 tour concerts.
I was surprised with such high priced tickets, a lot of the attendees were very quick to start singing along and people were making their way to the three separate dance floors right from start of the first song. They wasted no time getting their chance to dance and jive and taking full advantage of the brilliant performance. The ladies who were also band guests like myself made their way up to the nearest dance floor and I decided I wanted to be up near the stage. At first I positioned myself to the side of the stage, then I decided to head over to the other side of the stage where I stood in the corner of it so that I wouldn’t be obstructing other people’s view. Eventually a crowd was building in front of the stage, so I then moved to be closer to the center of stage.
I managed to get a number of great pictures with my camera, but I’m working with a small point and shoot camera and I turned off the flash to not be disruptive with my photo taking and with the low light, a lot more pictures turned up underexposed and blurry than clear, but the ones that did turn out clear were fantastic. A great chance to see the band as close to being on stage without actually being on stage.
Vicky said there were a couple of surprises in store, and both of which were right at the end of the show. Following the performance of “Dancing Queen” in the encore section, Arrival were joined on stage by the Gay Men’s Choir and they performed, “I Have A Dream” which I later found out from Jenny Gustafsson (who plays Arrival’s Agnetha) that they don’t normally do “I Have A Dream” and they had lyric sheets on the stage so they could sing it. Well I have to say they hid that very well, I had no idea they didn’t know the song that well, it sounded flawless to me. They hid it well because they had a Choir behind them that did know it well and the audience was singing along so it was a brilliant move to have everyone singing so any mistakes could be well hidden. And to follow up “I Have A Dream” the show closed with a few minutes of fireworks.
As instructed, I headed back to the motor homes with the band and hung out with the guys in their trailer and had a couple of beers with the band. I got a chance to have a picture with Jenny before she went to the girls motor home to get out of the Agnetha costume. And soon after I was wishing Vicky and everyone ado. It was so much fun to come see Arrival, and to give me a reason to make my first ever visit to Palm Springs. I look forward to seeing them again, and it looks like their next closest appearance to San Diego is in Woodland Hills in early August. I’ll see if I can get a big group of friends to come to that show, or better still I’ll see if I can try and get the entertainment folks at Harrah’s Rincon to look into booking Arrival around the same time so they can perform in San Diego when they’re already out on the West Coast.
To see if Arrival is playing anywhere in the world near you, please visit Arrival.se and look at their calendar. Information on how to contact the band and their management for bookings is also available on the site if you have a venue near you interested in bringing in an amazing ABBA show.