ABBA Tribute, 'Arrival': here we go again...

Hi.

After 3 long months of continuously counting down the days, the time had finally come around for me to get to meet the incredible tribute band that I went to watch and reviewed back in April. Although it was long awaited, everything happened so fast, and the perfect evening was over in a blink of an eye.

There was much deliberation involved when choosing my outfit, though in the end, I thought it best to stick to the top that I wore last time, but with the addition of my little silver and white 'ABBA' boots (which I adore), as my subtle fashion statement of the night. I managed to match my makeup too, with a grey eyeshadow, silver glitter eyeliner and sparkly grey nails to top it off. Others were more expressive though, with a group actually dressed in the full costume... one day I'll do it!

To get to the theatre, we embarked upon a 50 minute car journey to reach our destination, and it was worth every second. It was the 'Arrival Summer Concert', meaning we were situated outside, in the beautiful grounds of Hever Castle: the walk from the car to the venue was stunning in itself. Although it had been raining quite a lot throughout the day, it didn't dampen any spirits, and it began to brighten up as the show was nearing.

I think now is the time for the bit I wasn't sure if I wanted to include, but I will. This opportunity was, and always will be, unbelievable to me. As someone with typically high anxiety levels, it wasn't easy to follow through with, however badly I wanted to. Even up until the moment when I stood up to go and meet the wonderful Sarah-who's Agnetha in the band- both my mum and best friend didn't truly believe I could do it. Half the car journey was filled with myself being anxious about the whole ordeal, and how the evening was going to be so precious, I really didn't want to mess it up. Due to the timings, we had to eat dinner beforehand, whereby I had to eat a sandwich to prevent myself from passing out, yet couldn't eat much for for fear of throwing it up (sorry about the details, but this is anxiety for you). This is nothing new for me though, I'm just learning to deal with it better each time. And it truly didn't spoil the night at all, as of course, everything worked out amazingly. In fact, it just adds to the list of reasons why it is all worthwhile.

Because of all this, I was never actually brave enough to message to say that we'd arrived, so when I saw Sarah poke her head around the side of the stage, I was actually flooded with relief. Myself and Lucie (the legend that best friend, the Frida to my Agnetha and all that stuff...) made our way over, and much to the security person's dismay, disappeared backstage.

I thought it was amazing- and must have seemed like a right nutter- as we walked through, and kindly got introduced to all the members of the team. We were brought into the dressing room, which was great because it meant I could see all the outfits that I aspire to own, especially all the boots! A little overwhelmed by everything, I didn't really know what to say, despite having prepared a bunch of questions in advance. I have to say though, apologies to the band if anyone was expecting a professional interview to be conducted... I don't think I could've pulled that one off! They were all so welcoming to us both anyway, and we were able to have a chat for a while.

Since I didn't record anything, I'm just going to try my best to write everything that I can remember. But I don't wish it any other way, because it was so much better being relaxed and the nerves went reasonably quickly. We began talking about the new 'Mamma Mia' sequel, and how I've been lucky enough to see it twice already, whereas they haven't yet had time to do so. Despite this, they had heard Cher’s version of ‘Fernando’, which we all agreed was good in her style, but not quite the original. Similarly with the fact that she is bringing out her album of ABBA covers next month: if you like her techno style, then they’re probably for you. I said how I feel that the songs fit better in the second film, as they have taken some of those that weren't used before, as well as the old favourites, and written the story around those, incorporating them in a more fluent way. Sarah mentioned that she’d read that I went to the ABBA museum in Stockholm last month, and that the band had never had enough time there to have the opportunity to go- if I’d had known this information beforehand, I would’ve brought you all back a little something!

As it seems to me that the band are truly living the dream occupation-wise, I wondered what they may be doing now, if this was not the path they took. Sarah has always been singing from a very young age, so said she'd hopefully be in the industry still, if not, probably a holiday sales rep, which she was before joining the group. Previously, Sara (Frida) also had an ordinary job doing secretarial work and may be back there otherwise- what a change!

We found out about how the original group met too, with them beginning as a function band, featuring just an ABBA medley. They soon auditioned to perform on a cruise-liner, and although didn't get chosen, got given a chance to do 3 months in Majorca as an ABBA tribute, which sounded like a great idea, and started the band as they are today. Because they enjoyed the experience so much, the group decided that they would do it properly, by getting the authentic costumes, replicating the harmonies and choreography, and becoming a true tribute to the Swedish pop sensations.

Looking back, I can pinpoint the exact moment when I first heard ABBA, which got me intrigued into finding out more about if anyone else could do the same. Remembering when she was younger, Sarah claimed that she originally heard their music through the paper-thin walls of the place she once lived, as the person next door played the 'Super Trouper' album on their record player. A stand out song was 'The Piper', as it really is quite an odd one! Thinking ahead though, we discussed the fact that two new songs are being released later this year, and that one is looking to be a similar style to the old stuff, while one is supposedly going to be a bit more

modern. I personally think that it will be great (and that Christmas will have come early), because it will bring ABBA to our generation for us to experience first-hand, rather than having every release before our time. Hopefully, it'll cause an increase in younger fans, to widen their following further, and involve us more in the creations of the 70s music phenomenons.

Something I was really interested to find out was whether they get nerves while performing, and to my surprise, they actually said yes! Particularly when they have smaller crowds, the girls said that it was sometimes harder, as they are usually having to connect with the audience more, and on one occasion, they were doing the show on the same level as the crowd, without any stage, which presented them with some challenges to overcome. Sarah stated that she didn't get them as much, due to performing the tribute act for so many years now, but Sara Jane mentioned that she does from time to time.

Since the band are constantly performing ABBA songs, you may expect them to be immensely sick of the tunes; yet they admitted that they never get old, and to listening to them in the car occasionally, in order to check that their vocals and harmonies are accurate- now that's dedication. They asked us our favourite songs too, whereby I could never make such tough decision. I did say though, 'I've Been Waiting For You', from the second Mamma Mia soundtrack is gorgeous, and arguably better than the original... There is one song, which happens to be Lucie's favourite, 'Does Your Mother Know', whereby Mark (playing Benny) has been singing it for longer and loves doing so, although the song is originally performed by Björn... I'm sure Joey (representing Björn here) will get his time to shine one day!

Including all of the huge ABBA tracks, the show is jam packed with everything needed for a perfect set. But what if there could be just one more? Well we asked which song they'd pick to add and (I hope I'm allowed to say this!) they are planning to throw both 'One Of Us' and 'Angel Eyes' into the mix, as soon as the backing videos are finished. Despite being great songs, I just hope they're not replacing any of the old favourites. Personally, there's too many to choose from, though 'Andante, Andante'- because I absolutely love that song- or 'Under Attack' could be fantastic additions. Even so, the set can't go on forever, however much I'd like it to!

It was then time for the band to finish getting ready for the show, so we resumed to take our seats back out front in preparation. Before doing so, I requested some photos with the group if possible, and was delighted when they all said yes. The backstage experience was amazing, and the fastest half an hour of my life, even if I was too excited and overwhelmed to ask all the questions I wanted to.

When 8 o'clock rolled around, it was time for the performance to begin. Impossible for it to hold off all evening, it was part way through 'The Winner Takes It All' when the heavens opened and the rain started pouring down. Lucky to be undercover, it seemed almost magical to watch, as Sarah kept the flawless vocals going, the band pursued playing, and we continued watching through the curtain of downpour. Umbrellas were popping up, and coats coming on for those outside, meanwhile I nudged Lucie, saying something along the lines of 'sing a little louder, she needs us'- so we did.

In order to complete 'I Have A Dream' in their style using audience participation, umbrellas were graciously provided by members of the crowd, leaving the only remaining issue as the girls getting their boots dirty. As we just missed the chance the first time around, I was really hoping that we would get to have a go singing, and fortunately we got a shot. Singing into a microphone with my best friend, regardless of the fact that it was from the audience, is what memories are made of, and seems like another part of anxiety has been conquered, and a little bit more confidence has been built. And it went by so fast!

A stunning sunset submerged the sky as the evening went by, and happiness radiated through the air. As if the atmosphere couldn't get any better than the first half, the second part of the show came along. Everyone was having fun, with many more people standing up and getting involved than my initial viewing back in April. By the end, there wasn't a face in sight not smiling and having fun.

I'm sure space was limited, with a smaller stage than I saw last time, so choreography may have been a little restricted, but to my delight, they still did those awesome kicks during 'Voulez Vous'! If you'd like to find out a bit more about the show itself, and my first opinions on it, you can check out my original review post here if you fancy: http://hannahacrouch.wixsite.com/blog/single-post/2018/04/10/ABBA-Arrival-tribute-band--event-review

To conclude the evening, we were invited onto the stage once the majority of people had left, in order to have a photo with the band while they were still in full costume. Remember last time when I said it was one of the best nights of my life? Well that’s true, but somehow they’ve topped that this time round.

The band perform at a variety of different venues up and down the country, so if you're an ABBA fan, I totally recommend you try to see them, as it's almost guaranteed that they won't be too far from you at some point during the year. You can check them out here for more information: http://abba-arrival.co.uk/events/

I know I've began saying things like the following before, but I really hope that it doesn't make it worth any less, because I truly do mean it all. Words simply cannot describe how grateful I am for this opportunity, and still find it unbelievable that it actually happened. It was so precious to be so carefree and spend such valuable time making memories to last a lifetime with my mum (who has watched me grow up listening to the music) and my best friend, both of which have to put up with me singing ABBA whenever I have the chance!

As someone who spent much of last year not wanting to face each day, this has opened my eyes to the reasons why it's worth carrying on. Through my darkest days, and when I'm feeling down, I switch on the music of ABBA, and things become instantly brighter. Your show is just the perfect way to remember what it feels like to be happy.

I want to say a huge thank you all for having photos with us, allowing us to join you backstage for a bit, and performing such a brilliant show. It was so good to be able to meet the ladies properly and have a chat too- I really appreciate it. Sarah, in particular, thank you, from the bottom of my heart, for making it all happen and supporting my work- it means the absolute world. Though it might not seem like much, it makes everything seem so worthwhile, since I genuinely can’t believe anyone reads my writing, let alone gives chances like this: it seems like a miracle to me, and more than I could ever wish for.

Yes, I'm aware that you all think you're just regular people doing what you love, yet you really do bring joy and happiness to thousands of people, whether you realise it or not, and have impacted my life in such a great way. By doing what you do, you have inspired me to keep doing what I love, as you never know where these things might lead you next. I can only hope that one day I will grow up to have the positive influence on someone's life, the same way you have mine.

I feel honoured to have the privilege of meeting such extremely talented musicians and genuinely lovely people. Thank you for making one of this girl's dreams come true.

And so we now begin the countdown to the 3rd of June, when hopefully I'll get to watch the band perform once again!

Hannah xx

PS: Sara Jane, here's a link to my sparky eyeliner- it's really cheap but I think it's great!

https://www.superdrug.com/Collection/Collection-Glam-Crystals-Gel-Glitter-Eyeliner-Glitz-1/p/439414