Getting Bjorn Again

ABBA tribute arrives in Israel to turn back the years

BJORN AGAIN in white and glitter. (photo credit: Courtesy)
BJORN AGAIN in white and glitter.
(photo credit: Courtesy)
If the song “Dancing Queen” makes you want to stop what you’re doing and spin around with your arms open, you are in luck. Bjorn Again, originally an Australian pop group, is coming to Israel for a series of shows that are designed to get you into your bell bottoms and onto the dance floor. The ABBA tribute uses staples from the Swedish group most popular in the 1970s for songs like “Mamma Mia” or “Voulez-Vous” as ammunition for their rocker musical theater performances.
ABBA originally rose to fame in 1974 at the Eurovision Song Contest, winning the top title for Sweden with the song “Waterloo.” The band was iconic in the ‘70s, but their shine dulled too quickly, according to Rod Stephen, the London-based founder of Bjorn Again.
“The fashion had changed from flared trousers and boots... it was embarrassing. The music was deemed to be embarrassing and the fashion was embarrassing, and that’s part of the fun of it! I was aiming to recreate and revive the ‘70s and ABBA was perfect,” Stephen said.
Stephen created the group in Melbourne in 1988 and used a play on words for the title of the band. Bjorn Ulvaeus, ABBA’s Swedish songwriter, producer and band member, was an integral part of the group’s success. In Stephen’s efforts to revive the group’s iconic music and ‘70s essence, he called the group Bjorn Again, combining Ulvaeus’s name and the concept of return.
The group doesn’t just copy the acts of ABBA, though. They embody them with costume – even going so far as to mimic the intimate relationships that existed between band members while injecting some squirts of humor along the way.
“I get the feeling that people want to be a part of it rather than just sitting and saying ‘entertain us.’ Some acts might do that. We want people to get involved, get dressed up – [especially if] they’ve got any dodgy shirts from the ‘70s or could go to a vintage shop,” Stephen said.
When researching the crowd, Stephen says the memo was loud and clear – Israelis like to dance and party. So the arrangements of the songs were changed and the venues (outside of Tel Aviv) are going to have a club atmosphere, rather than a traditional stage. But Stephen says that even at the sit-down Mann Auditorium in Tel Aviv, the band will have people on their feet.
“IT REALLY is good fun and people let themselves go. Women by their very nature will let themselves go, and if they’re bringing their guy along... they are slow off the mark, but we will win the guys over,” Stephen said.
While the goal is to play through every song from the ABBA gold album – as these are the quintessential ones, the band will also move on to some other musical stylings.
When it comes to choosing the talent for the show, Stephen says he always prefers to get the musicians who err on the side of rock, but who can also represent themselves theatrically. While talent coming from the West End is top notch, he is always looking for someone who can engage the audience like a rock star and get people to jump and participate. Stephen says each of the musicians on stage are accomplished and can turn their hand to any style of music.
The group has had several highlight moments over the years – entertaining Nirvana and Dave Grohl who went on from drumming for the band to writing songs for Foo Fighters. Considered long-standing fans, these rockers insisted upon having Bjorn Again join them on stage at a grunge-rock festival when the band was together, even though Bjorn Again’s genre is a bit more pop.
Following this collaboration, the group took off and toured around the world with Nirvana at their wings. Bjorn Again was also invited to Buckingham Palace to entertain Queen Elizabeth of England. She had requested the group come for a Christmas party. Bjorn Again has also been on tour with Shania Twain and Cher, getting called in as the opening acts. Stephen says it’s because they have an easy time getting the crowd upbeat and ready for action.
Stephen expects a varied demographic at the party, including young people between 18 and 20. Sometimes, he says, they bring their parents who remember the tunes from when they first came out on the radio.
“We could get anyone from 10 to 80 and they would all have fun with it,” Stephen said.
The concert will be held in Tel Aviv at the Charles Bronfman Auditorium on Thursday, November 7 at 9 p.m. and at the Zappa theaters in Herzilya and Jerusalem the following nights at 10 p.m. (doors open at 8 p.m.). Tickets range between NIS 229-349 in Tel Aviv and NIS 309 everywhere else.