ABsalute Gold brings ABBA experience to Prince Albert

Jason Kerr
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It’s been a wild 11 years for Jo-Anne Rooney-Brewin and ABsalute Gold.  The ABBA tribute group has played in Mexico, Japan, Malaysia, and Washington, D.C., and they’re scheduled to come to Prince Albert on Feb. 23.

Jo-Anne Rooney-Brewin (left) and Suzanne Ogrinc-Lock (right) performing as Agnetha Fältskog and Anni-Frid Lyngstad respectively on an ABsalute Gold tour.  The show arrives in Prince Albert on Feb. 23.

“It’s taken us so many amazing places.  We’ve played for royalty, we’ve played for heads of state,” Rooney-Brewin says.  “I love that we get to see parts of the world that people talk about.”

Rooney-Brewin, who manages the group and performs as singer Agnetha Fältskog, calls herself a life long ABBA fan.  She started the group with some friends living in Toronto over a decade ago, and since then the show has taken on a life of its own.  She credits the devotion of ABBA fans, and the surprising complexity of the music, for the appeal.

“There are usually two different music styles in every song and the styles are international,” she says.  “It’s still unique and it’s stood the test of time.”

The original ABBA pop group rarely toured due to Fältskog’s dislike of travelling.

“She was a bit of a recluse,” Rooney-Brewin says.  “She didn’t like to travel.”

As a result, live performances by the band were a rarity, leaving room for tribute groups like Rooney-Brewin’s.  She says the road hasn’t always been smooth, but she’s grateful to be on it.

“It’s amazing.  When were in a theatre performing we can see three generations standing together in the audience, singing.  All three generations still know the words and that’s a real feat,” she says.

The bumps and bruises they’ve accumulated along the way are as unique as their destinations.  They changed their name at the request of Universal Music, who felt there were too many imitation groups using the name, and the scheduling has provided a challenge as well.

“Everybody has two or three shows that they perform in,” she says of her group mates.  “They have their own personal lives.  We all started out in the general Toronto area, but over the years we’ve spread out a bit more.”

In an era where fan impressions of prominent singers and writers are all over the internet it’s easy to take tribute groups lightly.  However, the ABsalute Gold members aren’t a collection of star-crossed fans living vicariously through their favorite band.  For them, it’s more of a labour of love.

“Everyone (in the group) is classically trained or has gone to school,” Rooney-Brewin says.  “Everyone is a musician first that happens to sing, as opposed to being just singers, and I find that there is a huge difference.  Everybody knows their music.”

Including the main performers and harmony singers, the group features four full-time music teachers.   Three of them teach vocals.  As for the rest, their training comes from high-end music schools, like the Berklee College of Music in Boston.

“Some of us are second and third generation musicians,” she says.  “Each of us has been performing since we were children.”

Absalute Gold brings that appreciation of music to their show.  Rooney-Brewin says as much as she likes singing and performing, she really enjoys interacting with her fellow ABBA fans that come to see them.

“We want people dancing and singing,” she says.  “The idea is to experience this with us.  I call it the definitive ABBA experience because that’s what it is.  It is a performance, but it’s more of an experience where everybody who chooses makes it a part of themselves and enjoys it.”

Prince Albert may not be as exotic as some of the locations they’ve performed in, but the group is still eager to come to northern Saskatchewan.  Rooney-Brewin, who lives with her husband and fellow performer in South Carolina, says they’re going to be prepared.

“We haven’t been (to Saskatchewan) for quite a few years.  I’m bringing my fur coat.  There’s no question about that, and my balaclava,” she says with a laugh.  “We’re really looking forward to it.  I hope that there’s a very good turnout.  I hope that everyone is looking to come in and have lots of fun.”

ABsalute Gold is scheduled to play at the E.A. Rawlinson Centre on Feb. 23 at 7:30 p.m.  Tickets can be purchased online at the E.A. Rawlinson website for $40.

Rooney-Brewin promises quite an experience.

“We have people come up (on stage), as long as the theatre’s okay with that.  We’ll come down into the audience,” she says.  “The audience will share their stories with us on how they got there, how they came to be at the show, and how it emotionally has had an impact on them.  That, actually, is the whole reason… …of why we all kind of perform”

Organizations: Berklee College of Music, Prince Albert, Universal Music E.A. Rawlinson Centre

Geographic location: Toronto, Boston, Northern Saskatchewan South Carolina Saskatchewan

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