• StevenF

ABBA and Feeling Good

Updated: Mar 7

A dear friend of Isaias' and mine passed away in November of 2020. It was sudden, unexpected, and rather devastating, especially since we had just lost Isaias' mom the previous June. Just a lot of grief.

Her husband, whom we know well, but with whom we were not as close, was, of course, devastated as well. Our friend was his center, and with her gone, the husband had a difficult time adjusting to the loss.

Our friend and her husband are senior citizens, so when our friend died—let's call her "Sharon"—we started looking out for the husband, who I will call "Ernest." Whereas Sharon was a very open, sociable person, Ernest can be a little prickly, withdrawn, and much less demonstrative with his emotions.

When Sharon died, many of Sharon's friends came around to lend support. Sharon and Ernest are wealthy, so there were also some hangers-on who came around to, in the opinion of Isaias and me, take advantage of Ernest as well.

Ernest is not the most open guy, and many of these friends and hangers-on were Sharon's friends more than his, so Ernest, in his grief, kind of shut everyone out for a time.

Isaias and I gave him his space, but we, of course checked on him from time to time to see how he was doing or if he needed anything. Over the course of the last year, we have been to his house on many occasions to help him with various projects. We've had lunch with him. One time he asked us if we wanted to watch a movie with him, so we did. Mostly, we just talk.

We always kind of let him steer the conversation. In the beginning, we got the impression that didn't he want to talk about Sharon because it was too painful. Now he speaks of her often and gets emotional in front of us, which he has not been prone to do in the past.

We invited him to Isaias' Day of the Dead display at the Springs Preserve, and he came and stayed for quite a while. He also came to our home for Christmas. So we have become much closer with him, and we consider each other friends.

Sharon and Ernest used to attend the theater often together. Ernest doesn't go to as many social events as he did when Sharon was alive, but he bought a bunch of tickets to various shows at the Smith Center here in Vegas.

Anyway, he was going to a show called Shen Yun recently and asked Isaias if he would like to go—which makes me laugh, by the way, because we have a running joke in our house that I'm going to get us tickets to Shen Yun because Isaias has never wanted to see it.

Anyway, he and Isaias went and enjoyed each other's company. This past Friday, Ernest was going to see ABBA Mania. Ernest asked Isaias again if he wanted to go. Isaias couldn't but told Ernest that I was quite an ABBA fan and said I would go. Ernest doesn't have a lot of people he can ask, and we think it's good for him to get out.

So Ernest and I met at the Smith Center. We had offered to have me pick him up, but he is a very independent guy and said it wasn't necessary.

I love the music of ABBA. It's just very "feel good" music to me. I love the majority of their songs, and I enjoy the melodies and harmonies.

The tribute band was quite good.

They sounded and looked much like the original group, although it felt like the woman playing the role of Agnetha was overcompensating. I say that because I felt, especially in the beginning, that we the audience were not giving the energy the performers desired.

Having been in shows myself where I felt the audience was a bit lackluster, I know how easy it is to fall into the trap of trying even harder to get the response you want, thus causing you the performer to come across as forced and unnatural. I felt that energy from her.

She was a great performer and had a terrific voice, but sometimes it felt like she was trying too hard—I also suspect she may have been giving that type of performance because she is a Vegas resident and perhaps she had people in the audience she was trying to impress. Sometimes her singing seemed to be more about her than the character and band she was supposed to be embodying.

Still, it was an entertaining show, although a little more audience participation that I was wanting, especially since it felt like there were many in the audience who just wanted to hear the tunes rather than clap, dance, wave their arms, and sing along.

I don't fault the show. The premise was recreating a concert-like vibe, so of course the performers were encouraging the audience to participate as if they were at a rock concert. Ernest is not the kind of guy who is going to clap and dance or wave his arms and sing along, though, so it made me feel a bit self-conscious doing so myself. Plus, it felt like it was "up-and-down-up-and-down" and constant clapping. I really just wanted to listen to the music.

At one point, the performers tried to get everybody to stand up, and only three ladies—directly in front of us, of course—remained standing, and I just wanted them to sit so we could see. Ernest is old and did not want to keep getting up and down.

Again, I don't fault the ladies. They were just doing what they were told and were having a really good time. I just was in the mood for a different experience. Not the show's fault at all; I take full responsibility for my mood. I just wanted to sit and enjoy the music.

I think I was probably introduced to ABBA by my older sister. I remember she had a greatest hits album she would listen to often, and I always liked their music. It was this album, in fact:

I remember the songs I liked the best were "Honey, Honey," "Mamma Mia," "SOS," "Waterloo," "Ring, Ring," "I Do, I Do, I Do, I Do, I Do," and "Fernando."

In fact, "Fernando" is the first song I really remember loving. I remember recording songs off the radio, and "Fernando" was one I really liked.

I think my two favorite ABBA songs (for different reasons) are "Dancing Queen" and "The Winner Takes It All." "The Winner Takes It All" is such a great ballad and "Dancing Queen," still to this day, is one of my all-time favorite songs. It always puts me in a good mood when I listen to it.

ABBA Mania did "Dancing Queen" as their encore. And by that time, the crowd was a bit more amped up than we had been in the beginning, and we were chanting (well, Ernest wasn't) "'Dancing Queen!' 'Dancing Queen!' 'Dancing Queen!'" When they played it, I thought, "How can you not feel good listening to this song?"

I remember when I served a mission for the LDS Church in France and Belgium, someone had given me a cassette tape with songs by ABBA. It was against the rules for missionaries to listen to secular music, but I listened to that one. It made me feel good listening to their songs.

I can be a bit of a theatre snob sometimes, but I remember seeing Mamma Mia! at the Capitol Theater in Salt Lake City and just loving it. It's one of those "leave-your-brain-at-the-door-and-just-have-fun"-type of musicals. Certainly not groundbreaking or particularly important, but just full of fun and entertainment. I loved it!

I have a really great memory of my great-aunt, who lived to be 97 years old. She was one of my favorite relatives. I always thought she was so independent and cool. I visited her at her home one day and we happily watched a DVD she had of ABBA performing. Her suggestion. That memory always makes me smile.

"I Have A Dream" has never been one of my favorite ABBA songs, but as ABBA Mania were singing it, its lyrics struck me:

I have a dream, a song to sing To help me cope, with anything. If you see the wonder of a fairy tale, You can take the future, even if you fail.

I believe in angels, Something good in everything I see. I believe in angels. When I know the time is right for me, I'll cross the stream, I have a dream.

I have a dream, a fantasy To help me through reality And my destination makes it worth the while, Pushin' through the darkness, still another mile.

I believe in angels, Something good in everything I see. I believe in angels. When I know the time is right for me, I'll cross the stream, I have a dream.

And maybe this song typifies why I love ABBA so much: Their music, overall, is just harmless, catchy, feel-good stuff, stuff that does make you want to get up and dance, clap, sway your arms, and sing along even if you don't necessarily feel like doing so. It's music that puts me in a good mood.

I hope it put Ernest in a good mood. It's sometimes hard to tell with him, although he said he enjoyed the show, and more importantly, I think he was happy to have somebody to enjoy the show with.

I think Sharon would be pleased that Isaias and I are looking out for and trying to take care of Ernest. And isn't that what life should be about—helping those whose lives each of touch feel good?

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