Tribute concerts sell. There, we have said it. Most indie musicians who are trying to make a living by selling their original music, will not agree, but the facts just do not change. If you have a tribute concert, playing music that has made people grow their hair (or wear boot-cut pants) for three generations, then you’re bound to have a full house. It worked for last years tributes to The Eagles, Queen and Deep Purple and Pink Floyd. Given the fact that Michael Muthu and his Boardwalkers bunch chose the Museum Theatre to have the ABBA tribute show on Sunday evening, not too many people were surprised that the 450-odd seats filled up ten minutes after the doors were opened. And there was an obvious anticipation from the mostly over-35 audience, that had little to do with the larger-than-life thermocole ABBA sign that served as the backdrop on stage.
To be brutally honest, there was a long way to go before the crowd really lit up. By the time the first act Colour Chaos was done, there was an almost imperceptible hope that went around that ABBA’s best known songs would come next, instead of their obscure album-warmers. It did, when the first band — with seasoned young musicians like Conrad Simmons, Nipun Nair and the not-much-older-at-heart Maynard Grant — took to the stage. But more than the quality of their performances, it was the final sound that let them down. The only stand-out performance was Maalavika Manoj’s I Have a Dream, which was as calming as it was surreal, purely on the strength of her voice. Though the singers Nadisha Thomas, Sangeetha Santosham and Maalavika are talented voices that have made people sit up and listen at other concerts, the eventual product fell a little short — thankfully, not too many people were critical and seemed content humming along to songs like SOS and Take a Chance on Me.
And then there was Roxygen. They say age does wonders to wine. The same applied for one of the city’s oldest surviving rock outfits, as Timmy Madhukar, Keith Peters, Jim Satya and Sudhin Prabhakar produced a sound that was as close to the Swedish quartet’s original, that it was uncanny. Beginning with a swashbuckling version of Super Trooper, the band seemed to revitalise the same singers and pick up the slightly sagging spirits of the audience, all in one go. It can be argued that they got the lion’s share of ABBA’s hits as they got to belt out Mamma Mia, Dancing Queen, Fernando, Eagle and finally Thank You For The Music, but that would just be taking away from their thoroughly entertaining performance. As Mili Hamesh began singing the opening strains of Dancing Queen, the clapping began, an elderly gentlemen in a khadi kurta began dancing with gay abandon, and it finally felt like the 70’s again. The only difference is, they didn’t need shimmery clothes, funky hair-dos or ecstasy to achieve it — just some good old nostalgia-evoking versions of ABBA’s music.