ABBA and Bee Gees tribute bands — A surprisingly good pair

By John Benson

There’s a seemingly surreal feeling associated when national touring tribute acts ABBAmania and Night Fever share the stage. That is, why are cover bands performing the music of ABBA and The Bee Gees on the same bill? Youngstown fans can experience this “I can’t believe I’m here” feeling when the Canadian acts make their Northeast Ohio debut Saturday at The Stambaugh Auditorium.

“When I first put them together, people said it’s sort of a strange combination, and after the shows, the same people said it was a perfect combination,” said Bounty Enterprises Producer Gary Lichach, calling from Ontario, Canada. “It’s because people remember everything from The Bee Gee’s ‘How Can You Mend a Broken Heart,’ ‘More Than a Woman,’ ‘Jive Talkin’’ to ABBA’s ‘Mamma Mia,’ ‘Dancing Queen’ and more. They’re all big hits, and you can dance to both bands. They’re so different yet they fit on one show.”

The idea of creating both cover acts came to Lichach, who was responsible for the Canadian National Exposition’s tribute shows, over a decade ago. As for his inspiration, it’s sort of an easy guess.

“One night I was at home and I heard someone singing ‘Dancing Queen,’” Lichach said. “I thought, ‘Who is that?’ It sounded pretty bad. It was the ‘Mamma Mia!’ cast in London, England, doing the song. Of course they don’t sound like ABBA or look like ABBA, but it’s a musical where they use all of the words as dialogue. That was unique, and I thought if somebody put together an ABBA show and it looked like ABBA and sounded like the band, because of ‘Mamma Mia!,’ people will want to see it. I was jumping on the ‘Mamma Mia!’ interest that would be created by fans.”

Though the members of ABBA supposedly have a standing multimillion dollar offer to reunite and tour, Lichach said he isn’t worried about such a reunion hurting ABBAmania’s appeal or business. After all, he already once successfully gambled on a resurgence of ABBA interest.

“We played twice for the cast of ‘Mamma Mia!,’” Lichach said. “They were like, ‘We don’t look or sound like ABBA.’ And once they saw us, they were like, ‘You guys should be up here.’ Well, we are. We are on stage and are in the theaters. We play all over the world. We even sometimes play with 60-piece orchestras.”

Lichach goes out of his way to paint a night of ABBAmania and Night Fever as appealing to all generations. Despite the fact he’s definitely wearing his producer hat, his reasoning makes sense.

“The kids who know ‘Mamma Mia!’ will enjoy ABBA, and the crowds ages 30 and up will enjoy Night Fever with The Bee Gees from the disco era, including ‘Saturday Night Fever.’ Remember, that’s the biggest selling album in the world.”

So that said, what do audiences walk out humming, songs from ABBAmania or Night Fever?

“Both,” Lichach said. “Both bands play all of the hits. It’s just one after another. It’s like going out for dinner: What did you like ... the steak, dessert or drink after? It’s a whole evening of nonstop satisfaction, singing along, tapping along. People stand up and dance and scream. It’s exciting. Even if you’re not a fan of ABBA or The Bee Gees, you’ll sit back and say, ‘I can’t believe I’m here.’”

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