Abbacadabra - The Ultimate ABBA Concert
South Shore Room at Harrah's Lake Tahoe
YOU NEVER KNOW who might be in the audience. ABBACADABRA, an ABBA tribute band from Reno, absolutely can attest to this. Jerry Greenberg, who signed and partially managed ABBA, one of the internationally top-selling bands of all time, was in the showroom for an ABBACADABRA performance.
“I happened to be up in Reno,” the former president of Atlantic Records said. “I just became overwhelmed by how great they were. They had the look, they had the show. It just blew me away. I went backstage and started talking to them.”
ABBACADABRA’s band leader Gary Raffanelli’s successful idea was about to become a lot more successful. Greenberg started the tribute band company Mirage, “but this is the main band we’re concentrating on,” Greenberg said. “There are a few other ABBA groups in Europe, but they don’t compare with ABBACADABRA.”
Raffanelli said. “If I have that kind of backing and endorsement behind our show I can’t do much better unless ABBA themselves say this is the act to see, and we’re working on that right now.”
ABBACADABRA is working on plenty of things right now, including television, Las Vegas, touring dates and more. The band also begins a summer run at Harrah’s Lake Tahoe this summer, making it by far the most played show in the South Shore Room. It started last November when ABBACADABRA, booked on one-week’s notice, sold out the room for 3 nights.
The Swedish group ABBA is an acronym for the band leaders Anni-Frid Lyngstad, Björn Ulvaeus, Benny Andersson and Agnetha Fältskog. The United States was the last English-speaking country where ABBA broke though. It only toured the United States once.
After hearing ABBA’s “Waterloo,” Greenberg signed the band to Atlantic. “It had a Phil Spector sound,” he said. Greenberg said. “If you listen to The Beatles and the Beach Boys records, you hear the harmonies and the overdubbing and the layers and layers of guitars. That’s what ABBA did.”
Raffanelli said he’d always hoped to someday make it into the main showroom, and he DID! He recalls the story of the first time he saw the South Shore Room, which opened 50 years ago. He was an 11-year-old on a family vacation. “I ran in there and said, ‘Maybe someday I’ll work here.’ My parents said, ‘Come on, let’s get out of here before security throws us out.’”
Raffanelli grew up to be a successful performer and producer, and he met with Harrah’s Reno in 2002 to discuss a possible main room show. He presented three ideas. “The director of entertainment said, ‘Those were great but do you have anything else?’” Raffanelli said. “I register my car every year in February. The ABBA cassette was in the glove box, and I listened to it when I drove to the meeting. So when asked if I had anything more, I bluffed the whole idea of an ABBA show right on the spot. I had seen them in ’79. I said, ‘I’m going to do it just like I remembered in ’79. Everybody got so excited. I started it the next day.”
Raffanelli had hoped to have the show ready by October. Instead, it took nearly three years. “The biggest challenge was reproducing it like the record,” he said. “It took eight months just to isolate the vocals. We’d listen to every song, every vocal part.”
ABBACADABRA received a big boost in 2008 with the release of the movie “Mamma Mia!,” which featured the music of ABBA. “The movie is what really put it over the top getting all their albums and compilations selling again,” Greenberg said. “There was very catch songs and people loved them all across the world.”
ABBACADABRA was huge in Europe, Raffanelli said. “They stand and danced the entire show until we made them sit down and take a rest when we play ‘Fernando,’” he laughed.
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