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REVIEW: Rajaton offers a new look at ABBA in Sioux City Symphony concert

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The Finnish group Rajaton joined the Sioux City Symphony Orchestra Saturday to perform "The Music of ABBA." 

If you were at the Sioux City Symphony Orchestra concert Saturday night, you probably learned there’s more to ABBA’s music than catchy lyrics and a driving beat.

Comprised of six singers, Rajaton ran through most of the hits while executing a show choir’s worth of choreography. Because there are two more singers than the original ABBA, Rajaton often switched up the vocals, letting Ahti Pauna, for example, sing “When All is Said and Done” with just the orchestra.

The big numbers – “Mamma Mia,” “Dancing Queen” and “Thank You For the Music” -- got more traditional presentations and plenty of audience participation. At one point, Hannu Lepola even jumped into the audience and made sure others were joining in.

While the concert didn’t seem like other tributes – no one filled specific roles, no one offered up the group’s history – it did serve a big dose of nostalgia.

The six wore black and gold in the first act, silver and black in the second and weren’t afraid to joke around.

Essi Wuorela admitted ABBA created upbeat songs about misery. Finnish people, she added, were probably good at singing those songs: “We have good misery.”

While there were several traditional band elements to some of the songs, “The Music of ABBA” wasn’t like the Don Felder concert in February. Here, the orchestra was an integral part of the presentation, not an add-on.

Those a cappella turns (“Head Over Heels” and “Fernando”) had beat boxing, distinctive moves and a fresh approach to old numbers. Bassist Jussi Chydenius, who handled the vocal percussion sounds, was able to get breastbones vibrating with his ability to go oh-so-low.

Toss in “SOS,” “Chiquitita,” “Gimme! Gimme! Gimme!” and the night was about as satisfying as a ‘70s tribute could get without jumpsuits and platform shoes.

Aili Ikonen and Soila Sariola, who also got solo turns, helped expand the repertoire and make listeners wonder what Rajaton might do with their takes on Queen and the Beatles, two other groups they’ve saluted. A repeat appearance? Not a bad idea.

Also at the concert, symphony officials unveiled the 2022-23 season, which includes the return of Siouxland natives John Osborn and Ron Clements.

The former will join his wife Lynette Tapia for a night of opera classics; the latter, an acclaimed animation director, will attend the “Aladdin” in concert presentation. As with “The Wizard of Oz” and other films, the orchestra will play the music while the movie is projected.

The 2021-22 season concludes June 11 with “Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone” at the Tyson Events Center.


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