Russia’s Putin pays thousands for secret ‘Abba’ show

Former Russian president and apparent avid Abba-fan Vladimir Putin paid £20,000 ($29,000) to fly an Abba cover band from the UK to Russia to perform a private concert for him at a remote resort.

Russia's Putin pays thousands for secret 'Abba' show
Olle Lindeborg/Scanpix (File); AP (File)

“It was the most bizarre gig I have ever done,” said Jennifer Robb of the Björn Again Abba-cover band to the Daily Telegraph newspaper.

Plans for the concert, which took place on January 22nd at Lake Valdai resort, nine hours outside Moscow began taking shape sometime before Christmas when Björn Again founder Rod Stephens received a mysterious phone call.

“The voice on the end of the phone said, ‘Kremlin… Russia… Moscow… we want your band’,” he told the Telegraph.

But the call was no joke, and about a month later the band found itself on a plane bound for Moscow.

Security at the resort was extremely tight, recalled Robb.

“We arrived at a building which looked like a big stronghold with metal security gates. We had to put all our belongings through an X-ray machine,” she said.

“At one point I went outside to get some fresh air and there was a man with a machine gun who said something in Russian and made it very clear that I wasn’t allowed to wander anywhere on my own.”

And instead of taking the stage in front of a concert hall full of fans, the band members found themselves playing to a room featuring three couches.

“The prime minister was wearing a tuxedo and bow tie. The others were all men and wearing tuxedos too,” said Robb, adding that she suspected the audience members were likely security guards.

But the surreal atmosphere didn’t stop Björn Again from putting on a show dazzling enough to move the usually stone-faced Prime Minister Putin to burst into song during the band’s rendition of Honey Honey, according to Robb.

The band’s set, which also included such hits as Waterloo, Money, Money, Money, Dancing Queen and Mamma Mia, apparently met Putin’s expectations.

“At the end, the prime minister shouted ‘bravo, bravo’ and gave us great applause,” said Robb.

Band founder Stephens initially thought £20,000 was a fair sum to earn for the private, hour-long show, but upon realizing the depth of Putin’s love for Abba, he’s having second thoughts.

“I wish I’d asked for twice as much now,” he told the newspaper.

It’s not the first time Abba has emerged as a favourite among international leaders and politicians – John McCain also recently admitted he was a fan and Queen Elizabeth has even been reported as owning a number of Abba records.