When Andy and I first started the blog, we had no contact whatsoever with Rachel or anyone who knew her. I reckoned that would need to change if we were going to move to the next level.
After a little research, I contacted Karen in early June. She had been running Rachel's main IDA Facebook Group and I reckoned that she must know a bit about Rachel to be in that role.
This turned out to be one of my best decisions, as Karen was not only a close friend of Rachel's, but also an excellent communicator and a passionate supporter.
Karen's contribution was invaluable, supplying advice, articles, info and photos.
But Karen is also a highly talented artist in her own right. She has performed in myriad theatre productions and possesses a beautiful voice. As well as writing and performing songs with hubby Richard, Karen regularly appears on stage as Abba's Agnetha in the Legends Tribute Show.
So when she mentioned that the show would be visiting the INEC Centre in Killarney, we decided to go and make a weekend of it.
Killarney was a brisk six hour drive, and we stayed in the Quality Inn, which really did live up to it's name. We got the best hotel room we've ever had and the food, kids entertainment and service were excellent.
We arrived late on Friday and had an early night. First thing on Saturday morning, Karen texted us with a lovely welcome message.
We went out for the day to Muckross House, a huge country estate on the outskirts of Killarney, featuring beautiful waterfalls, spacious grounds, an interactive farm (we even got to milk a cow!) and horse and trap rides. Despite the bizarre weather -- warm but constantly raining -- we had a great day.
Karen had arranged to meet us in the bar of the Gleneagles Hotel where the show was being held.
I must admit to being slightly nervous. Meeting someone who you've corresponded closely with can often be a strange experience. But I needn't have worried. Karen was a even nicer person in reality than online, and really easy to talk to.
We went into the ballroom at about 9pm and found a good table in front of the stage.
The show consisted of three tributes -- the Bee Gees, who were impressive particularly in the vocal department (you try singing falsetto for an hour) and Elvis, who spent much of his act in the audience, really getting the crowd going. Talking of the crowd, they were certainly a lively bunch, well up for a dance and by the time Abba took the stage at about 11.30 they were raring to go. The place was packed -- the hotel had to open another seating area to get everyone in, and it was soon obvious as to why.
Karen (Agnetha) and Amanda (Frida) looked absolutely fantastic. Bjorn and Benny did their best, but seriously was anyone actually looking at them?
Kicking off with the awesome intro of 'Gimmee Gimmee Gimmee', the girls immediately stole the show. They were having tremendous fun on stage and the audience were on their feet straightaway. I particularly liked the segue into Madonna's 'Hung Up', before a great rendition of 'Honey Honey', one of Abba's more neglected tracks.
Karen and Amanda conversed in adorable Swedish accents between songs and encouraged the rubbish dancers like me to do the 'finger dance; to the intro of 'Mamma Mia.'
Speaking of which, we saw the film in the cinema recently and as you'll see from my review below, I was very disappointed. Comparing Karen's show to the film was rather like comparing a Porsche to a moped. The tribute show was all about fun, authenticity and above all great voices -- Meryl Streep take note!
Karen's rendition of 'The Winner Takes It All', a tough test for any vocalist, was superb. Rachel described Karen's voice as wonderful -- she was spot on.
Fourteen Abba songs were shoe-horned into just over an hour, including 'Dancing Queen', 'Mamma Mia', 'Fernando', 'Super Trouper' and my personal favourite, the bittersweet 'Knowing Me Knowing You.'
I filmed part of the performance, a little of which I've included here.
The closing number was 'Waterloo' which I filmed from the dancefloor -- not easy when everyone is going crazy. You'll notice the stage invasions by various drunken eejits -- I particularly like the one where Karen shoves the bloke off stage.
After the performance, Karen met us again for another chat. She was just absolutely lovely -- I can't say anything too good about her.
We had a brilliant night -- my daughter was up dancing through Karen's entire set and already wants to know when we're going again.
It was a priviledge and a pleasure to meet Karen and I want to thank her so much for making us feel so welcome.
Why not give your ears a treat and listen to Karen's beautiful vocals? Here is a link to her Myspace page. My particular favourite is 'Too Dependent.'