Vladimir Putin flies in Bjorn Again for Abba tribute concert
The world knows Vladimir Putin as Russia?s judo expert Prime Minister and former KGB spy. Now it can add Super Trouper to his image after he revelled in a secret Abba concert arranged by the Kremlin.
"It was the smallest audience we have ever performed to but Mr Putin was really enjoying it, shouting ?bravo? and clapping with the others," said Ms McLaughlin. "He was dancing along in his seat to Super Trouper and raised his hands in the air during Mamma Mia when we asked the audience to." Bjцrn Again performed despite the distraction of a burly security guard who sat in front of the stage watching their every move. Band members were under strict instructions never to leave the stage during the show.
They were not invited to meet Mr Putin when it was all over. Instead, the band was taken back to their barracks while the Prime Minister and his guests watched a fireworks display.
"Everybody was dressed up - Mr Putin was in a bow tie and the woman was in a really pretty, long, cream dress," said Ms McLaughlin. "I assume it was his wife but I only got a glimpse of her because of the netting." Mr Putin was accused last year - falsely - by the newspaper Moscow Korrespondent of divorcing his wife, Lyudmilla, to marry Alina Kabaeva, a beautiful Olympic gymnast half his age. He icily dismissed the allegation. The newspaper, owned by Alexander Lebedev - who bought the Evening Standard in London recently - later retracted the story.
Rod Stephen, the founder of Bjцrn Again, said that the group had arrived at the theatre to find that all the stage equipment they needed had been bought brand new for the show. Security was so tight that one of the band was advised not to go for a walk in the grounds afterwards because there were snipers around the theatre.
Mr Stephen said that he had initially thought it was a prank call when an official rang to arrange the trip. "He said he was calling from the Kremlin and wanted to organise a concert for the No 2 person in Russia. I thought it was Putin but nobody was saying anything," Mr Stephen said.
"The band were a bit gobsmacked by the net curtain. But Mr Putin got into the spirit of it and had a great time - they all knew the Abba songs very well."
Although Mr Putin has not previously revealed himself as a fan of the Seventies Swedish supergroup, his fondness for parties is well documented. The Russian leader is a frequent visitor to Silvio Berlusconi?s villa in Sardinia, where he has been entertained by showgirls and dancers from the Italian Prime Minister?s media empire.
The Putin playlist consisted of:
Arrival; Waterloo; Gimme, Gimme, Gimme (A Man after Midnight); Super Trouper; Honey Honey; Knowing Me, Knowing You; Ring Ring; Fernando; Voulez-Vous; Lay All Your Love on Me; Money, Money, Money; Take a Chance on Me; Mamma Mia; Dancing Queen; Thank You for the Music