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When Abba chose to launch their North American tour in ... Edmonton

Swedish supergroup Abba chose to start their first North American tour in Edmonton. Fans there, including Wayne Gretzky, appreciated the decision.

Alberta capital chosen for its 'forgiving' audiences, as Abba got used to touring again

The group chose the Canadian city to launch their first North American tour because of the reputation of audiences there. 1:24

In 1979, Swedish pop supergroup Abba embarked on their first North American concert tour, and their choice of city for the launch was apparently not a random one.

It was carefully chosen — and it was Edmonton.

They arrived to great attention from local and international press, and as CBC reporter Christopher Walmsley described it "you could tell this was going to be interesting right from the start."

As Walmsley explained, the Sept. 13, 1979 concert was the group's first in over two years, and they needed a venue where they could "shake the bugs out of their show before hitting the big U.S. market."

The members of Abba are seen performing on a TV special in January of 1979, about eight months before they landed in Edmonton. (Ron Frehm/Associated Press)

"And there stands the reason why Abba chose Edmonton to launch their first-ever assault on the North American concert tour," Walmsley said.

"Edmonton audiences are forgiving and appreciative," he continued, and they provided the "morale boost" the group needed.

'A tingle down my spine'

Wayne Gretzky describes seeing a singer from Abba wearing his sweater. (Newsday/CBC Archives)

In the audience that night was 18-year-old Wayne Gretzky, a teenager whose early career as a player with the Edmonton Oilers was drawing superlatives.  

He was asked how he felt when singer Anni-Frid Lyngstad danced on the stage in a No. 99 Oilers sweater.

When Abba member Anni-Frid Lyngstad wore Wayne Gretzky's number 99 sweater it thrilled fans, including Gretzky himself. 0:32

"I was sitting there watching the concert and next thing you know one of the girls is coming out with my sweater on," Gretzky said.

"It got pretty good applause from people in the stands, and you know, it sent a tingle down my spine."

A need to tour

Abba recognized that capturing the North American market required a concert tour in 1979. 1:32

The group met with the press and explained why they had decided to tour North America.  

Andersson told reporters they recognized that they had been doing television and radio, but without any touring.

He noted that "it seems like not being available here in North America is definitely a disadvantage."

"We're sitting up there by the North Pole and not really realizing what's going on," he continued. "We're here to try to change that, when it comes to North America."

Bjorn Ulvaeus, Agnetha Faltskog, Anni-Frid Lyngstad and Benny Andersson are seen performing in November 1979. (Evening Standard/Getty Images)