After years of listening to Swedish pop via record, CD, downloads and, more recently Youtube, I have now listened, watched, experienced, and danced to it, in its natural environment.
I went out last night to Lino. Although as an Australian I was tempted to refer to it as “lie-no”, of course it’s actually “lee-no”. In researching this trip, I’ve been looking at online, and the photographs of the crowd always seemed to indicate it was a pretty cool place. Maybe too cool for me, I thought. As I entered last night, I walked around for a bit of a reccy. There was an outdoor courtyard playing generic “cool music” where people were smoking. I must write sometime about the Swedes and smoking by the way. There was a room where they were playing generic kinda housey-disco. There was another bar of an indescript nature. But of course, I settled into the “schlager bar”. The bar was a fairly even mixture of men and women out for a good time on a Saturday night. OK maybe two thirds male and one third female, to be honest. They were all boozing up and singing along with the music. The music was loud, by the way, and definitely Swedish. And on the television screens they were playing this year’s Melodifestivalen DVD.
After years of waiting to experience something like this, I actually became a little bit teary for a moment. And then, of course, they played “Crying At The Discoteque” which is one of my favourites from the last ten years. “Oh my God”, I thought this is it… “some absolutely classic Swedish disco in an absolutely classic Swedish disco”. And then…“Mamma Mia” came on. OH MY GOD. At that point I thought I had died and gone to heaven. You know how in Sydney when you go out and ABBA comes on, it can sound a bit “rinky-dinky”, and is usually only played in a “retro” context for a bit of novelty value? Well last night, “Mamma Mia” sounded totally contemporary and totally in context with the rest of the music played.
Oddly enough they sometimes played the same songs over and over again in quick succession, which I thought was strange for a nightclub. The DJ last night, though, clearly LOVED the music he was playing, and it was infectious. The American tourists standing near me were totally overwhelmed by the sight of hundreds of people singing along to pop songs in Swedish. You could see the look of bewilderment on their faces as they walked through to the outdoor bar.
I don’t recall what time I got home, but it was just starting to become daylight, so I guess it was about 3.00am.
I got a little teary also tonight at the Peter Joback and Eva Dahlgren concert at Skansen. I’ve been aware of Peter’s work since he appeared on the original CD for “Kristina fran Duvemala”. Along the way, I’ve picked up three other CDs. I wasn’t, however, really aware of Eva Dahlgren (nor her work), though I knew she was a legendary Swedish “rock chick”. Without the intimate knowledge of their respective back catalogues, I lacked some of the instant familiarity with the work enjoyed by the rest of the audience. Also, because all of the songs were in Swedish (along with all of the patter in between), I sometimes found myself a little confused. I could understand the basic premise of some of the anecdotes, but the punchlines usually went over my head. Although there was a funny bit relating to musical instruments. As an encore, they began a song together playing recorders (flute things) of differing size. When Peter said something along the lines of wishing he had the bigger one, Eva responded along the lines of “of course you do”. I understood that joke perfectly.
I had an excellent seat on the far left-hand side of the second row. I’m reasonably sure Lena Ulvaeus (Bjorn’s wife) and daughters were sitting in the same row, though I’m not sure, as I haven’t seen photographs of them for a while. She did, however, laugh and scratch her nose during an extended anecdote about Bjorn and Benny. But the concert itself? Wow, what a great experience. Peter is a much better singer live than I’ve ever heard captured on CD. He has a lovely voice which can both be gentle and soar, and really has a “joyous” quality to it. He seems to sing well effortlessly. Eva also had a wonderful voice, which really shone when she sang slow and gentle ballads. Most memorable was a song with the recurring line about “I saw you” which was sung beautifully and with passion. The song which made my eyes well up, though, was “Stockholm i Natt”, one of Peter’s recent hit songs. It’s a love song about Stockholm in effect, as it takes you on a journey around the city, with specific mentions of places like Medborgarplatsen and events such as the assasination of Anna Lindh in 2003. And so I’m sitting there, listening to a wonderful song sung by a great performer, about a terrific place that I’ve longed to visit for many years, and I’m looking at both him and the wonderful Swedish summer evening… so of course my eyes welled up. Does life get any better, I thought to myself. And I really loved their third encore, yes third, a song called “Juni, Juli, Augusti”. I know this sounds all very dramatic for those in Europe who can regularly go to Stockholm and have this experience, but for a kid from the bush in Australia, it’s all very exciting indeed.
Afterwards I followed the crowd out and caught the ferry from Djurgarden to Slussen. I couldn’t believe how many people they managed to squeeze on board. Catching the ferry, I was squeezed in tightly between a couple of gay boys and a male/female couple. Needing to steady myself I held on to the railing. And then the woman kinda lent against me and plopped (and rested) her left boob on my hand. I’ve had to totally re-think my attitudes to personal space since arriving in Stockholm, clearly.