Tuesday, January 27, 2009

That Rockbjörnen review (sorry it's late)

The annual Aftonbladet music awards ceremony - voted for by the people of Sweden, rather than any juries or music biz people - is 30 years old this year. Like any other trendy 30 year old it was "fashionably late" in starting but well worth the wait and I watched it live on the internet.

The show - held in Cirkus, Stockholm last Thursday, 22.01.09 - opened with a rendition of "Happy Birthday" by a couple of members of Soundtrack of Our Lives who then launched into some rather good retro-rock. I’m not too familiar with their music although I’m well aware that they’ve been around for a few years; I liked them tonight.

This year’s presenter, Per Sinding-Larsen was a big improvement on that awful one from last year, although he was a bit too hyperactive at times!

Putting the rock into Rockbjörnen this year was Poodles drummer Kicken who’s now achieved his own reality TV fame of late ("Dancing On Ice" ha ha) but he provided various rock-drumming interludes throughout the show to remind us of his day job.

Best Swedish Live Act: Håkan Hellström. Showman, entertainer, hugely popular and a man who knows that a velvet suit will always get extra points from me. I was impressed by his appearance on last year’s "Allsång" where he stole the show.
2nd - Lars Winnerback (why? This man’s appeal still escapes me)
3rd - In Flames. Third place was to be a recurring result for them tonight.

Next on stage, Markus Krunegård (above). 2008 was a big breakthrough for this floppy-fringed young man and he proved why he was considered one of the year’s exciting new discoveries in Sweden.

What I like about the Rockbjornen is that they’re firmly a Swedish award show - there are only two international categories and these are cheerfully brushed off as an irrelevance. None of this 57 nominations for Katy Perry/Rihanna/whoever. Oh by the way this year’s Best International Artist was Duffy (overrated helium-voiced bargain bin Amy) and Best International Group was Coldplay (that’s ok with me) so back to the really important stuff.

Best Swedish Female Artist: Amanda Jenssen. Dressed in a tight green frock, which I believe she had some trouble with (!) she was as reassuringly unhinged as ever. It was a good year for her too - I wonder if she will sustain her popularity over time?
2nd - Robyn. Loved by Swedes and everyone else, even though she hasn’t actually released anything really new in a while.
3rd: Miss Li. She’s a bit odd, I remember her on last year’s show and was speechless but I ‘get’ her a little more now.
Titiyo was the next live act on stage. Unfortunately the song wasn't as good as her considerable talents and presence deserve. "Stumble To Fall" actually became quite tiresome by the end.

Best Group: Takida.
Well well well! A 'Best Group' award not won by Kent!! Well done to the band whose "Curly Sue" single stayed in the Swedish chart all year.
2. Kent
3. In Flames

Another drum medley from Kicken and then it was on to the MySpace prize, won this year by Billie The Vision and the Dancers. I know that name from hanging out in blog-land but I hadn't even seen them or heard their music until this show. "Groovy" was a treat though, helped along by some inventive cross-dressing. Highly entertaining.

Throughout the night there were little inserts which I could have done without but these provided a good opportunity for a comfort break :) Something with Markoolio, The Knife, and snow for example.

Next on stage, Dundertåget. Let's raaaawk! Another act that put the Rock into Rockbjörnen.

Best Newcomer: Amanda Jenssen.
What a great year for her! It is a very "populist" award show and she is obviously very popular with the Swedish people right now.
2. Lykke Li
3. Markus Krunegård.

Another live performance, this time from Sugarplum Fairy and "The Escapologist". I was very impressed with them. I think the singer's got something to do with Mando Diao or related to someone in that band? He's certainly an appealing frontman with charisma reminiscent of a young Mick Jagger. Yet another Swedish band who could potentially have massive international success.

Best Album: "För Sent För Edelweiss" - Håkan Hellström.
I think I'll need to check out this album.
2. Kent
3. In Flames (yes I told you they were destined to be 3rd all night)

Now for one of the night's showstopping performances, from a quite frankly mental Lykke Li (above), with "Dance Dance Dance". My goodness, she goes a bit mad on stage doesn't she! Very memorable indeed.
Then, Kicken again. More drumming.
Next on stage, the return of Melody Club with their comeback song "Girls Don't Always Wanna Have Fun". Nice to see them back, although I still see a lot of similarity between them and The Ark. Actually it's about time The Ark was back too, if Ola can drag himself away from musical theatre (!!)

I loved Erik and Viktor's acoustic medley of this year's Best Song nominees. But guess what won?
Best Song: "Feelgood" - Ola
Always an Aftonbladet favourite, and we shouldn't be too surprised that he won this.
2. "Håll Ditt Huvud Högt" - Kent
3. "The Mirror's Truth" - In Flames (3rd again!)

That was the cue for a live performance from Ola, with a new haircut. For a moment I thought he'd bought Salem Al Fakir's hair and dyed it blond. It took a bit of getting used to, you know I love guys with curly hair but I wasn't really sure about Ola....but by the end of the song his hair was "growing on me" (sorry) and I liked that nice lilac bow tie too. He's such a good pop star, this boy.

I was really enjoying the show up to now, and my anticipation of a certain live performance was building up to fever pitch, but firstly...

Best Male Act - Lars Winnerbäck.
Did I ever say I didn't like him? That's right, I still don't. Miss Li collected his award.
2. Håkan Hellström
3. Danny Saucedo

Finally, the moment arrived that I had been waiting for. Salem Al Fakir (above) performing "It's Only You Part II" live on the Rockbjornen stage. To the average Swedish music fan it probably seems like he’s been away for a while: to us devoted fans he’s never been away!!

There has been virtually no promotion for "It’s Only You Part II" so hopefully his performance of the song at this ceremony might be enough to get the song back in the Swedish charts. Stood behind his piano wearing a big pink raincoat (!) Salem proceeded to give a sweet and touching performance, full of warmth and charm. I've already posted the link to the video over at Planet Salem but here it is anyway: http://www.aftonbladet.se/webbtv/noje/rockbjornen/article4245533.ab

Hellström and Winnerbäck may be the big crowd-pleasing acts of the moment, but they lack the absolute magic that Salem brings to his music - which is becoming more mature and displaying more emotional depth.

The next live act was Lisa Miskovsky, who I thought was excellent. She sang "Lady Stardust" which I wasn't really familiar with, but it had been a big hit in Sweden a few years ago for her.

And finally, the icing on the 30th birthday cake. Aftonbladet readers voted for the winners of the Lifetime Achievement award...the prize was awarded to some little-known Swedish combo called Abba (!!)

Cue an Abba medley from Club Killers, with some special guest vocalists. And then the surprise that no-one ever could have expected: Agnetha and Anni-Frid (above) appeared on stage to collect their award. Given that the two "Abba girls" very rarely make public appearances, and it's usually Benny and Bjorn who would do this kind of thing, then this really was a very special event which even got a mention in the British press!

All in all a great show which I enjoyed immensely. Roll on January 2010!

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