I'm no royalist, but I continue to be strangely fascinated by the Swedish Royal Family. One of their annual rituals is the annual celebration of Crown Princess Victoria’s birthday on 14th July - Victoriadagen as it is known. The event is also celebrated with an outdoor concert every year, which is also televised by SVT. The Swedish royals would not only appear to be more grounded than our house of Windsor, but they also have a significantly more attractive gene pool. Victoria is reasonably pretty, and natural, and seems likeable enough. And then of course there is Prince Carl Philip...I rest my case.
It was at this concert two years ago that I first discovered my favourite singer, Salem Al Fakir. Mans Zelmerlow was also on the bill that night; so I was very interested to see both of them on the bill for this year's concert.
This year there was an extra seat in the front row, with the added ingredient of Victoria's new fiancé Daniel Westling along for the festivities.
Host Mark Levengood - is he Finnish? he seemed to speak Swedish with a Finnish accent - brought a calm and respectful tone to the proceedings, which includes fundraising appeals for the princess' charity fund which supports disabled children.
What interested me most of course was the music - Lena and Orup got the party started with "Nu När Du Gott". Of course these two have been particular favourites of mine over the last 20 years - and their professionalism remains in no doubt. I still got the feeling though that the parts are greater than the whole, as I didn't get the same enjoyment from their album as a duo that I did from their solo albums.
Was very excited to see Måns Zelmerlöw next. He seems to be developing a tradition of alternative-acoustic-versions of his hits, and he did the same with "Hope and Glory" although my mum thought that this was inferior to the original. He is still a very good artist though and I can see him having a long career.
Kalle and Bengan next with a bit of folk, which was ok if that's your bag. Swiftly followed by Jill Johnson, who firstly came to our attention in 1998 when she represented Sverige @ ESC, but since that time she has reinvented herself as Sweden’s queen of country music. Again this isn’t really my type of music, but she is a very good singer and very good at what she does.
Next up, Malena Ernman who IMHO got a bit too much time on this concert....again she is very good in her field (opera) but I get the feeling she probably wouldn’t have got the same exposure if she hadn’t won MF.
So, to the real star of the show, Salem Al Fakir. For those not familiar with this underrated Swedish musical genius, he was as ever a very appealing vision with his messy curls, dressed in a white shirt, black trousers and of course his trademark braces. He got Vicky & Dan clapping, and commanded the stage like the true showman that he is, and vocally he was perfect on a confident version of "Astronaut".
Back to Måns, who performed a lively "Cara Mia" which got everyone smiling and clapping - what an entertainer he is. Malena again, backed by Kalle & Bengan. Time to fast forward....to Salem Al Fakir, who was back with my favourite song of his - "Good Song" which again got the crowd clapping along. Salem looked as if he enjoyed every single minute of this, and his enjoyment was infectious. His pop/soul/jazz vocals have never sounded better: the man is a true star.
After Victoria dishing out her annual-stipendiet it was time for Malena and "La Voix" which left me cold. Then Jill again, then MZW with a kids’ choir, entertaining us with his latest single "Hold On". I've probably got a few songs on the album which I like more than this one, but he never disappoints.
Finally, the return of Lena and Orup with a very enjoyable medley of their hits. (It would have been more intriguing if they had sung each other's songs, but maybe that's just my wishful thinking?) The show closed with Bengan and Kalle and all the performers back on stage to sing a couple of songs for to the princess.
Rumour has it that this annual celebration will no longer take place following Victoria and Daniel's wedding in June 2010. I hope this won't be the case, as I look forward to this event every year.
You can watch this year's "Grattis Kronprinsessan" at SVT's website: http://svtplay.se/v/1625278/kungahuset/grattis_kronprinsessan. The show will be available to watch until 14th August 2009: well worth watching too, especially at the 35 minutes and 50 minutes mark :)))