Gothenburg, Sweden, 20th January 2020. Stora Teatern. I don’t know how many times I was walking past this theatre over the years whenever I was in Gothenburg. Since I’m a fan of theatres, I sometimes checked the schedule outside on the wall to see what plays they have to offer. I never thought that it would be a totally different event when I once sit in the audience in that building. At a concert. A tribute concert. For Marie Fredriksson.
The event was organized by SVT and it was broadcast a few days later on TV. Now you can watch it HERE.
The theatre has the capacity of appr. 600 people in the audience. After the invitations were sent out, 10 days before the date a couple of remaining tickets went on public sale. The event got sold out very fast.
Rehearsals for the concert started 1 week before it happened and day by day we got to know more and more about what to expect and also who to expect to perform. First it was announced that friends and members of Sweden’s artist elite gather to celebrate Marie’s fantastic music act and the event, En kväll för Marie Fredriksson would feature songs from Marie’s and Roxette’s song catalogue under the direction of Christoffer Lundquist. From the performing artists Per Gessle was among the first ones announced and together with him a list of musicians who collaborated with Marie were also mentioned in articles: Clarence Öfwerman, Jonas Isacsson, Anders Herrlin, Micke Syd Andersson, Pelle Alsing, Dea Norberg and Staffan Astner. A few days before 20th January some more names were revealed: Eva Dahlgren, Lasse Lindbom, Linnea Henriksson, Agnes Carlsson, Petra Marklund, Maja Ivarsson, Helena Josefsson, Anne-Lie Rydé, Sanne Salomonsen and Maja Francis.
While already in Gothenburg the day before the event, we met some of the musicians and they all prepared us for the concert being very emotional. They said they are focusing very much on their playing instead of what is on the screen behind them, old pictures and videos in the background, not to lose it. They were all sad and enthusiastic at the same time. You could see it means a lot to them to be there and do this for Marie. Sad and enthusiastic, heartbroken and excited, I could identify with these mixed feelings so well. On one hand, it’s terrible to see these words in one sentence connected to each other: tribute, event, for Marie. It should have never happened, she should have never left us. Not so early! On the other hand, there were all these great artists, fab musicians all of them to perform in memory of a wonderful person we all love so much.
The band was a mix of Marie’s solo band and Roxette’s bands from several periods. When was the last time you could see Jonas Isacsson and Per Gessle on the same stage, for example? Pelle Alsing and Micke Syd on the drums next to each other. Eva Dahlgren singing her friend’s most beloved song, Sparvöga. Lasse Lindbom performing another big ballad of Marie, Ännu doftar kärlek. So many other wonderful artists and details there.
In the audience there were many well-known faces. Just to mention a few, Mats MP Persson, Magnus Börjeson, Sven Lindström, Göran Fritzon, Thomas Johansson, Kjell Andersson, Lars Nordin, Helena von Zweigbergk. And of course many fans who came not only from Sweden, but Austria, Brazil, Czech Republic, Finland, Germany, Hungary, the Netherlands, Poland, Russia and Spain.
SVT wanted the audience to arrive at 18:00 to make sure they pick up their tickets and find their seats in time to be able to start the recording at 19:00. By the time we got in, the stage was ready, the cameras were set. The theatre is beautiful on the inside. The first 2 rows were taken away because of the cameras and stage setting, so the 3rd row was the 1st. Cameras were all around. In the front, on the stage, above us. We could see Marie Dimberg, Åsa and Gabriel Gessle to arrive to their places on the first balcony level. Åsa kindly waved back to the friends and fans who recognized her.
Before the concert started, a guy from SVT came up on stage and gave some information about how the recordings would work. He said it would be a 1.5-hour-long show on TV and they try to record it altogether, but there would be pauses between the songs to set the stage for the next song. He kindly asked us not to clap before the songs, but of course we were welcome to give an applause to all the fantastic artists after they performed. He was nice enough to tell some words in English too, knowing that there were several international fans.
After some directions for the light and sound technicians, as well as the camera men, the guy disappeared and it all started with Kattis Ahlström (Swedish journalist and TV presenter) coming up on stage, talking about Marie and introducing the gala. They recorded 3 takes of this intro. Kattis told that on 9th December 2019 we lost one of our absolute biggest and most beloved stars. Marie had a unique voice recognized not only in Sweden, but also all around the world. For over 40 years she was singing and writing songs that became part of our lives. No one else could write lyrics that could comfort us and give us hope. She could also describe the meaning of life and melancholy. But she could also laugh, dance, party and rock ’n’ roll. Kattis said there would be Marie’s friends, her musicians and some of Sweden’s best artists on stage. She also said there are many friends, colleagues and fans from around the world in the audience and she promised a very special evening.
Then the concert started. With which song? Tro. How the choir, Solid Gospel appeared on stage, Clarence started playing the keyboards and a young girl, Agnes Sarafian started singing, I lost it already at the beginning and burst out into tears with many others in the audience. It was such a touching version and a very strong start into the show.
The next performer was Linnea Henriksson, a Halmstad-born singer-songwriter whom most fans know from 2013 as she was the support act during the Gyllene Tider tour. She is a popular artist in Sweden and Marie was an inspiration to her. Actually, Marie had an impact on so many people’s lives. No matter if you are an artist or not, if you bumped into her or listened to her music, she never let you forget her. Linnea’s version of Efter stormen sounded great and you could hear she was so touched.
Between the songs there were short videos from Marie’s old interviews, performances, also pictures from the past appeared. The reporter in the docu part said it’s fascinating how some artists become more than their music. Marie was one of those artists who were not just recognized, but you could also look up at her. In an old video Marie says truth is important to her. She can’t hide her feelings. We probably didn’t know Marie Fredriksson. She was very private when she was off stage, but when you went to the concerts or listened to her songs it felt like she is a friend. In another old interview she says her heart is beating for the weak in society. When she was a little girl, she already thought back then that one has to help others. One can’t only think of oneself. It’s a natural feeling to her towards people. It has always been. She says she got letters where people wrote they didn’t feel alone anymore, her songs helped them. Marie sang better than most of the singers, but not only that. It never mattered in which genre she was singing, she could fill the melodies and lyrics with real emotions.
Ett hus vid havet, another beloved Marie ballad was next, performed by three ladies, Helena Josefsson, Dea Norberg and Maja Francis. I couldn’t hold my tears back again, thinking of Marie singing it on her solo tour just 6 years ago. When she made us all smile with her måsarna and båtarna and sang ”och göra som jag vill” with a strong emphasis. Unforgettable. The trio did a fab job, their voices fit together perfectly.
There was a short video interview with Petra Marklund next. She told she discovered Marie, an amazing artist when in their music class they got to perform Tro. The song is still so actual. From that day Marie became a big source of inspiration to her. She feels honoured to be here and sing.
After 3 Marie solo songs it was time for a Roxette power ballad, Listen To Your Heart. Thinking of the fact that we will never ever hear it again from our dear Marie… I know, I know… We already knew we wouldn’t hear it live again from her since 2016, but still. Now it is 100% sure and it breaks one’s heart. Petra Marklund was singing it in her own style, not trying to imitate Marie.
A short video docu part was coming again showing old pics and videos from Strul through Marie’s solo career to Roxette. The reporter said Marie loved to sing and perform on stage, but whenever the mic was changed to an interview microphone, she became shy and cautious. Media was never really her thing. On stage she became a supernova again. It was great to hear Miss Effe’s vocal range in this part.
Sparvöga, one of, if not the most important songs to Marie was definitely one of the biggest highlights during the event. Marie’s long-time friend, Eva Dahlgren singing it in her own style was heart-warming and heart-rending at the same time. Eva wrote on her Instagram that she has probably never cried so much backstage as on this gala. She could barely sing and she was holding Marie’s mic stand so tight. Everything is still unreal to her and will remain so.
Roxette came next. Things Will Never Be The Same was performed by Maja Francis. I’ve never heard about this girl before, but from the short video interview before the song it turned out Maja met Marie appr. 10 years ago when she moved to Stockholm. She was a classmate of Marie’s sister’s son and they were hanging out together. When she turned 20, they were out to eat something and she was asked if she could help Marie’s family out. She became a nanny, an assistant to Marie’s family for a year. They became Maja’s extra family and she always looked at Marie as a rock fairy. Marie taught her that one can be soft and tough at the same time. Maja said it’s tough to sing the song she goes up on stage with. She still hasn’t realized that Marie is gone. She is still here and she will be there when Maja is singing the song. She is everywhere. Maja did a special version of the song and Christoffer Lundquist was also singing on TWNBTS and he also sounded wonderful.
To my surprise, there was an interview with Efva Attling, also very close friend to Marie. This interview was not shown in the theatre, but it was done inside the theatre, probably backstage. It’s a nice addition. Kattis and Efva are standing in front of some of Marie’s paintings. Marie was interested in painting and her first exhibition was of charcoal drawings, then she started using colours. One of the drawings is very special to Efva. She was at a sunglasses fair in Paris when Eva Dahlgren (they are a couple) called her and told she bought a drawing at Marie’s exhibition. Title of the drawing is ”Kära Efva” (Dear Efva) and it of course portrays Efva. Efva tells she met Marie in 1981 when she was doing backing vocals for the Lasse Lindbom Band in Stockholm. She wanted to help Marie a little with her hairdo and make-up. They went to the dressing room and Efva took out scissors. Marie’s hairdresser said she shouldn’t show her eyebrows, but Efva liked them, so she cut Marie’s hair. Back then there was no hair mousse, so they used shaving cream and they created a cool hairdo. When they went out in town, she introduced her to everyone saying here is my new friend. She is from Halmstad and she is a fantastic singer. Marie only said Oh my God. Efva says Marie was so much love and she had such a good sense of humour. They laughed a lot, but they were also fighting sometimes, like real friends do. Efva says family was very important to Marie. She knew exactly when Marie fell in love. Once Marie told her she met Mikael Bolyos on a tour. Efva went on tour with Roxette to the US, that was her present when she turned 40. She went to San Diego, San Francisco and Los Angeles. Micke came to Los Angeles too and then Efva told Marie she will leave the room for them then. Haha. They went to a restaurant and Micke told Marie she should try the scampi. Marie agreed and then Efva knew she was in love, because she never ate seafood. Marie always said she is so thankful for her family. Efva finishes the interview with Marie’s words, ”Thank God for booze, make-up and hydrogen peroxide.”
Right after this there came a video interview with Anne-Lie Rydé who told she met Marie at Atlantis in Stockholm, a late night in 1982. They met in the ladies’ room and while Anne-Lie was looking into the mirror she heard from behind her Marie asking if she is Anne-Lie Rydé. Anne-Lie said yes, it’s her. And Marie introduced herself. Anne-Lie didn’t know what to say, because she was mad at Marie. She had no clue about who she was, but she had stolen a duet song Anne-Lie would have been making together with Lasse Lindbom. They recorded it, everything was done, but then she heard it on the radio and it was Marie singing. Anne-Lie just thought who the hell is Marie Fredriksson. So their first meeting was wonderful. One could never get angry with Marie. They became friends right then. The strongest musical memory is when they were on the Badrock tour in 1988, sitting on a little beach in Borgholm and Roxette was soon to release their next album. They hadn’t break through yet internationally, but they were huge in Sweden. Marie wanted to show Anne-Lie their new single and Anne-Lie thought it was such a good song. It was Dressed For Success. She said it feels good to perform this song here tonight with another fantastic woman on stage.
So the next one was Dressed For Success, performed by Anne-Lie Rydé and Sanne Salomonsen. They are still rocking and with all respect to Sanne, I was really grateful to her, because I could have a rest from all the tears I cried before. Once this recording took place, I found the fun part in the event too. There were 3 takes of this song. Anne-Lie started singing her part with full energy, she was amazing. Then Sanne entered the stage and she forgot the lyrics. Dea tried to help her out, but it took a bit of time until Sanne found her way back. She came to the front rocking, not really caring about the missing words. Actually, here I have to tell again what I already mentioned during the last Roxette tour that Dea is just amazing how she as a backing vocalist feels the vibes of all the artists and makes their performance even better. She immediately helps wherever she can. Her support is wonderful. Always was so supportive towards Marie too. After the first take of DFS, the same SVT guy who talked to us in the beginning came up on stage and told it was so good they would do another take of it. Anne-Lie stood at her place and started again with the same full energy as for the first take. Sanne came up on stage, but this time somehow she couldn’t enter the song at the right spot, so she stopped the recording and asked to start again. The SVT guy came and told they are happy to do a third take. We all laughed when Anne-Lie said she is not 60 anymore. Haha. But who cares, she still rocked it big time and the third take turned out to be fantastic. I was amazed that the typical DFS clapping choreography supported by Micke Syd and Dea in the background worked out so fine too, with the seated audience. And that during the third take was the strongest, so in the end it’s great they had to start it all again 3 times. I think we all needed that.
Marie’s great collaboration with Lasse Lindbom resulted in several wonderful songs. Actually, they wrote 26 songs together. Ännu doftar kärlek is one of them. The lead single of Marie’s debut solo album is one of the most beautiful ballads, still played on weddings all around Sweden for example. Pictures of couples were shown in the background. Couples of all possible combinations. Because love is love. Lasse was there to perform this song. He was moved you could see and hear it. He started it alone, with a guitar in his hand, the band playing and later Linnea Henriksson also appeared to sing the second half together.
The next performer was Maja Ivarsson, Swedish singer and lead vocalist of the indie rock band The Sounds. In the short video interview with her she told about her band’s break-through in the US and that one blonde already did that before and it was Marie Fredriksson. Marie had a big impression on Maja, she always thought Marie is a fantastic singer, she had great stage presence and she is a fantastic songwriter. That they all miss in Sweden these days. She thinks Marie was a very cool chick with attitude on stage. When Maja entered the stage, she went to the mic stand and said it was Marie’s, but now it’s hers. I’ve never heard of her before and this way I never heard her singing, but how she performed Sleeping In My Car, oh wow. She ruled the stage, the mic, the audience. At the end she dropped the mic and it was absolutely cool. A real rocker! After the event I read in articles that it was Per who picked her to perform SIMC. Good choice, I would say.
In a short video before the next song, Dea Norberg and Christoffer Lundquist were talking about being on tour with Roxette and the hundreds of hours they spent backstage with Marie, singing together, warming up for the concerts. Dea says she has always been impressed by Marie’s strength and power. Chris says she impressed many people around her, also the fans. She was so present all the time. The duo performed an energetic version of Om du såg mej nu. Marie wrote this song to her father who died prior to her achieving any success.
There came a docu block again, showing old footage of Marie receiving awards and talking about the ’80s and ’90s, her balancing between Per’s pop hits in English and her more personal Swedish solo albums, the break-through, the 4 US No. 1’s. The energy in a sold-out stadium with a sing-along crowd is one of the most powerful things. Probably that was one of the things that made her come back after years of illness and rehabilitation, to travel around the world with Roxette again. It was the stage where she felt the most at home. And although we probably didn’t really know Marie, it seems she knew the audiences well. In an old interview she says music is what she lives for, it’s her way of conveying what she feels.
Per Gessle. The time has come. And it was the hardest time for all. Per entering the stage, stepping to his place, a mic stand next to him without Marie behind it and an old pic of Marie and Per shown in the background. The saddest moments during the whole event. There was no way to hold the tears back when Per started singing It Must Have Been Love. With only an acoustic guitar played by him and Christoffer accompanying him. The pause after the first chorus also had its depressing effect on me. Then the background changed to dark with lights like stars over there and Agnes Carlsson walked in. The only song I knew from Agnes was Release Me. I never thought she had such an amazing, powerful voice for ballads. She was not trying to imitate Marie at all, but her voice was the closest to Miss Effe’s. I can’t imagine how hard it must have been for her to step into Marie’s place in this song, but she did it with all respect and humility. It was heart-breaking to see Per on stage while Agnes was singing. His facial expressions said it all. And the tears were just falling from my eyes. Another song that reminded me that we won’t ever hear it in the way we loved it the most. Per looking at Marie or putting his hand on Marie’s shoulder before she started singing ”Lay a whisper…”, like they did on all concerts during the past tours. A touch that won’t ever happen again, a voice we won’t ever hear live again, two most beloved people we will never see standing next to each other again. The applause at the end of the song was so loud. It deserved it.
After IMHBL Per stayed on stage, changed the guitar and performed their first US No. 1 hit. The song they broke through with internationally. Helena and Dea also came to the front for The Look. I loved the way they entered, hugging Per, ensuring him he can count on their support. And do I have to mention it was fantastic to have Jonas Isacsson there? THE king of riffs indeed. Amazing! The continuous clapping by the audience, still on during the fake ending… it was overwhelming. Goosebumps! Then Per and Chris playing their guitars like they do on tours, back to back to each other, enjoying the vibes, it was lovely to see them so. Per said thanks to the audience after the song and went off stage while the crowd was still clapping loudly for a longer time.
The planned ending of the concert for the TV broadcast was how it started, with Solid Gospel on stage. We could hear Marie’s original vocals and the choir joined in. They performed a wonderful version of Den bästa dagen. No dry eyes at this point either.
The event should have ended, but then Christoffer told the recording for TV is over, but they thought they would perform an extra song for the crowd. The musicians on stage played it with Roxette on tour, but never at the same time, since they are parts of the band from different eras. He asked Clarence to start it. The extra was Fading Like A Flower and Helena and Dea performed it. Guitar solos were played by Chris, Staffan and Jonas and there was a crowd singalong too. I saw the cameras were still recording it and hoped for it to appear on TV too, if not as part of the broadcast, then maybe as an extra video. Fortunately, it still fit in the schedule, so it’s available for everyone to watch at the very end of the video. It was worth recording and sharing it, because it was a great version.
After the extra song we all got up from our seats in the audience and gave a very well-deserved standing ovation. It lasted for minutes. All in all it was a magical evening, an extremely emotional tribute to our dear Marie Fredriksson. Hats off to all the artists, musicians, the choir, the technicians, the band’s crew, the TV crew, the theatre staff for making it happen and for Christoffer an extra hats-off for the arrangements.
It was hard for all the artists who have always been close to Marie to be there and perform. Some of them I already mentioned above and I have to add Anders Herrlin who was there on stage during the whole concert, playing the bass in the front, being the most visible next to the performers and Christoffer. It must have been tough for him, you could see the emotions on his face all the time. Clarence, Pelle, Micke Syd, Staffan and Jonas were less visible, having their spots a bit further in the back, but their musical addition to the concert showed they were also moved. Seeing them on TV you can sense they had a hard time too. It was probably also tough for those who were maybe not so close to Marie, but had her as an inspiration, to kind of step into her place and sing her songs. For the audience it was difficult too. But as tough as it was, it was so beautiful at the same time. Not wanting to use any clichés, but it really felt like we are one big family. One could feel that huge dose of love spreading on and off stage.
Many asked if Marie’s family was there. I didn’t see them and I’m sure it would have been too much for them in their pain, but whenever they will decide to watch the TV version, I’m sure they will also feel the love and magic we all felt there.
The most emotional songs for me were: Tro, Sparvöga, It Must Have Been Love and Den bästa dagen. Per said in a radio interview the day after the event that it felt like a farewell. It did feel like that indeed. But Marie lives on. In our hearts, ears and minds forever. The most awesome singer on Earth and beyond won’t ever be forgotten.
- Tro (Solid Gospel)
- Efter stormen (Linnea Henriksson)
- Ett hus vid havet (Helena Josefsson, Dea Norberg and Maja Francis)
- Listen To Your Heart (Petra Marklund)
- Sparvöga (Eva Dahlgren)
- Things Will Never Be The Same (Maja Francis and Christoffer Lundquist)
- Dressed For Success (Anne-Lie Rydé and Sanne Salomonsen)
- Ännu doftar kärlek (Lasse Lindbom and Linnea Henriksson)
- Sleeping In My Car (Maja Ivarsson)
- Om du såg mej nu (Dea Norberg and Christoffer Lundquist)
- It Must Have Been Love (Per Gessle and Agnes Carlsson)
- The Look (Per Gessle – with Helena Josefsson and Dea Norberg)
- Den bästa dagen (Marie Fredriksson and Solid Gospel)
- Fading Like A Flower (Helena Josefsson and Dea Norberg)
All pictures in the article are stills from the event broadcast on SVT.
You can watch the video on SVT Play until 23rd July 2020.