Monday, 30 August 2010

Salem Al Fakir/Gävle Symfoniorkester, Dalhalla 21.08.2010 : Review by Eva Jonson

Last night I promised you all a very special review of a very special show....written by a very special person - my very good friend Eva.

This has been well worth waiting for - and you are all going to enjoy reading it!

Prior to the concert, some of us had not yet taken our seats as we were expecting the concert to be opened by a supporting act, as told on the tickets. From standing at the small "plaza" above the auditorium, we heard the orchestra play the famous intro of Richard Strauss’s "Also sprach Zarathustra" and maybe we should have realised something was going on, but we were just chattering on ...

However, suddenly we heard a familiar drum beat – Red Rock! – and got running down the quite steep stairs to get our seats close to the stage! You could say we were late, I’d say we made a "Grande Entrée" ... At the meet and greet just before the show, Salem had encouraged us to get places close to the stage and to sit together if we wanted to, and in the end most of us did. I had a ticket for a seat at the tenth row, but got to sit in the second. OK, so now for the list of songs:

Red Rock
I have to admit I was a bit whimsy at first, so I can’t really say much of Red Rock, other than that it sounded really good. It’s well suited to be played in this kind of setting, as it has that "symphony" sound to it already on the studio version.

It’s Only You (pt II)
No matter how much I enjoy seeing Salem jumping up and down behind his keyboards, it’s lovely to see him seated behind the grand piano, like a true concert pianist. Lots of "ding-a-ling"-ing sounds from the orchestra in this one, such as triangles and the like, acting as both melody and percussion ingredients.

The seated crowd now started to loosen up, clapping and standing (we did our best to lead them on from the front rows!). The blend between this 80’s soft-rock pastiche and the sound of a symphony orchestra certainly makes for a fun and easy-going quality that puts a smile on your face.

I have to highlight especially the beautiful instrumental "interlude" / bridge, which suddenly tips the sound over clearly to the classical side. All in all, a nice arrangement with lots of horns and strings.

Cowboys and Dinosaurs
Salem introduces the song in his own, inimitable way: "Imagine two cowboys lying on a hill ... in a valley below them, big Brontosaurus are walking by".

A very delicate arrangement where the band has left the stage. Salem on guitar playing the "splitted chords", backed up by lovely staccato strings while the melody is being played by the orchestra – at first more prominently by light-tuned wind instruments, and at the end more by the string section. Someone shakes a tin sheet to make "windy sounds". Sami backs up the vocal part ("aaaa...") towards the end of the song. Very beautiful indeed!

Purple Lady
Salem back at the piano. The band comes back in on stage and takes part in the still very fine-tuned atmosphere. Again, light wind instruments and strings lead the way. Tremendously sensitive and anticipating vocals by Salem, which enhances the curious and mysterious qualities of this lovely song. A children’s song for grown-ups?

After this song, Salem presents the band members, conductor Hans Ek and the Gävle Symphony Orchestra. Then, he presents a song that he thinks many will recognise ...

Good Song
This wonderful, melodic song goes extremely well with the symphonic setting; the intro is to die for with those goopy strings in the background... (I mean that in a good way!) Now, we’re suddenly in a jazz club – or perhaps, for a few seconds, in a gospel church? Salem sure knows how to blend out the boundaries of music.

4 O’Clock
This might seem like the odd bird at a concert hall such as Dalhalla, but no need to worry – Everyone, and I mean EVERYONE, is clapping along at Salem’s instructions! The live solo at the end of the song, which is normally played on the synth, here gets more the character of rhythm piano. At the very last moments though, the orchestra is quiet and Salem plays the last few notes solo. Nice!


In late August, the summer nights are not as light anymore and now it’s starting to get darker – something that only enhances the spectacular atmosphere of Dalhalla. The stage and the green lake around it are slowly embedded in a purple light, shimmering on the steep cliffs around the arena. Around 9.05 pm the orchestra start tuning their instruments. After a while, the band and Salem enter the stage.

Starts off quietly with piano and soft percussion and grows into the lovely, rhythmic ballad which has become one of Salem’s most popular songs. Beautiful vocals by Salem, as well as beautiful guitar playing by Adam, who emphasises the "climbing notes" between the verses.

This Is Who I Am
A long intro, which at first actually reminded me of another song ... but I couldn’t pinpoint which one. My closest guess was that the intro had picked up something from "Count me out" ...(?) but I’m probably wrong, so if anyone has a more accurate explanation of the intro we heard at Dalhalla, feel free to comment!

Funky strings, guitar and horns on the backing "fanfares" toward the end.

Twelve Fingers
What can I say? Great! A personal favourite, and totally suited to be played with a symphony orchestra. The energetic and powerful character of the song quickly gets us all dancing and singing along, and the lyrics: "As long as you’ll be there I’ll stand up, stand up, stand up for you", further incites us to do so ... The adrenaline rush of the evening! Seems it was quite exciting for Salem too, since his piano stool breaks and has to be replaced after the song ... (Good thing they had a spare!)

Brooklyn Sun
Introduced by Adam’s guitar and Salem at the piano. They are accompanied by some delicate wind instruments, percussion, Nisse playing brushes on the cymbal ... and, of course, the most beautiful string arrangements you can imagine. This must be the best version ever heard of this already heart-rending song. More horns, more strings as the song increases towards the lovely, melancholic end... shivers down my spine! I don’t have words to describe it, other than DIVINE.

I’m So Happy
As on other concerts I’ve seen this summer, Salem introduces the song by sharing the story of a girl who asked for the sheet music of the song, as she wanted it to be played at her wedding ... "This is NOT a song to be played at weddings!" concludes Salem, and tells us all it’s important to listen not just to the beginning, but also to the end of a sentence. (although he then finishes by saying: "however, in my case it’s just as confusing anyway, so I’ll stop talking now").
Cheerful performance, the audience waves and sings along. Lalalalalalalalaa...

Dream Girl
This diverse song starts off with just Salem singing and playing the grand piano, in the style of the "melancholic piano player in the hotel bar at the riviera"... very Barry Manilow, if you ask me (and I say that in a good way!! Barry is underestimated). Then the song goes full throttle, with powerful piano and strings including a very high-pitched upper part in the finale. Very, very good indeed!

Manfreds Dans
So far, I have only seen Sami providing backing vocals during the concert, but now he moves his chair to the front of the stage and brings his tuba. Salem lovingly introduces his brother in a typical Salem-esque way: "He got it all ... just like me", and then introduces a song that they wrote together. "The first time I’ve written a solo for tuba" says Salem and continues to tell the audience, "I threw in a violin solo for myself as well".

I think the whole audience is as spellbound as myself when the orchestra start playing this immensely beautiful waltz. You can really hear that this music is written for a classic orchestra. Sami’s tuba solo is exquisite; sad and hopeful at the same time. And then ... the limelight lands on Salem standing to the left with his violin, and it’s just ... amazing to see and hear the notes flowing out. He’s in total control and you get the feeling he can get any sound, feeling, timbre and nuance he wants out of that violin. (And of ME!) *melts*

After this song the applause never seems to stop, I think all of us were completely mesmerized by these two very talented brothers and it was soooo nice to hear Salem play the violin. Really hope I’ll get to hear that again!

Hans Ek thanks Salem for his cooperation and says he is honoured to work with him.

One Of The Others
Back to the more poppy part of the show with this energetic and melodic song! This one is also perfectly suited for the bigger format, especially the magnificent orchestral interlude, that actually sounds like something right out of the Bach era! Once again, Salem shows us that there are no boundaries in music.

It’s True
The orchestra starts this one, in a very soft and sweet way. As with many of the songs, it builds up gradually as all instruments fall into place. Salem performs a mind-blowing falsetto towards the end of the song ... he has done that on other concerts too this summer, but you always get carried away by his ability to evoke feelings. Tonight is definitely no exception.

Keep on Walking
Wonderful version with energy, drive and lovely strings. On hearing the first notes, we all know the concert is going to an end ... As always, it feels way too early for it all to stop, but maybe it’s for the best as one is both exhilarated and exhausted ... and I can only imagine how energy-draining it must be for Salem and everyone on stage. Still, it feels like we are all on a natural high, a boost that we’ve shared all the way through the concert. This was really OUR concert, we were all there together!

The band leaves the stage and of course they get standing ovations. After a while, they appear again on stage to do the encore ... we have no idea but of course there is a hope ... could it be ...? Salem talks about how this next song has only been performed once before, for a couple who got married this summer .......

All Day Love
YES!!! We had been told it would never be performed live again after the Crown Princess wedding in June, but of course this song is way too amazing to be left in a locker ... We’re going bananas (at least the hardcore fans) when we understand which song we are about to hear. It’s a truly fantastic song, as well as a fantastic arrangement. This is not just a song written for a wedding, it is also the ultimate "marriage" between soulful pop and classical music!
Everyone on stage give it their all and make it the perfect ending to a wonderful evening.

Wow! Salem, the band, Hans Ek and the orchestra gets called in and takes a bow 4-5 times before the applause slowly fades into the starlit night. A night that will be remembered for a very long time!

Come, come, come back soon!!
Eva Jonson

© Copyright August 2010

Thanks again Eva, for a review which perfectly sums up the Salem Al Fakir live experience (it was the next best thing to being there)...and a perfect description of what it feels like to be a Salem fan!


Eva said...

Aww, thank you Laura for your kind words :) I'm so glad you liked my review and I'm proud to be published on your fabulous blog!

Eva said...

By the way ... The fabulous sisters Hansen / Holm (Martina / Alexandra) from FB have given me a tip about the instrumental part before This is who I am; it was probably Begin - just like on the record. Seems logical... I, however, wasn't very logical on that particular evening.

Laura (EuropeCrazy) said...

It's a pleasure to publish it Eva, and I think everyone will enjoy reading it, whether they were there or not.

Yes it would probably be "Begin", now that you mention it I remember it from the first of the Berwaldhallen shows which was broadcast on P4 - it was played by the orchestra before "This Is Who I Am".

Martina and Alexandra, if you're reading this, remember to drop by and say would be very nice to hear from you if you haven't visited before!!

Yes Eva I know how you feel: both times that I've been over to Sweden to see Salem, I was a very long way from "logical" :)))

Martina said...

Hi there Laura!

It's always nice to visit your blog. And Eva, again - I love your review. I listen to Salems music almost every day and that's why I'm so sure that it was Begin :)

Hugs from Martina

Laura (EuropeCrazy) said...

Hello Martina,

Glad you're enjoying the blog - it's lovely to hear from you at last, as you're one of the "superfans" :)

Just like you, I listen to Salem's music every day...all those songs sound so fresh, even after all this time.

Hugs to you too!

Focus on Life said...

Eva, I just wanted to say that was a beautifully written review, I enjoyed reading it very much. I've never seen Salem live but you really captured the experience and even the beauty of the venue, the photos I've seen of Dalhalla look fabulous. Thanks, Sharon x

Eva said...

Thanks a lot, Sharon :) I'm glad you liked it, even though I'm not used to write articles in English :) It feels good to be able to share this wonderful experience with fans also outside Sweden!