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Country 2 Country Sweden

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By Claire Weston

3 months ago, I found myself planning a trip to Stockholm after C2C Festival announced they would return to Scandinavia for events headlined by US superstar Carrie Underwood. After booking return flights for just £33 and securing a front row ticket, I was excited! Last year, I made the trip to C2C Oslo, which saw several big name country singers for the same ticket price.

Sadly, the excitement in the lead-up to the event was short lived. Between December and the end of February there was just one communication put out – the inclusion of Swedish country singer Jill Johnson in thd line-up. It seemed that very few tickets had been sold, and myself and other fans were left stressed and angry as the promoters and organisers made no attempt to offer explanations, answer questions or advertise the event.

With rumours of a cancellation, it made planning travel arrangements very difficult. Finally, just 7 days before the event itself, C2C Sweden announced the final line-up, adding Pauper Kings and Lauren Alaina to the bill.

UK band Pauper Kings opened the event, impressing the audience with some Swedish phrases and greetings. The early part of the set included ‘Feels Like Home’ and ‘Love History’. I especially loved the addition of the mandolin in the first few songs. However, it was a cover of Dixie Chicks’ song ‘Some Days You Gotta Dance’, which captured the audience’s attention and had them clapping along.

This cover and the band’s last song of their set were the stand out songs for me, with some incredible guitar instrumentals. While their harmonies were impressive, i felt that a lot of the Pauper Kings songs sound very similar, with an upbeat intro which slowly fizzles out. The band have enjoyed a string of high profile support slots for the likes of Brett Eldredge, while recording music with Rascal Flatts member Jay DeMarcus, and I think I expected their sound to be more polished than it was.

The venue was downsized to the 3500 capacity Annexet, just next door to the original venue Hovet, which holds 9000. Annexet reminded me of London’s Electric Ballroom in layout – a main floor space (which was seated) and a balcony area around the outside. Looking around, it seemed that just over 2000 people were there. Jill Johnson was up next, but unfortunately due to timings, I missed her set.

Georgia native Lauren Alaina took the main support slot of the evening, and kicked off her set with ‘My Kind of People’, followed by ‘Queen of Hearts’ and ‘Barefoot And Buckwild’. With an incredible and powerful voice, it’s hard to believe that this is the same girl who had to have vocal chord surgery 4 years ago.

I’ve been waiting to see Lauren for a long time, after she cancelled a show with Sugarland i had tickets for. She certainly didn’t disappoint. I loved the medley of hits for the girls, which saw the audience singing along to the likes of ‘Man, I Feel Like A Woman’, ‘I Wanna Dance With Somebody’, ‘Baby, One More Time’, ‘Umbrella’ and ‘Single Ladies’. With a predominately female line-up for the night, it was definitely fitting for the middle of her set.

Lauren released her long awaited EP back in October 2015, and included ‘Road Less Travelled’ and current single ‘Next Boyfriend’ from this in the set. The latter song saw her choose a volunteer from the audience to dance with her on a stage, a hilarious and fun addition to the night. Finishing with a cover of ‘Bang Bang’ followed by firm favourite ‘Georgia Peaches’, she had the audience on their feet clapping and singing along. An energetic performance was just what the audience needed, complete with stunning vocals and just the right amount of sass. I can’t wait to hear her second album.

Carrie Underwood kicked off her set with ‘Renegade Runaway’, a song from her latest album Storyteller, before going into a mash-up of ‘Last Name’ and ‘Somethin’ Bad’. It was great to hear songs spanning her entire catalogue, from 2005’s ‘Jesus Take The Wheel’ to 2009’s ‘Cowboy Casanova’ to 2012’s ‘Blown Away’. Backed by a full band of talented musicians, ‘Wasted’ saw an incredible fiddle instrumental included. Sweden was the first stop for the European tour dates, and despite being her first time in the country, she played a setlist very similar to the one Storyteller fans in the US have been enjoying.

We were treated to the debut live performance of new UK/ international single ‘Chaser’, which is one of my favourite songs from the new album. Carrie explained that the new album had a much twangier sound, before launching into ‘Dirty Laundry’ and ‘Choctaw County Affair’, the latter of which saw some impressive harmonica playing from her. Is there anything she can’t do well?!

The Storyteller tour audiences in the US have been treated to some impressive pyrotechnics and costume changes, but we didn’t need that for her first Swedish concert. With a stripped back and raw performance, complete with a few dance moves, Carrie looked like she was having a blast!

With the band exiting the stage while she performed an acoustic version of Dolly Parton’s ‘I Will Always Love You’, Carrie paid homage to all the country music stars she has been fortunate enough to have as role models. Her delivery of such a challenging song proved why she has already had a strong 11 year career, with much more to come. Finishing with ‘Before He Cheats’, before an encore of ‘Smoke Break’ and ‘Something In The Water’, Carrie’s vocals were nothing short of flawless. I’m always amazed how such a powerful voice can come out of someone so small, and how she manages to hit Every. Single. Note.

The only downside to the entire night was the Swedish security team, who at the start of Carrie’s set, tried to make the few of us that had stood up sit back down. There was a large gap between the front row seating and the barrier but they refused to allow anyone to dance or stand in that space, even front row ticket holders. London would have turned it into a party, but Sweden were quick to jump on anyone who disobeyed. It did ruin the atmosphere and i imagine Carrie wondered why everyone was a little more subdued – it wasn’t by choice!

I would recommend seeing Carrie live in a heartbeat (pun intended) and I am very grateful I got to see her singing so many new songs in such an intimate setting. Sadly C2C Sweden was a huge disappointment in the way it was handled and organised, even on the night. I’ll be sticking to London from now on! Lauren Alaina stole the show for me, and I think that had a lot to do with me finally getting to see her live after so many years. Hopefully she doesn’t wait so long next time!

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Annette Gibbons
Hi, I’m Annette, I have been a huge country music fan since the early 90s those were the days we were lucky enough to have CMT in the UK. I enjoy nothing more than listening to country music whilst having a cold beer (or a moonshine) with friends. I try to as many gigs as I can here in the UK and in the USA; I think of Nashville as my second home and I am lucky to have made some amazing friends in Tennessee. Think Country is something I am very proud of, I just want to share my love and passion of all things country music related with you all.
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