When Sandviken's 10,000 capacity Göransson Arena announced earlier this week that Britney Spears would make the only Swedish appearance of her 2018 tour there in August it would have raised a few eyebrows among the uninitiated.
But the booking shouldn't come as too much of a surprise. Despite its small size, Sandviken has a long history of attracting the biggest acts in the world, dating all the way back to the 1960s. In June 1966 The Who played the town while touring in support of a certain album called “My Generation”, and the English rock giants weren't even the biggest act to play there that decade.
In September 1967, a few months after the release of the groundbreaking “Are You Experienced”, no less than Jimi Hendrix played two sets at a converted old barn in the town. According to a local newspaper report only 100 people saw the first set, while 1,200 caught the second. Hendrix must have liked his experience, as he returned for a third show not long after in January 1968.
Those performances firmly established Sandviken in Swedish musical history, but they weren't the last by global names. With the ushering in of the new millennium, the big acts started to come back. Perhaps they were encouraged by a certain Oscar-winning Geena Davis' glowing reviews of her time in Sandviken as an exchange student in the 1970s?
Göransson Arena in Sandviken. Photo: Jonas Ekströmer/TT
A more reasonable explanation however is that the Göransson Arena has been working hard with a selective strategy to not only sells their venue to stars, but sell Sandviken as an area to them. When asked recently by Sveriges Radio what the secret to booking one of the biggest pop acts in the world in the form of Spears was, the arena's CEO Fredrik Granting said it was down to eight years of strategic graft.
“We try to be careful with our choice of artists, which should make a difference, and we've been successful with that,” he told the broadcaster.
Looking at the list of recent predecessors to Spears in playing the town, his point makes sense. First there was an unlikely marriage between US rap and rural Sweden when 50 Cent played a show in 2011 (though the Aftonbladet reviewer of the show, who wrote that 'Fiddy feels about as relevant as Status Quo', was not too impressed), then German giants Scorpions followed suit the next year, declaring Sandviken “heavy metal's home city” in a great PR boost for the town.
They were followed by Wyclef Jean in 2013, who was so sold on Sandviken by that point that he chose to play a small club rather than arena. It got better: the superstar endeared himself to the locals further by declaring his love for Sandviken and desire to buy a house there for when he settles down.
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Likely encouraged by her fellow former Fugee's happy experience, the next year Lauryn Hill played (and filled) the Göransson Arena, while 80s shock rockers Twisted Sister also chose to play there before the year was out – though they too felt the wrath of harsh reviews from the local press.
Undeterred, Canadian king of sap Bryan Adams then hit the Göransson Arena in 2015, and his performance was much more to the tastes of Sandviken's critics. Which brings us back to Britney Spears – though if you ask some of the Swedes, neither she nor the rest of the aforementioned music royalty are the biggest event to happen in the town.
Instead, that honour most likely goes to a 2010 round of Sweden's Eurovision qualifiers Melodifestivalen. Confused? So are a lot of internationals who move here…