Roxette Live In Adelaide
(Words and Photos - Ian Bell)
Pop, despite what people may tell you, is not a four letter word. I once had a bizarre argument with an angry Dutchman who dismissed the music of The Beatles, who let's face it are the blueprint of practically all pop music since the 1960's, as "nursery rhymes for simpletons".
When people dismiss a pop act like ABBA, my response is generally along the lines of 'Well I tell you what pet, you go off and write a song as intricate, musically complex yet seemingly simple as Mamma Mia or Does Your Mother Know, that millions of people will still be singing in forty years from now, come back and tell me how easy it was. I won't be expecting a call any time soon.
Roxette come from Sweden. They also come from that school of unapologetic, classic pop music. Melodic, hook laden, catchy, sugary, with lyrics encompassing universal themes of love, loss, hope and fun, that you get stuck in your head and consequently sing in the shower or while you are driving in your car. They are a classic pop group. In the 1980's and 90's they had a string of massive hits all over the world (Australia was an early adopter and supporter), but it hard to convey the high regard in which they are held in Europe. In Europe Per Gessle is regarded, and quite rightly, as one of the great songwriters of the last twenty years and his many solo albums are absolutely worth investigating. With long time musical partner Marie Fredriksson, they have been Roxette for thirty years.
Tonight The Entertainment Centre is populated with people who love their pop music and love Roxette and a lot have them have been for three decades.
After the surprise bonus pop of Boom Crash Opera giving the night a brief but well received jolt of 80's pop, we were primed and ready to take a Joyride.
The lights go down, the cheers go up and the camera phones come out and as the lights come up the bands starts with the terrific Sleeping in My Car. The four other musicians on stage are moving about and Per looks almost exactly as he did in 1987. He has the rock star pants on, he is shaking his rock star hair having a ball. Marie, however is sitting on a stool looking quite fragile. After having some trouble with her leg in Perth, a decision has been made that she will have to be seated for the show as she is just too frail to do it any other way. Some may not be aware that in 2002 Marie collapse in her bathroom and got concussion and while getting treatment it was discovered she had a sizable brain tumour. Thankfully it was not malignant but she had to endure months of chemotherapy and making it difficult to read, write and count, eventually leading to her losing the sight in her right eye completely. When they last toured Australia three years ago she was still getting around the stage (if not at the energy levels of the past), but tonight she remains in the chair the whole show and needs assistance getting on and off the stage.
Her voice however, is in fine form. A lot of these songs rely on her powerful delivery and for the most part she delivers in spades. There is the occasional wobble, and on some numbers if she belts out the first two lines she has to concentrate hard on the next two. But to most it's imperceptible and given all she has been through, it's almost remarkable she is here at all. So Sleeping in my Car, leads into the equally bombastic The Big L. Stars was from the 1999 album Have a Nice Day was not a particular hit here, but it's a cracker. Four songs in and it's for some power ballads. Spending My Time from the Joyride album and the title track from Crash! Boom! Bang! has arms swaying and mass sing-a-long. The band is tight as a drum and couldn't be more Scandinavian if they tried. There is a second Per on drums, Christoffer Lundquist on guitar and the wise cracking bass player Magnus Borjeson. Magnus has a running gag about which album is his favourite (mostly he prefers an album of remixes).
Crush On You, was also not a hit here, but it should have been it's a corker. As is She's Got Nothing On (but The Radio) from the 2011 Charm School CD. It's a mark of great pop music that many people would have been hearing this song for the first time tonight and everyone is dancing and getting into it.
Marie is doing a great job. Clearly in some discomfort, she giving it everything, but there are moments when it's an effort. Per takes lead vocals on The Heart Shaped Sea and it's a beautiful folky acoustic number. The band clears the stage and leave Marie and backing vocalist Dea Norberg (on keys) to give a naked Watercolours In The Rain / Paint. With no band to hide her voice she gives an captivating performance. The band returns for Fading Like a Flower before the hit packed poptastic run of How Do you Do, It Must Have Been love, Dressed for Success and Dangerous. That clump of songs by itself was worth the price of admission. Lundquist cranks out an amusing guitar solo - okay it's Skippy The Bush Kangaroo - intro to Joyride and by now any stubborn sitters are up and dancing. Damn the drums on that song are huge.
After a brief break they return for Almost Unreal (originally from The Super Mario Bros movie - yep the one starring Bob Hoskins) and then the massive fan favourite Listen To Your Heart, with Lundquist incorporating some Waltzing Matilda into the outro.
There is only one song to finish with. The song that broke them internationally The Look. It's a mighty piece of pop, with it's sledgehammer drums and brittle guitar riff. Tonight it retains it pop goodness while turning into an elongated jam. Imagine the Stones playing a song made of sugar, it's absolutely terrific.
It maybe the last time we see these Super Swedes. I do hope not, as the world needs this kind of Pop Joyride more than ever.
Sleeping in my Car
The Big L
Spending My Time
Crash Boom Bang
Crush on You
She's Got Nothing On (but The Radio)
Heart Shaped Sea
Watercolours In The Rain / Paint
Fading Like a Flower
How Do you Do
It Must Have Been love
Dressed for Success
Listen To Your Heart