Photos © Dot Hopkins
I admit to being a fan of Roxette since first hearing their songs in the 80s and have been lucky enough to see them on each of their Australian tours and each time they just impressed me more. When I first saw them in Brisbane in 1995, of course, Marie Fredriksson was in perfect health and there was no sign of what was in store. But it would be seventeen years until their next Australian tour, following Marie’s shock diagnosis of a brain tumour and subsequent surgery and treatment in 2002. The very fact that she was able to make such a successful comeback after her ordeal was a sign of her strength and determination and, clearly, her passion. Now, 20 years since that first concert in Brisbane, I have been fortunate enough to see the band for a third time on their current Australian tour and, after Roxette’s brilliant show at Melbourne’s Rod Laver Arena on Friday night, I felt especially blessed to be given the opportunity.
Roxette was supported by very popular local band Boom Crash Opera, who opened the show to a rousing reception from the crowd. “We’re here to warm you up,” singer Dale Ryder announced. “So get warm!” And we did. And it wasn’t just the February heat. BCO got the crowd in the mood with hits like ‘Great Wall’, ‘Hands Up in the Air’, ‘Best Thing’ and ‘Onion Skin’ and with the crowd sufficiently warmed up, we waited patiently for Roxette.
When the lights finally went down and the music started, the audience went wild with excitement that was tainted only by a sense of shock at seeing an obviously fragile Marie seated centre stage but we didn’t have time to dwell on that as they kicked off with ‘Sleeping in My Car’ followed by ‘The Big L’. At first, Marie appeared to be struggling but she seemed to gain strength, both vocally and spiritually, with every song and, no doubt, the overwhelming support from the crowd. Nothing was mentioned about the singer’s condition throughout the performance. There was no need. It was very clearly understood by all in the room that we were experiencing something very special and we didn’t need to know the personal details. This woman was sharing her special gift with us despite any pain or discomfort she might have been feeling that night and heaven knows, she has had more than her fair share of that so that made the evening even more significant and we didn’t need words to explain that. Backing vocalist Dea Norbergt, who Marie introduced later as a ‘very good friend’, took some of the pressure off her friend with vocal support where needed and the fans… well, they did their share as well, singing every lyric loudly and clearly. And the singer smiled appreciatively.
The beautiful ‘It Must Have Been Love’, the song featured in the movie ‘Pretty Woman’, was probably one of the most poignant moments of the night as the crowd sang the intro and, if I’m not mistaken, there were a few tears being shed around me (and, yes, that includes me) as we were all touched by the love in the room.
After guitarist Christopher Lundquist added a touch of Australiana to the set with a ‘Waltzing Matilda’ guitar solo, the band took us on a high energy ‘Joyride’ to close the show before returning for the encore: ‘Almost Unreal’ which contains the lyric line ‘Your touch has the power to heal’; a fact that didn’t get past the fans. There was still one more ballad to go: ‘Listen to Your Heart’ before their final song of the night, ‘The Look’. Roxette took their bows to a well-deserved standing ovation from the audience, with Marie supported by her fellow band members and as the band left the stage to thunderous applause, she was escorted, arm in arm by her friend Per Gessle who had been keeping a very close eye on her all night.
There was a good balance of slow ballads and upbeat rock, and Per Gessle was on fire, getting the crowd to their feet with songs like ‘How Do You Do’ and maintaining just the right amount of friendly banter with the audience while keeping a perfect pace throughout the set.
Let me point out here that Marie’s state of health in no way detracted from the band’s performance or the quality of the show. Roxette gave it everything they had… and then some! They sounded great, the lighting was fantastic and the atmosphere was electric.
In fact, there were so many highlights to this show, I can’t cover them all here. And so many hits; one after the other so, for those who are interested, I have included the setlist below:
Sleeping in My Car
The Big L
Spending My Time
Crash! Boom! Bang!
Crush on You
She’s Got Nothing On
The Heart Shaped Sea
Watercolours in the Rain
Fading Like a Flower (Every Time You Leave)
How Do You Do
It Must Have Been Love
Dressed For Success
Waltzing Matilda (guitar solo)
Listen to Your Heart
For more photos from the show, please check out our gallery.
There are still some shows left on this tour so if there is one near you and you have been thinking of going, you will regret it if you don’t. For remaining dates and booking options, click here
by Sharyn Hamey
Copyright © Sharyn Hamey 2015. All rights reserved