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Live Review: Roxette – Friday 14th September 2012 – Nob Hill Masonic Auditorium, San Francisco, California, US

9 min read

It is pretty safe to say that a return for Roxette to the U.S. stage is a very long time overdue. Having broken the American market – something which proves extremely difficult for foreign acts to achieve – back in the late ’80s with an incredible four number one singles which sit proudly emblazoned within the band’s impressive portfolio, Roxette has swiftly made its way back into the successful mainstream arena once again. Since the band’s comeback in 2009 the duo has been hitting all the right notes as they grace some of the world’s most established and recognized venues as part of their current extended tour.

Being a fan of Roxette has been a very enriching component of the past 26 years of my life. Coming from small town Christchurch, New Zealand, I had long given up hope of ever seeing my idols. Growing up in a city that could not be further from the surroundings of the band’s Swedish homeland, the prospect of seeing the iconic duo perform seemed fleeting particularly after the news of Marie Fredriksson’s near fatal health scare.

But after relocating to London in 2003, that dream did seem a bit more realistic. As 2009 came around it was transformed into reality as I found myself on my way to see the band at three concerts in Antwerp, Belgium as they reunited for the European touring concert series, Night of the Proms. This proved to be a taste of what was to come and before I knew it the band had released tickets for 6 concerts throughout Europe. With a show confirmed in Per’s hometown of Halmstad, I was on my way to see my first full length Roxette concert in August 2010. It was a mind-blowing performance in a symbolic location. Since that concert I have seen a number of Roxette performances as part of the current world tour including their sold out Wembley Arena show in London where, thanks to winning a Daily Roxette contest, I got to meet the band. I also followed the band to Glasgow, Manchester, Birmingham and Dublin earlier this year and had the opportunity, because of my work as a journalist, to interview the band twice.

Now living in the sunny surroundings of San Diego, I found luck on my side once again. A trip to San Francisco was in the cards as Roxette approaches the end of a tour that has taken them around the world twice, seen them perform to over 1.5 million fans and reignite the pop flame once again for a new generation. While the rest of the world has been basking in the fun of Roxette’s most recent journey into comeback territory it was always a fan and band expectation that they would finally make a return to the U.S. at some point. I was very excited to be on my way to see the band perform in the somewhat ostentatious surroundings of Nob Hill’s Masonic Centre in the flamboyant city of San Francisco. The band was set to play to an almost sold out crowd of eager fans as the world tour draws to a close.

Opening with the infectious, hook-laden pop nugget Dressed For Success, the duo was in top form showcasing their energy and charisma right from the opening guitar riff. Fredriksson’s vocals whipped through the number with a confidence that showcased a singer truly back on top.  Further upbeat gems followed in the form of the rock hit Sleeping In My Car and the flowing The Big L providing an energetic injection to the beginning to the set.

One of the band’s most cherished pennings (and my personal favorite) found its place in the earlier half of the set as Spending My Time provided the crowd with its first solo sing-along opportunity. Starting with Gessle strumming casually on guitar while Fredriksson unveiled the classic songs opening “What’s the time, seems it’s already morning…” the crown ignited into a touching declaration of approval as Marie held her microphone to the crowd to sing the chorus of the power ballad. Giving the crowd an appreciative nod the band sunk their teeth into the beautiful song as they performed the gem with exquisite skill and sentiment, providing the set with its first heart-string-pulling hit.

Roxette - Live At Nob Hill Auditorium - San Francisco
Roxette – Live At Nob Hill Auditorium – San Francisco

Stars, another personal up-tempo favorite from the band’s Have A Nice Day release then took center stage before the duo unleashed a fantastic live rendition of their comeback single She’s Got Nothing On (But The Radio). While neither addition could be hailed as focal points of the concert, given the minimal exposure of the latter and the unreleased status of the former here in the US, both tracks proved to get the crowd up on their feet and moving to the dance-laced pop nuggets From here it was time to slow the pace down a few notches and usher in some old school classics in the form of the sweet Joyride closing duo, Perfect Day and Things Will Never Be The Same. While the latter fan favorite has found a place on many Roxette tours over the years and continues to hold a firm slot within the band’s set, it was the former ballad which stood out as one of the defining moments of tonight’s performance as Marie held center stage to serenade the crowd with her pitch perfect and exquisitely distinctive vocals while eccentric guitar maestro Christoffer Lundquist sat to her right with a slide guitar and long-time producer and keyboardist Clarence Öfwerman accompanied with a subtle backdrop of keys ending with an almost deafening applause from the crowd.

As Per and the rest of the band found their places back on stage with Marie and a backdrop of luminous stars were draped behind the band, the scene was set for one of the duo’s most successful hits; It Must Have Been Love. This song has always been presented superbly and tonight’s grandeur performance of the classic power ballad and Pretty Woman hit was a clear highlight within the set offering yet another sing-along moment for the audience.   With the balladry placed to one side for a while it was time again to dance. Bringing the pulsating atmosphere of a nightclub to the venue, the band made their way through the Have A Nice Day guitar juggernaut, 7Twenty7. This song has always been a personal favorite of Per’s to perform live and you can really hear the passion of the songwriter drenching every chord played on the track and through his energetic performance of song, performing the number with just the right dosage of energy and charisma that the track deserves.

As the song came to a close and the guitar whirls wound down the crowd gave the star a duly earned applause before the distinctive piano melody welcomed in one of the bands most recognizable and treasured ballads, Fading Like A Flower. Sung with as much passion and heart wrenching soul as the tracks original recording, the songs infectious melody and sweetly sung vocals swept through the venues 3,165 person capacity, casting a nostalgic atmosphere over the crowd as everyone joined Fredriksson in singing the hit from the opening note to the very last lyric. Crash! Boom! Bang! then took the reigns as we were ushered into a haunting arrangement of Americana-drenched strings. Originally a ballad sung solely by Fredriksson, like past performances the hit was split between the duo with Gessle taking the first verse and latter dream sequence while Fredriksson took the powerfully emotive second verse, showing us all just why she is regarded as one of pop’s most iconic and influential vocalists.

From here it seemed to be hit after hit as the band swept through the highlight segment of the set with the merging of two of the bands classic hits, How Do You Do! and Dangerous before taking us through a memorable performance of another of the bands U.S. number one hits, Joyride. During the performance, as with previous renditions of the latter song, band members threw to the audience a number of band branded inflatable balls as the concert hit full swing with what sounded like every member of the crowd singing along to the iconic pop duo and an iconic pop masterpiece. With no barrier to block them, a couple frenzied audience members tried to jump on stage to grab one of Per’s discarded guitar picks. Exiting the stage for around five minutes, the chants from the auditorium ushered the band back on stage to perform an encore which was made up of the Listen To Your Heart, signature breakthrough pop gem The Look and a stripped back closing performance of Church Of Your Heart with the band all taking to the front of the stage and donning acoustic instruments to round up a night of superb musicianship and the highest quality pop hits.

One of the draws to any Roxette concert, aside from witnessing the performance of two icons in pop history and the guaranteed string of hits, is the powerful backing band which consist of members like Clarence Öfwerman, who has been with the duo since the very beginning, and the bands over the top, fun-loving and eccentric guitarist, Christoffer Lundquist, who has been recording and touring with Roxette since the late ’90s. The tight band certainly form a fundamental role in Roxette’s performances. Roxette are one of the most successful acts in history and have been penning classic, timeless hits for over 25 years now (It Must Have Been Love turns 25 this year as Per pointed out tonight). There isn’t a person on the planet who doesn’t know the words to songs likes It Must Have Been Love, The Look or Listen To Your Heart and that goes to show the effect that the pairing of a songwriting heavyweight and a captivating and striking, vocal powerhouse have had on music and the lives of Roxette fans the world over.  No one at tonight’s performance would have thought that Fredriksson had been through such a life altering health ordeal a decade ago. From the first note of Dressed For Success right through to the closing chords of Church of your Heart she was in top form as she performed with as much enthusiasm and opulence as the band’s last stop in the US on their Join The Joyride tour back in the early nineties.

There were only a couple of downsides to the concert tonight in San Francisco. Firstly the band decided to edit the set list slightly and cut Opportunity Nox which was a shame as this one seemed to go down really well throughout Europe. Secondly, it would have been amazing to hear It’s Possible being performed. Knowing the set list like the back of my hand I wasn’t expecting the song to be performed but given its success it would have been nice to hear the hit and for the bands recent record, Travelling, to be given a nod though knowing that the song wasn’t due to appear within the set list I can hardly say that it is a disappointment – it just would have been nice to hear.   It is safe to say that American music fans are harder to please and their critique is generally a lot harsher than the rest of the world but after tonight’s performance at the Nob Hill Masonic in San Francisco it would be fairly safe to say that enjoyment and admiration were two staples firmly set with the crowd up on their feet dancing along to hits that have spanned three pop-filled decades.

Set list:

Dressed For Success
Sleeping In My Car
The Big L.
Spending My Time
She’s Got Nothing On (But the Radio)
Perfect Day
Things Will Never Be The Same
It Must Have Been Love
Fading Like A Flower (Every Time You Leave)
Crash! Boom! Bang!
How Do You Do!/Dangerous
Listen To Your Heart
The Look
Church Of Your Heart