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Live Review: Roxette – Tuesday 15th November 2011 – Wembley Arena, London, UK

9 min read

Roxette, one of music’s most treasured and successful pop acts to achieve international stardom and the most successful musical export to emerge from Sweden after ABBA, made a triumphant return to the UK last night with a one off concert at London’s Wembley Arena.

With record sales exceeding 75 million the duo which consists of singer Marie Fredriksson and songwriter/singer Per Gessle burst into the international spotlight with their breakthrough sophomore album Look Sharp in 1988. With hits that included the US number one singles The Look and power ballad Listen To Your Heart as well as Dressed For Success and the anthemic Dangerous the world quickly wrapped it’s adoring arms around the band who continued their reign over the worlds music charts for a further decade with singles including Spending My Time, Joyride, Fading Like A Flower, Almost Unreal, Crash! Boom! Bang! and the timeless It Must Have Been Love, a track that took the band all the way to Hollywood with it’s role as the principle single for the film Pretty Woman.

With Fredriksson being diagnosed with a brain tumor in late 2002 Roxette was forced to take an unexpected break from the demanding life of recording and touring while the singer battled her illness to full recovery. Slowly and with band mate Gessle’s support Fredriksson has gradually made her way back to life as a recording artist and performer and in 2009 Roxette made a long awaited return to the stage with the touring concert series Night of the Proms which held a residency in a few selected cities throughout Europe. Following the success of these performances the band announced a handful of European concerts to further help Fredriksson’s return to the grueling touring lifestyle. With the singer taking to it like a duck to water Roxette returned to the studio to record Charm School which has so far spawned the comeback singles She’s Got Nothing On (But The Radio), the sublime Speak To Me, Way Out and new single No One Makes It On Her Own. The record, their first studio album since 2001’s Room Service, was followed by the announcement of the bands official return to the world stage with a brand new world tour which has so far taken the band around the globe and has been seen by over 700,000 people.

It was the UK’s turn last night and with Monday’s announcement that the band would be returning to the UK in 2012 UK fans had yet another reason to be joining the joyride.

It’s been a staggering 17 years since Roxette’s last concert in the capital and as the lights dimmed and the band approached the stage at just past 9pm the welcome they received will have given the duo, who were joined by long time backing band members Christopher Lundqvist on lead guitar, producer Clarence Ofwerman on piano and synth, backing singer Helena Josefsson, Magnus Börjesonon  on bass and Pelle Alsing on drums, enough reason to return.

Ripping straight into a greatest hits set the duo offered Dressed For Success as the set opener as the 12,000 strong crowd, many donning T-shirts with pictures of the band, bounced around with nostalgia. The duo were vocally strong as they passed the lead vocals to one another before the following guitar happy Sleeping In My Car saw Fredriksson tearing through one of the bands more rock laden hits while pointing out to the crowd and declaring that she would be making love to us all while the audience cheered her on. The Big L, one of the bands releases from their 1991 mega album Joyride gave Fredriksson a break from lead vocal duties while Gessle, the bands songwriter, took charge to lead us through a bouncy rendition of the classic Roxette number.

Thanking the audience for their support and drawing attention to the fact the band haven’t been on the UK stage for such a lengthy period of time the crowd cheered showing their understanding of the reasons behind the unfortunate hiatus. That reason was shown briefly throughout the set in Fredriksson’s performance as there were occasional instances of the effects of the singers ill health when she would occasionally forget the lyrics and take time to collect herself but always doing so with the grace, dignity and sheer determination that helped her beat an illness that is fatal to 95% of it’s victims.

Wish I Could Fly, the lead single off the bands phenomenal 1999 Have A Nice Day release was performed beautifully by Fredriksson and in pure power ballad style showing off the singers immaculately texture dressed vocals and breathy peaks.

Two tracks from Charm School were featured amongst the evenings set. Only When I Dream and lead single She’s Got Nothing On (But The Radio) were unveiled on the crowd before the band left the stage leaving Marie to treat the audience to an incredible live version of the singers favorite track Perfect Day. Standing centre stage and with lead guitarist Christopher Lundqvist seated with a lap steel guitar giving the track a real American feel the superstar belted out an incredible version of the track proving the singer still has what it takes despite the ordeals of the past decade. Perfect Day was then followed by another Joyride taken number and one of the bands fan favorites, Things Will Never Be The Same. Always a popular addition to any Roxette concert the track was accompanied this time by Gessle on acoustic guitar.

From here it was back to the big numbers that Roxette have wowed the world of pop with as one of the bands signature tracks It Must Have Been Love was delivered with faultless precision. With the curtain backdrop falling to reveal a star lit background the scene was set for one of music’s most iconic and emotive pennings. The track also gave the crowd a chance to sing along within the stripped back opening in similar style to the bands recording of the song on their 1992 release Tourism before the number was performed in its entirety with a full band backing.

The crowd then got moving with up-tempo numbers Opportunity Nox and 7Twenty7 before the incredible Fading Like A Flower was offered to us by Fredriksson who sounded as vocally emotive and passionate as she did on the original recording of the track. Following the number was a real treat in the form of the beautiful Crash! Boom! Bang! Instead of Fredriksson taking lead vocals as she had on the original recording the track was split into two with Gessle taking the role of lead vocalist for the first half and Fredriksson being passed the batten at the mid way point to deliver the second verse and closing chorus’.

Up next was a superb version of Tourism’s How Do You Do which was merged at the mid way point with one of the bands most treasured up-tempo classics Dangerous and the merging of he two tracks worked idyllically and gave a semi medley feel to the pair of hits.

Introducing the band which consisted of musicians that have worked alongside Roxette for the best part of 3 decades the crowd went wild for Lundqvist who, always the energetically bouncy charmer in the band, provided some UK spice to the evening with a lengthy guitar solo of God Save The Queen as he ran back and forth along the stage lapping up the crowds intense energy and enthusiasm.

With band introductions wrapped up the crowd were presented with another of the bands mega hits, Joyride. With its catchy melodies and infectious hooks the 12,000 punters were bouncing away while a dozen Roxette logo printed balls we thrown out for the crowds amusement as the band delivered yet another flawless number coated in early nineties nostalgia before leaving the stage.

With the crowd chanting their name to an almost deafening level the band re-emerged for the first of two encores.

With Fredriksson and backing singer Helena Josefsson taking centre stage together we were offered a tender version of Watercolours In The Rain before my personal favorite Roxette number Spending My Time took the reigns and offered us one of the most moving performances of the night. Allowing the crowd once again to sing along to the vulnerable lyrics that were penned some 20 years ago by Gessle the track stood out as a highlight in the set and an addition that many in the crowd had been waiting eagerly for. Fredriksson’s smooth vocals drove the track over Gessle’s deeply strum guitar and the bands backing vocals that swung elegantly under the leading ladies passionately moving declarations.  Following this came the bands breakthrough single and also as most would agree the bands most well known single, The Look. With its grinding guitar sequences as well as Fredriksson’s iconic ‘nah, nah, nah’s’ the number gave the crowd another chance to sing along with the star as it led us to the end of the first encore before the band departed the stage once again.

Back on stage a short time later the opening key tinkering gave way to the swaying power ballad Listen To Your Heart. Yet another symbolic addition to the Roxette catalogue the track took hold of the crowd as Fredriksson let herself be completely emerged by song as her fans sang back to her with as much emotion and heart as she delivered. The track offered yet another example of why Roxette are so well loved with the entire venue erupting into song, each set of lips seen mouthing the words in sync with the singer and proving wrong anyone who believes Roxette to be any kind of one hit wonder or passing fad. This band know the key to writing and performing masterful and well crafted pop numbers and with the passion that each song deserves.

Ending the set and the evening Gessle took us on a ride with a stripped back acoustic version of Church of Your Heart with all members of the band approaching the front of the stage for a well deserved bow. With the final moments seeing Gessle taking Fredriksson under his ever supportive wing the crowd erupted and watched the pair disappear from sight as the lights lit up Wembley Arena.

Tonight’s performance was nothing short of spectacular. With Fredriksson’s health taking such a massive battering over this past decade we are truly lucky to still have with us one of music’s most era defying and truly gorgeous voices and Gessle’s seemingly effortless ability at writing some of music’s most well loved pop records. Together as Roxette they have led us through close to three decades filling our lives with infectious power hungry hooks and beautifully emotive melodies that only the best in songwriters and performers have the ability and talent to do and Roxette’s concert at Wembley Arena this evening showed us that this band is here to stay are that’s just the way we here at Renowned For Sound prefer it to be.

Set list:

Dressed For Success
Sleeping In My Car
The Big L
Wish I Could Fly
Only When I Dream
She’s Got Nothing On (But The Radio)
Perfect Day
Things Will Never Be The Same
It Must Have Been Love
Opportunity Nox
Fading Like A Flower
Crash! Boom! Bang!
How Do You Do
Watercolours In The Rain
Spending My Time
The Look
Listen To Your Heart
Church Of Your Heart