SYDNEY - After seventeen years, they came, they saw and they kicked some serious ass!
Australians are a notoriously reserved crowd, our laid back culture unfortunately tends not to lend itself too well to a live rock show, but to their credit, Sydney stepped up its game... and in turn, noticing and responding to the crowd's overwhelming energy, Roxette met their match... and then some!
From the crunching opening chords to "Dressed for Success," Per and Marie were quickly shuffling around the stage busily recreating their standard poses, aware of the photographers at the front, Marie did her usual pouts and Per was jumping around like any well-choreographed classic Roxette music video. It almost seemed like a ritual or initiation to test the temperature of the crowd as the band were posed with a metaphorical question, "do we keep falling into our standard rock clichés and simply jam with our buddies on stage? Or will this crowd do their part and become part of the show and we can relax and let the music take over?" And the answer? Sydney overwhelmingly kicked ass! By the time The Big L started to pound the venue, the band had begun to relax as they were feeding off a starved audience and the show took on a more natural tone as it seemed for this performance, Roxette had recruited a new band member, over 10,000 hungry Roxette fans. From here on in, it got wilder and wilder.
Despite his cocky swagger and vintage swinging guitar rock moves, it was obvious Per was giddy as a school girl, cracking smiles in disbelief, surely a surreal moment knowing that 17 years on, that their once old stomping ground had come out in force to welcome back the band with open arms.
For non-Australian readers, perhaps a little perspective is needed. Roxette has not had a Top 40 single on the Aussie charts since 1994's "Sleeping in my Car," and despite regular airplay of "It Must Have Been Love" on classic FM stations, there was a reason why it took so long for the band to announce an Australian show as part of their tour. Was there enough interest? Roxette had been knocked back not once, but twice from two separate Australian promoters and were insulted during the process when referred to as a "mouldy old project". Live Nation Australia took a punt and 100,000 tickets and 10 shows later, Roxette has confirmed what we, the fans, always knew; last night was more than a rock show, last night was vindication and any Rox-doubters were noted by their absence or they were simply drowned in the hysteria of the crowd. This was a night for the people, this was a night for the starved Roxers who waited patiently, the night belonged to us!
As expected, the crowd reacted overwhelmingly to the "usual" hits and they were perhaps more reserved during their lesser known tracks but a true testament to the band and their talent was the thundering reception they received post "7Twenty7." The crowd weren't familiar with this guitar thumping track, after all, Have A Nice Day only peaked at #62 on the ARIA Charts, but despite their unfamiliarity, a wild applause at the conclusion of the song erupted as the Sydney Entertainment Centre had just witnessed one of the greatest live performance from a pop... err, rock band, they had ever seen, and the beaming smile emanating from Clarence Öfwerman's face post his psychedelic keyboard solo confirmed just that!
All the standard hits followed and these pop gems were met with the enthusiasm that songs like "Fading Like A Flower" and "How Do You Do!" truly deserved but the crowd went ballistic when "Joyride," Roxette's third Aussie #1 single, began to bellow from the stage.
"Watercolours in the Rain" seemed an "interesting" choice to use as the return track during the encore particularly following the mass hysteria that was "Joyride" and its bouncing beach balls, the energy dipped ever so slightly but it wasn't long before "Spending my Time" restored the night to its maximum glory and the Roxette freight train hurled towards its dramatic climax with their usual closers of "The Look" and "Listen To Your Heart" and of course, the stripped down version of "Church."
Criticisms? Marie fluffed a line or two in "Watercolours in the Rain," Christopher's interpretation of local ditty, "The Kookaburra Song," probably didn't work as well and the crowd didn't realise it was their job to sing the chorus to "Spending My Time," but all in all, who cares? This is not some well-timed , lip synching, overly choreographed pop act, these were veteran rock musicians at the peak of their powers giving maximum energy to each and every song and not even a rogue bouncing beach ball that ferociously smacked Marie square in the head was enough to throw these guys off track. What we witnessed were pros at the top of their game doing what they do best. And as for Marie's performance? As one fan-made banner hung in the front row surmised "Marie, you're an inspiration" - indeed! Most people going in to the show did not know about Marie's illness and most people coming out wouldn't have had a clue either, our crazy little blonde-haired pixie belted the songs with such aplomb, that you'd be hard pressed to convince a punter that she was ever sick.
In summary, perhaps the most frightening thought is that the Thursday 16th of February show was actually the second concert that was announced. The Friday 17th was the original "one and only" show where all the die-hards will make the sacred pilgrimage from across our large country to converge to celebrate the band's return, these folk are perhaps more inclined to be more familiar with "Only When I Dream" and "Opportunity Nox," and if last night was more the "casual fan" crowd, I can only imagine what the hardcore Roxers will bring tonight, brace yourselves Per and Marie.
Finally, prior to seeing the show, I was absolutely adamant and determined not to write an article like a gushing fan praising their every move, my job was to report and criticize where it was due, but after the effort they put in last night, what choice was I left with? If you went in looking to see these guys fail, trip up or flop, you would have been sadly disappointed, this was a well-oiled Swedish power pop machine and I challenge anyone who was there to differ with me ... simply flawless. Welcome back Roxette, you have well and truly reclaimed the land down under... now let's not leave it so long between drinks next time... cheers.