CLUJ - For the second time, in Cluj-Napoca, Transylvania 22,000 people gathered at the newly built Cluj Arena, the tickets to both the Golden Circle and the VIP Pit having been sold-out. This was the biggest concert so far this year and one of the big ones since the start of this Neverending Tour last year, after the Bospop Festival (Weert, NL) and the gigs held at Tivoli (Copenhagen, DK) and Slottsskogsvallen (Gothenburg, SE). Fantastic atmosphere? You betcha! Outstanding performance? Oh yeah! Like Mr. G himself said, you should have been there!
The magic started from the very moment the band entered the stage. Deafening cheers and screams could be heard, clapping hands all around, video cameras held high in the air with the Rec button on, photo camera flashes going one after another. It had been a bit over a year since the first ever concert in Bucharest, but the Rox hunger seemed to have only grown stronger in this corner of Europe. Every song, from the rocky up-tempos to the more laid-back ballads was met with joy and enthusiasm and sang along to, the crowd sometimes completely obliterating the singing on the stage.
The band seemed to bask in the fans’ warm reception, their faces glowing with happiness. All this love and appreciation received seemed to make them even more energetic and willing to give it all, at the same time humbling them while watching almost in disbelief the boiling crowd at their very own feet. Marie’s flawless and powerful voice filled the huge arena with seeming easiness. Gladly, she was visibly moving much freely than last year. Per was all over the stage, jumping like a bunny and running too fast for most fans to get a proper picture of him, changing his guitar almost every other song, joking and interacting with the audience. Dea was right there behind Marie, singing and dancing, sometimes coming to the front of the stage to join the others, Pelle hidden behind his drum kit was keeping the beat up, Clarence was dancing behind his keyboard set, brand-new light grey hat on, Chris showed all his truly magnificent guitar skills and Magnus was smiling broadly while clutching his beloved bass guitar.
The setlist was what we can call a standard one by now, with the notable omissions of "Silver Blue" (probably the best song on this tour) and "It’s Possible." What is so baffling is that even though most of the songs included in the setlist are 20-25 years old and must have been played during recordings, rehearsals, promo sessions, and other tours for a zillion times by now, this band really knows how to deliver a song and make it sound like their latest No. 1 Hit. Not to mention the much rockier arrangements than the original song versions which work very well live and manage to take Roxette further from the pop realm right into the rock kingdom, winning them some more new fans apart from the late ‘80s – early ‘90s pop nostalgiacs. It’s simply amazing how this band receives the same overwhelming response all over the world - the proof of premium quality music. This was also the main focus of the show, with a minimalist but proper light show in mostly red, white, blue and green meant to enhance the experience. It was most interesting to watch the show unfold like a well-staged play, the band members taking turns in interacting with one another and with the audience, each in his/her own way. Newcomers to the music business have much to learn from this well-seasoned band in terms of what makes a show great and what really matters to genuine music lovers.
Apart from the main flow of the show, there were a few of those unique moments that make each concert special – the thanks in Romanian, the acknowledgement of the city’s beauty, most band members having taken a stroll down the alleys of the old town prior to the concert, Marie’s playful ending of "Things Will Never Be the Same," a bit later than expected which ultimately made Per laugh after probably making his heart skip a beat first, Chris’ outstanding rendition of the popular song "Ciocarlia" (The Skylark) on his rocking guitar which sent the crowd into a frenzy, the tall girl in front of me diving right over the 1st row fence to fish up Per’s black towel that he had thrown to the audience, Pelle throwing his drumsticks far away to the back of the stadium like a professional baseball player, Clarence proud of his new hat, Magnus talking about cold Sweden and polar bears as opposed to the 35 degrees of heat in Cluj or making fun of the Swedish figure 6 (sex) and pronouncing albastru (blue, as in his by now notorious Blue Sex Machine) like a native speaker. Also, before the concert Micke N-S, Per’s guitar guru, was clearly heard testing Per’s microphone by saying doi, doi (two, two in Romanian), something he must have picked up from the Romanian crew. Incredible how curious about and ready to immerse themselves into quite a different culture these people are! It also shows a great respect for all the diversity out there and a candid recognition of the fact that despite their successful careers and accomplished personalities they still have a lot to learn, both as musicians and as people.
All in all the Cluj experience has been amazing for both the band and the audience. The only criticism that one could bring in is that the concert didn’t last at least until dawn. But you know how we, the hardcore fans are – there is never enough Rox for us. Here’s hoping that Romania will from now on be a constant on the band’s future tour schedules.