Marie in Helsingborg – what a treat!
HELSINGBORG - I wanted to write a review for Marie's Helsingborg concert, but I feel this is going to turn into much more than a review, because I think I have to explain the other things to show just how special this was to me. I still remember quite clearly the first time I heard of Roxette. It was on UK TV in 1990, where they played clips of 3 songs: "It Must Have Been Love," "Listen To Your Heart" and "Dressed for Success." I could also vaguely remember "The Look" from the year before, but it hadn't really registered at the time. It wasn't really the songs that hooked me in, it was Maries voice, and I knew I had to hear more of it. I remember going for a search for their record, but Look Sharp! was nowhere to be find in my local record store. I eventually found the LP in the tiny music section of a department store called 'Littlewoods' and that was me hooked for the next 25 years!
Of course I didn't have any Internet access back then so had to me a little more innovative to find out about the latest releases. I would regularly be asking my local record store to check when the next Roxette release was happening. If I didn't get any joy from them I would sometimes call the EMI headquarters in London, although on most occasions they weren't particularly helpful. In fact because of them I missed out on Roxette's show in London in 1995 to coincide with the release of Don't Bore Us... but that's a story for another time. I can't remember when exactly, but at one point I became aware of the fan club in Holland and that became invaluable for finding out about the latest releases. The fanzines were also fantastic for getting much more information about the band, exclusive interviews and information about the recording process and advance notice of when the next record would be released. It was from being a member of the fan club that I also became aware of Pearls of Passion, as well as their solo projects, and from that moment on (from 1991 from what I remember) I spent all my money ordering various rarities from Record Collector magazine as well as buying all the old Marie/Per/GT albums (on CD by that point!)
I saw Roxette live for the first time in 1991 and since then I've lost count of the concerts I've seen, but until Wednesday I had never seen Marie in concert on her own. That was a real big deal for me, because although I am a big Roxette fan and I love Per's songs, it has always been Marie's voice that has made my heart skip a beat. I have always loved her back catalogue since I first heard it. I loved that it was different from Roxette's music. I loved that it wasn't just about making a catchy, meaningless pop song (which there is nothing wrong with by the way!), but that her music had heart and soul. Long before google translate I was able to read the translations in the Roxette fanzines and during what was a very difficult time of my life Marie's music made me feel like I was not alone. Roxette's music was a great comfort as well, and I have a lot to thank Per for, but Marie's lyrics talking about loneliness and life's frustrations really struck a chord with me and I found it very therapeutic.
My fandom never diminished over the years, but unfortunately I missed out on Marie's last big solo tour in 2000 as i didn't have enough money to pay for a trip back then, but it is something that I have regretted many times since. Then when we heard about the tragedy of Marie's brain tumour I think i can speak for all fans in that we were not feeling any disappointment about not hearing any new music from her, but we were just hoping that she was going to be OK. I think I resigned myself to the fact that I would never see Marie live again, so of course I along with many others was overjoyed to see Roxette perform together again in Night of the Proms, and of course on their recent world tour. Every time I saw her perform my admiration grew stronger. Of course she couldn't run about the stage like she used to, and she forgot lyrics here and there, but that didn't matter. It was just great to have her back!
We have certainly been spoiled as Roxette fans over the years, and just as the tour finished it seemed we wouldn't have to wait too long for new music from Marie, which I have waited for a long time. I really hoped she would tour, so was extremely happy to hear that she would.
That leads me to why I started to write this in the first place. I wanted to write a review of the concert, but I think to truly show how much seeing Marie in concert meant to me, I had to tell the back story! I had a great seat in the 3rd row with a fantastic view of the stage and from the very first moment when Marie and Chris entered the stage for a gentle acoustic rendition of "Så stilla så långsamt," I was in awe and I found the whole experience very emotional. Attending a Marie concert is a very different excellent experience to a Roxette one. It's a very civilised crowd and they didn't get out their seats at all apart from to give Marie a standing ovation at the end. There were however loud cheers and clapping between songs and lots of people clapping along to some of the more upbeat tracks. It was interesting to see how they reacted to what I assume are favourites in Sweden. A Swedish girl behind me squealed with delight when "Ännu doftar kärlek" started, and that song also drew large cheers from the crowd. Other crowd favourites seemed to be "Ett hus vid havet," "Den sjunde vågen," "Så skimrande var aldrig havet," "Sparvöga" and "Efter stormen."
As for personal highlights there were many. I would love to go through the tracklist and describe it all in detail, but to be honest it is still all a bit of a blur. The band were fantastic. It was of course great to see the good old Roxette stalwarts Pelle and Chris again, and they were both on top form. A great addition to the band was Marie's nephew Jokke, who for me was also one of the highlights. He is a brilliant guitar player, who was able to shine with some impressive guitar solos and a very touching acoustic version of "Ett hus vid havet," with just him and Marie on stage, which also showed that he has a very nice, smooth singing voice. As with the Roxette band though, I think what made it work so well was the chemistry. There was a tangible connection between the band, and especially being near the front and seeing the looks in their eyes. Marie seemed understandably nervous at some points, but gained comfort from those in the band. The relationship between her and Jokke was particularly touching to watch first hand. You could see the pride in Marie's eyes when she watched him play and the admiration in his eyes. At one point it looked like Marie forgot which song was next and he mouthed it to her.
I think what surprised me the most was the overall mood of the concert. I expected the whole affair to be very beautiful but sombre, but in fact the set list was very mixed, and the energy I the band was at some points just as striking as the Roxette band we are used to seeing of late. There were of course a lot of ballads, because a lot of her back catalogue is ballads, but I have to give credit to whoever decided the set list as it worked perfectly with very quiet acoustic moments intertwined with energetic upbeat numbers and ballads performed with a stronger beat than the original.
Seeing Marie in concert is something I have waited for for years, but it actually outlived my expectations and I found it to be an amazing experience. I found myself close to tears with my eyes welling up on many occasions, because this was a moment I had waited for for so long, and indeed when she spoke to the crowd about writing "Ett bord i solen" when she had cancer I did have to wipe a tear from my eye as she started to sing the song. And that brings me back again to why I started to write this in the first place. The true highlight of the show- MARIE! She is a true superstar and she never ceases to amaze me. Few people survive what she has been through, never mind standing on stage exposing the side effects of what a horrible illness has done to you. Being helped on and off stage and forgetting some of the lyrics is irrelevant in the big scheme of things. None of that takes away what a fantastic performer she is, whether that be onstage with Roxette or as a solo performer. To top it off, I also met Marie at the stage door after the concert. The 3rd time I met her after Sheffield in 1994 and Karlstad in 2001. Of course just as those other two times, I was completely tongue tied, so their wasn't much conversation as such. But as much I would've wanted to say to her is written here, maybe she'll have the opportunity to read it. You never know! Anyway, bring on Örebro, Norrköping and Gothenburg when I will have 3 more chances to experience this magic!
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February 20th, 2014
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