Roxette – a kiwi perspective

AUCKLAND – I was 12 years old when “The Look” became a hit in New Zealand. It was quite risqué back then and my rather conservative parents would not let me listen to what Dad called ‘jingle jangle’ music, which was basically any form of music that wasn’t classical.

This article is one of many created by "Good Reporters", guest authors writing for The Daily Roxette. You can become a good reporter as well. Please check for details.

My best friend Matt Ottignon who is now a fully fledged musician in his own right introduced me to the song and initially it stirred something in my loins that was slightly uncomfortable, even unfamiliar within my rather limited spheres of musical experience. After a few listens the track made such an impact on me, along with “Dangerous”, “Dressed for Success” and “Listen to Your Heart”, that I had to go and spend all my hard earned pocket money buying the Look Sharp! album. I would dance by myself in my room to “Dance Away,” I would air sax to “Sleeping Single.” And of course air guitar to “The Look,” among many others. I loved all the songs on it. They took to some far off place and gave me a sense of wildness and freedom.

Back in 1989 I think it was they had come here on a promotional tour. My sister’s friend had told me how they arrived in a helicopter at their school Westlake Girls High School. She was absolutely buzzing.

In 2012 New Zealand was finally again on Roxette’s radar. I had seven friends booked to the concert and unfortunately Per got sick on the plane and never made it and couldn’t reschedule, because the schedule was too full with their upcoming tour of Australia. Luckily I had never dreamed that they would come to New Zealand and so I had bought tickets to the Australian concert prior just in case. I went across the ditch with my girlfriend. We dressed up as Per and Marie and I had the time of my life. It was a dream come true even if we were a hundred rows back.

nz2Well, fast forward to 2015 and they’ve finally made it to my home town Auckland, “New Zea” as Per fondly puts it. Vector Arena was packed, but perhaps not entirely sold out. I guess it’s been a long time coming so for many Roxette had drifted out of their consciousness a bit. Oh they still get played on the radio, “It Must Have Been Love”, “The Look”, “Listen to Your Heart” and, if you are lucky, “Joyride”, “Dressed For Success” and “Dangerous” and even very occasionally maybe a fling with “Fading Like A Flower”. But I think most kiwis would be surprised to know that they have been recording and touring a long while after those numbers. Most kiwis would dismiss them as a late ’80s early ’90s band. But tonight I think Roxette earned the respect of a big kiwi crowd as being much more than that. I think a lot of New Zealanders wouldn’t even know what happened to Marie and the amazing journey she has been through. But I think it was pretty obvious to them by the fact that she needed help getting on stage, and that she wasn’t nearly as mobile as they’d remembered her in the music videos, that something was up. A few of my entourage didn’t know and felt a huge amount of respect for her after seeing her perform tonight. I think actually the audience were really rooting for her even more because of her struggle.

nz4In terms of the concert though, Ekko Park opened. – a kiwi band, and it is really nice that Roxette call on local support acts to support them. They were a good indie band and enjoyed their time in the limelight. When Roxette came on, for the first two songs I was up taking photos in the pit so it was hard to comment on them, but there was definitely a huge sense of anticipation in the audience. I think there were others like me who had been waiting for this moment for 25 years as well. I know of at least two in my entourage. “Sleeping in My Car” was a lot of fun and I thought I noticed Dea and Chris give me a couple of winks. I was wearing my stars and moons jacket and frilly shirt (I was trying to look like Per) so out of the five photographers up in the pit I think I stood out perhaps as the fan boy. I wanted to show them that I loved them I guess. I was kind of lost in the moment to be honest. I couldn’t believe I was up there that close to my idols. I didn’t really want to be taking photos. I wanted to be dancing, gawping, enjoying this moment that seemed to magic out of nowhere thanks to the most awesome Thomas Evensson (TDR) contacting me. Second came “The Big L”, with me taking more photos. I wanted to capture all the band – each and everyone of them in their independent and eclectic glory. The audience were loving it. “Stars” came next. I’m not sure this is one that a lot of kiwis were familiar with, but I was and I was dancing my socks off 15 rows back now, as at this time we had to stop taking photos. Next came one we all knew “Spending My Time” and soon after another big ballad “Crash! Boom! Bang!”.

nz3Most fans will be happy that “Crush On You” was brought back into the setlist at this point. I was never much of a fan of “Real Sugar” myself. But “Crush On You” brought the house down even though a lot of kiwis have probably never heard of it. Per’s tittle tattle about Magnus favorite album being “Have a Nice Day” and Magnus’ reply that no it was “Baladas en Espanol” was perhaps lost on a lot of the audience, as most of them wouldn’t be familiar with those albums, but not on the crazed fans like me. “She’s Got Nothing On (But The Radio)” kept the upbeat dancy mood going and I think many people were up on their feet for these two. The next song Per introduced as one that they don’t play very often, but both me and my mate next to me were in agreement that it was one of our all time favorites and I for one am glad it was included in the setlist. “The Heart Shaped Sea” was performed with a beautiful backdrop of bubbling water. It was really a beautiful moment and it really just had an awesome mood about it, something of those beautiful Swedish folk roots that Marie talks about sometimes and the lyrics are just beautiful, conjuring up far off Scandinavian landscapes. You’d never hear someone saying the term “pray before the winter”, or “gathering up the harvest”. Our winter is generally quite moderate in temperature. I think for that reason these lyrics have a sense of magic and mystery about them for us kiwis. Next came “Perfect Day” and Marie pulled out a powerhouse performance on this one.

I was looking down at what I thought would be the setlist and expecting “Fading Like a Flower” to be next. They started playing and it didn’t occur to me until a little bit in that they’d swapped this for “Almost Unreal”. I missed “Fading Like A Flower” perhaps but the surprise was also a nice one. I for one am a sucker for the ‘hocus pocus’ these Swedes do to me. Per made some funny comments after about how it was a song from a really crap movie – “Super Mario Brothers”. “How Do You Do!” seemed to be one that most people knew and were singing along to. At this stage the band was really connecting with audience in all areas of the stadium. When “7Twenty7” came most people didn’t know it, however most people loved it and most people were up on their feet dancing along by now. There was great interaction with the audience on this song and Clarence featured with the Prof in a bit of a synth guitar battle towards the back of the stage. And boy did people love the Prof. He was a crowd favorite jumping all around the stage, goose-necking and performing some sort of amazing guitar yoga.

This is where things went up a notch. “It Must Have Been Love” was a crowd favorite and everyone enjoyed singing along. Per commented on how it used to be Christmas song. This might have been lost on a few kiwis. Most of them I think would be unaware of Pearls Of Passion, but I guess to the fans who felt it had been skipped, it’s fair to say that they are playing a song from that album in some form or other, even if it was the re-released 1997 version, a bit of a stretch perhaps but hey. It continued with the ones us kiwis all know “Dressed For Success”, in which Per and Marie occasionally took different parts and sang it like an echo to each other almost. Everyone was well on their feet by now, and “Dangerous” kept the mood high. It was at this point Per introduced the band. Dea who I now have a crush on, Clarence, Pelle, Magnus and finally Christoffer at which point Christoffer launched into a guitar solo… Now I was curious what Christoffer being a stranger to these parts would pick at this point. He went for “10 guitars” and there was definitely some recognition as people were singing along. Then came “Joyride” and this had a real energy about it before the band left the stage. We knew they were coming back though. After a little hiatus Marie came back out eventually with Dea. And this was one of the moments of the night for me. She sang “Watercolours in the Rain” with such raw and affecting emotion. You could tell this song meant a lot to her. And after all it is one that she wrote.

I think they have been looking at The Daily Roxette because the song made a unique segue at one point and she started sing “Paint me right, I can feel the woman in me tonight”. It kind of fit quite well with “Watercolours”. Perhaps it’s not the version that everyone wanted. Perhaps they wanted it in all its rocky goodness, but it was a nod that these guys really do listen to their fans! And I think it was nice. I remember someone suggesting a medley on one of the forums and this was a bit like that. It soon segued back into “Watercolours” again. Quite apt though don’t you think? “Paint” and “Watercolours”. A nice little moment was created there. It was like some sort of existential wink. Something a little unexpected. You didn’t see that one coming did you? “Listen to Your Heart” has always been a big number and it was huge and Marie was in great form despite having just endured a what 30 hour flight from Sweden perhaps and also being in completely different time zones (12 hours difference). Her body was having difficulty, her voice occasionally faltered but you know what’s great about it is she stands up there and she says this is me and I’m being vulnerable in front of thousands of people. I’m prepared to be vulnerable. And in that vulnerability is huge strength.

A few people commented as to why someone didn’t mention that Marie was ill. There was no need. And the audience was rooting for her all along. They could see it was difficult, she was struggling at times, but they were rooting for her because she was being human. She had faced adversity and she had overcome it and still was right there on that stage and she took us on a journey. That’s why those lyrics of hers “It seems I’ve been running all my life” were so poignant tonight because she wasn’t running at all. She was standing up there in front of us all and saying this is me and I’m OK with that and it was purely magnificent.

“The Look” was amazing. No matter how many times you’ve heard this song hearing it live in all its full glory is spectacular. Christoffer was doing his thing, Per was dancing his socks off and the whole band seemed to lift to an entire new level on this song. You could tell they were having fun on stage. You could tell they were enjoying the adoration of the kiwi fans. Finally came “Queen Of Rain” and this for me is a beautiful song and was so happy to hear that they were including it. Tourism is my favorite album and I would be happy if they had just played that whole album. What I was surprised to hear was that some of my friends who had never heard this song before commented this was one of their favorite songs of the night. Others said “The Look”, “It Must Have Been Love” or “Listen to Your Heart”. For me it was “The Heart Shaped Sea”, “Crush On You” and the “Watercolours/Paint” medley that were my faves, as I guess for me on these numbers everything just seemed to click in a magical kind of way. And so my little band of magic friends were blown away by the concert. Most of them were casual fans, with me the diehard fan. But I think perhaps tonight they probably found a new found respect for these Swedes with their big air hair, the goose-necking guitar yoga and their powerhouse voices, crazy dance moves and awesome sense of humor. Per said he would come again soon.

You could tell when they left the stage what wonderful people Marie and Per are. They stood there for a long moment and acknowledged people. Then as Per helped Marie offstage they turned around and waved again. Later when I met Professor Christoffer, he said he wanted to move here. Well we sure hope you do, we sure hope you do.

  ★ The author:

  ★ Publishing date:

February 7th, 2015

Internal reference code for TDR's Good Reporters: [tdr 249772]

This article was posted here on TDR in these categories:

*Good Reporter article, TDR:Exclusive, TDR:Live, TDR:Roxette.

  ★ Read more about...

  • Scott Johnson

    Thanks for sharing. I am so surprised they changed it up. I am glad you got to see them in your own country.

  • James Crompton

    We randomly met Christoffer in the street after the show. He was awesome. Such a dude. Then later that evening they played Joyride at one of the night clubs we went to.

    • RobS

      I’m sure that was a nice surprise. Sounds like you had a great time and that was the icing on the cake!
      And “they” being whom exactly??

      • James Crompton

        Oh just a dj, but it was just a random happy end to the night as its not often that you go dancing in a nightclub and Joyride comes on these days. Perhaps he knew the concert was on, or perhaps he picked from the way I was dressed a bit like Per perhaps. Not sure. But was just a cool end to the night.

  • James Crompton

    Just one correction it was Westlake Girls High School not Glenfield College where they landed in 1989 for the promo tour. Thanks Lisa for the correction.

  • Kathie Winn

    Enjoyable read James, thanks!

  • Alex

    The concert was amazing. Being from Europe where Roxette has always been massive, I loved every bit of it. Before the concert I was not sure to what extent they were known in NZ. I could see how some,very well known songs, were new to NZ crowd, but the atmosphere was spectacular. Tourism is my favourite album as well, and to be able to hear the heart shaped sea alive was unreal. This was the first time i saw them live, and I am struggling to find the words to describe my respect and admiration.

    • James Crompton

      After the Joyride album, I haven’t heard them play any of the later songs on the radio apart from just the Crash Boom Bang single, though Sleeping In My Car I think made it into our top 20 so it must have been played on the radio somewhere. Having said that my article was rather long so was edited a quite a bit for very good reasons, but I did have a segment about how for years through high school I would request songs like Fingertips, How Do You Do Fireworks and other songs from their later albums on the radio but they would always say we don’t have that one and inevitably play something from Look Sharp instead. It was hugely disappointing to me that while I was still a loyal fan, most people just moved on once the grunge era came along and I guess they went out of fashion. I guess I was never one to follow trends though. lol But I guess as Per says trends go in a cycle of about 20 years and something then becomes retro cool. So its nice to enjoy a bit of a Roxette revival. Pity though that you can never here Wish I could Fly Stars or even Crash Boom Bang, How Do You Do, Queen Of Rain or Vulnerable etc on the the radio here. I once heard Queen of Rain on the radio when I was in Bali in a swimming pool. That was the only time. Vivid memory because of this. Bought the Rarities album while I was there too. Doubt it ever found its way into New Zealand stores.

      • RobS

        Sounds a lot like me back in the days. Very annoying that you could never hear any of the new songs on radio. That said, my local station did end up playing M&T&H after some badgering, Probably the one and only time it ever got played!

        • James Crompton

          Actually it was funny I have a Ukranian friend who when I mentioned I liked Roxette said she likes Milk and Toast and Honey. She said it was on the radio a lot over there.

          • Alex

            In Ukraine, just like in Russia, Roxette became tremendously famous around 1992. Their music was everywhere, in clubs, in every music store and most importantly on most radio stations and TV. Even if you wanted to ignore Roxette you would not be able to do this in Russia during those years – it was ubiquitous – and, oh boy, they were loved there. When Crash Boom Bang came out, I think it took it to another level – this album was huge there. It was the time when they’d play the entire album on the radio with commentary from a DJ about the story behind the songs, translations (not everyone is proficient in English there:)), their songs would be ordered by listeners – Run to you, Sound of crashing guitars, What’s she like? not to mention the top hits like Sleeping in my car, vulnerable or Crash Boom Bang itself. And we thought everyone in the world was just as much fond of them, as the majority of people over there. It was an interesting discovery that Roxette was not that famous in the english-speaking world, like the US for example. I am not saying unknown, but far from what it is in Europe. To tell the truth, they are still huge there – it is proven by the number of concerts they gave in Russia in 2014. Their latest two albums are well known by various generations there as well based on what I’ve heard.
            I sometimes wonder whether it is the general prejudice against the non-native english speaking bands that bars people like Roxette, A-ha or others to make it to the main stream in the country like NZ? Not sure….But I have to say, I was pleasantly surprised to see the local crowd enjoying the concert even when some of the popular tunes, like Stars, were a total novelty to them.

          • James Crompton

            Thanks for that awesome anecdote Alex. I think there is probably a bit of that going on…yes although they are very popular in Australia interestingly. But I think perhaps that’s because they toured there several times whereas they never made it to New Zealand until now. I think it takes it to a whole new level when you hear them live. It just makes those connections stronger. I myself still bought every one of their albums, not just the Roxette ones but Per’s solo stuff too which I absolutely love. But mainly because I am an avid fan. A lot of them I had to import of course from overseas. I remember a mate telling me that one of Per’s solo tracks was doing the rounds on Radio Hauraki. I think it was “Do You Want To Be My Baby” off TWATG. For me though yeah there was this notion amongst djs I found that they were too cool to play Roxette, or that they were only cool in a retro sense in a kind of 80s nostalgic sense. And I think a lot of people who came to the concert would have been there for that. But listening to albums like Crash Boom Bang and Tourism for me which are some of my favourite lyrics – songs like Go To Sleep, The Heart Shaped Sea, Silver Blue, Cinnamon Street, So Far Away, Never is a Long Time, and just some of those dancey foot tapping songs off Have A Nice Day, and also the edgier songs like Cooper, I guess for me because Per’s English is informed by his native Swedish language and probably by the way he expresses things in Swedish, some of those lyrics are so much more beautiful because a native English speaker could never write them. They just have this Scandanavian sensibility to them. We don’t have white wolves in NZ for example. We don’t have a harvest for the winter. Also for me using instruments like mandolins and the moment where they use a “Samsonite suitcase” as a drum kit on Here Comes The Weekend, and also just their experimentation with so many different styles of music through their albums along with the mix of their two voices – Marie with her soul driven female voice and Per with his New Wave rock voice just lends itself to so many possibilities and that’s why I could never tire of them. But certainly yes to most New Zealanders songs like Stars, Crush On You and Shes Got Nothing On But The Radio would have been a novelty at the concert, even The Heart Shaped Sea and I’d even go as far to say How Do You Do as it didn’t get much radio play here. However, one thing about Auckland is it is a very international city. There are a lot of South Americans here, many Europeans too, Germans, some Swedish, many South Africans, who would have made up those numbers and would have been more familiar with those tracks. As for the kiwis they only would if they made an effort to follow them and hunt them out like I do or got subjected to an avid fan like me trying to convince them that Roxette was still cool.

          • Alex

            James, thank you for your detailed insight about being a fan in NZ – it is really interesting for someone like me and, of course, for the review. I guess another aspect of the attitude towards lyrics from the perspective of a person from a non-English speaking background – many of it we didn’t understand back in the day, it was more of a associative approach of growing affection toward Roxette. One could pick single phrases out of the context, but a rare person would have a complete understanding of a song. So, naturally, it all came down to the music, and the diversity of their repertoire. Per’s voice always fascinated me – somewhat sad timbre. I always longed for more songs like Cinnamon Street (one of my all time favourites btw), Here Comes The Weekend or Heart Shaped Sea from Tourism or Call of the Wild (another all time favourite). Of course Marie’s vocals – needless to say anything). You’ve got to be a bit of a romantic to be into Roxette I reckon. All I can say is that their music has gifted me with lots of hours of pleasant melancholy, nostalgia, drive and pure joy.

          • James Crompton

            Both my friend Mark next to me and I both concur that Cinnamon Street is our all time favourite and we were also both very glad to hear The Heart Shaped Sea. And I totally concur Roxette is for the romantics out there…for sure. And being a bit of one myself their songs have been the soundtrack to my life 😉 and probably many more like me

  • James Crompton

    Here’s a little bit about why Christoffer played 10 guitars

  • RobS

    I read a review about the sound mix being off on the first few songs. Did you find any issues with it? On the last tour I found it to be very good – much better than the support band at least.

    • James Crompton

      I didn’t notice the sound mix being off but I was near the front for the first two songs taking photos and rather overexcited. Even fifteen rows back there didn’t seem to e an issue but I did hear some people complain later yes.

  • James Crompton

    Also was completely humbled and over the moon to have had my song Amy shared on the Roxette facebook page! Such a wonderful thing for a fan to get endorsed by his idol. Honestly my heart exploded on the roof somewhere. Thankyou to the Roxette band for being such genuine people and people who really do do it for the fans and without ego. Its a fine example to a lot of people in the music industry.

  • `