Warsaw – the awkward front row review
WARSAW – It all begins… Imagine: it’s early July, you are just back from a few concerts and some holidays, googling “Roxette Warszawa” (as the concert in the Torwar Hall, Warsaw, happened less than two weeks ago) and among reviews and photos you find an information that Roxette will cross your country again, just in a couple of weeks. Wow.
Speechless immediately – Warsaw was the second city (after Sydney) with two concerts during this tour. Of course we couldn’t have missed the opportunity to see them live again here in our homeland!
Unfortunately the September concert was not a typical concert open (and available) for everyone. Inter Cars, a big company from the automotive branch, decided to celebrate their 25th anniversary with a huge concert – including six Polish artists (from just the “known” ones to some of the biggest names of Polish pop culture of the last years) with Roxette as the cherry on the top of the birthday cake. So we have the date (September 19th, 2015), the venue (National Stadium in Warsaw – if you are a soccer fan, you might know it – it’s a stadium where the opening match of Euro 2012 was held), the only missing thing was a ticket. Oh, and that was the odyssey we have had to go through.
Tickets (invitations) were free of charge, available for company customers (mostly car mechanics/garages), collaborators and employees. But first one had to reach people who could have gotten tickets and who wanted to share those with you. I was incredibly lucky to have my ticket secured long before the event, so we could obtain some extra tickets for our friends a bit more calmly (still, I feel sorry for my friends, colleagues and co-workers bothered and annoyed about tickets and their connections for couple of weeks). In the end it occurred we were more effective than the band – as we managed to have our friends with us and they were not allowed to invite anyone (not even their families).
Finally, after weeks of hard work THE Saturday came. That venue is huge – it can fit up to 70k people (according to Wikipedia) – on a sold out AC/DC show in July there were “only” 56k people. As I got to know from the event management there were around 45 thousands of spectators expected. Impressive for a Roxette concert, isn’t it? First we checked the venue from one of the uppers sectors (thanks to this we saw Per and BoJo checking the stage and the backstage area). Huge stage with a catwalk, seven screens (including two huge ones on the sides of the stage – only those were used for Roxette, together with three blinds in the background) – everything that Roxers have dreamed about since the “Neverending Tour” kicked off in 2011. And the floor was divided into two parts, “golden circle” VIP part (around 15- 20 % of the ground) and “general standing” for the crowd.
This concert was different in many aspects (“different” seemed to be a key word of the evening). I was an incredibly lucky holder of the VIP invitation, which enabled me to enjoy the concert from the “golden circle” area. Not every day one can enjoy the (standing) concert from the front row without waiting all day and running, but just after finishing a glass of champagne and a peaceful walk to the desired spot… Well, different.
Shortly before 11pm Roxette’s crew appeared on stage and started preparations for the final show. The stage itself was quite high (ca. 2.8-3m) – great for the audience in the back, less favorable for the front rows of golden circle. If you’ve been to a Roxette show before, you know that routine. Putting mike stands, sticking setlists to the ground, managing plectrum-holder on Per’s mike, putting Marie’s chair into its spot… Nothing exciting for the general crowd, BUT if you’re hardcore… Well.
It occurred that not only the stage is high, but also Per’s and Marie’s spots were actually quite far away from the edge of the stage.
The intro sounded terrific in this huge venue (and, thanks to the speakers just in front of me, I didn’t suffer from the poor sound/sound waves/echo that this stadium is unfortunately well known for).
Although it’s exactly the very same procedure every concert, I got goosebumps, and the crowd around me got excited. Finally. Marie was led into her chair by irreplaceable Bo Johansson and the show was about to start. “Sleeping In My Car” was the opening song again – and since the first notes one could have noticed that the band is in a great shape, despite the one month break. The beginning of “Sleeping In My Car” was the most awkward moment during the entire show – I can’t imagine a Roxette show without partying, jumping and having fun, but usually it’s a big(ger) group of hardcore fans going crazy in front of the stage. Well. Standing still and just smiling would be even weirder (for me), so I was jumping (as the only one) since the very first note of the song. Sorry VIPs . That must have looked funny from the stage (the band also deserve some entertainment from the crowd, at least from time to time, don’t they?)
Fortunately as the show was running with fast and party songs, the mood in the golden circle improved a lot and people around me joined singing, shouting, jumping, dancing… Simply having fun!
This time, as it was corporate event, there were no photopass-holders in the pit during “The Big L.” and “Stars”, but Åsa did her job really well, filming the crowd having fun and the band rocking the stage. The fourth song was “Spending My Time”, and began with Per playing the guitar next to Marie. When there was the sing-along part, unfortunately almost nothing could have been heard (blame acoustics of the venue). Marie got confused and it took a longer while for them to agree when to start playing again. But after that everything went smoothly.
Before “Crush On You” Per and the typical Swedish middle aged man driving a Volvo, Magnus, did the usual stand-up comedy show. It was again “Baladas En Español” being Magnus favorite Rox-album. The show didn’t slow down, next song in the set list was “She’s Got Nothing On (But The Radio)”, with a “Highway To Hell” intro and a guitar fight between Per and Chris on the catwalk.. At this time of the show the crowd was cooking and Roxette definitely won that evening. Step by step we reached “Fading Like A Flower” and “How Do You Do!”, which seemed to be crowd’s fave song (I heard people shouting this title even before Roxette hit the stage). And it surely was the highlight of the show. After the show I heard (very few) Polish Roxers complaining about the Inter Cars crowd – from my perspective it didn’t differ from what I had around me during the couple of shows I had seen since 2011 (and you can see it here).
During “It Must Have Been Love” the crowd sing along went a bit better than the previous one (although it was still far from the one we would love to hear from 40k people). Well, one can’t get everything. “Dressed For Success” and “Dangerous” are always party songs, and there was no difference this time. Powerful ” Yeah Yeah Yeah” always put people on their feet, clapping to the sides is fun for the crowd. And everyone knows those songs, what was really helpful for the general non-fan crowd. The show reached band presentation and a local tune. Christoffer decided on playing theme song from “Maya the Bee” cartoon (the same one as he played on a regular concert in June) on the catwalk. The song worked perfectly – usually local tune is a surprise, but you can imagine surprise of the people expecting nothing but Roxette hits to be played.. Priceless.
My personal thank you goes to Chris as it happened that it was me suggesting him this song shortly before the previous concert (*short explanation about the song: it originates from Czechoslovakia, but we had Polish version, sung by Zbigniew Wodecki, which was so popular here that the one sung by Karel Gott simply doesn’t exist for us. Sorry Karel.) “Joyride” brought another awkward moment during this concert. First thought coming to a Roxer’s mind when thinking about this song is “ze balloonz!”, and it couldn’t have been different this time. But, as I was one of very few fans in the golden circle… Okay, at least Åsa, who was standing next to me during the band presentation, had some fun (she was really laughing out loud!) seeing literally one balloon in the pit. And it went down on the floor immediately after I had thrown it in the air. “Joyride” is of course one of the highlights of the show when the crowd is literally cooking, and there was no difference this time.
After a short break the band came back for the encore. Some people already left straight after “Joyride” (as none of the acts before Roxette went back on stage and Rox were the last one scheduled for this evening), but fortunately the golden circle was still rather crowded. “Listen To Your Heart” brought a spectacular ending by Marie and led to the final song of that evening, “The Look”. And what a show it was! If one needs any proof how great Roxette is live, definitely this performance of “The Look” would be a perfect example, everyone on and off stage went bananas .. (short video part of The Look is here sorry for the crappy sound, it was definitely too loud for my camera).
So, a short summary
Marie was definitely in a top shape this evening. She was singing powerfully, smiling all the time, laughing, pointing the crowd during “you and you and you and you” in “Sleeping In My Car”, clapping to the sides during “Dressed For Success” or nananana (from The Look) was sung to the melody of “Hey Jude”… She definitely rocks (off and on stage), she was born to perform and she owns the stage, doesn’t matter sitting or standing. Unfortunately, as she was sitting quite far away from the edge of the stage, watching the front rows and keeping the eye contact was much tougher for her than usual. Per was, as always, the great party pleaser conducting and animating the crowd. One could have seen his endless energy and passion.
And a word about the set list chosen for this evening: for quite a long time we were not sure how long Roxette was supposed to be on stage. We had heard gossip it would have been just around 30 minutes, then we got to know that it had been supposed to be “almost like a regular concert”. In the end 14 songs fit (12 including local tune and 2 in the encore). Roxette decided to skip “The Heart Shaped Sea”, “Watercolors In The Rain / Paint” and “Crash! Boom! Bang!” Fortunately it was the slower songs left out this time, so the pace of the concert was kept on a quite high level, and with that spectacular ending by Marie the crowd was in the party mood all the time. Dear Per, if you ever have to cut some songs again (hopefully not!!!), don’t skip any of the faster songs. The best thing of the concert is the party we can have and this time the pace of the concert was almost perfect (okay, you can add “Opportunity Nox” and “7Twenty7”. Hardcore fans won’t complain).
Overall, it was really good concert. For sure the venue’s acoustics made it tougher to have a real interaction between the band and the crowd (probably the loudest answer would disappear somewhere in the air). Of course it would have been different if at least half of the spectators were Roxers, not the general crowd mostly knowing the biggest hits from radio stations – but hey, we did our best and at least golden circle WAS having fun. I was lucky one seeing couple of shows during the European leg of the tour (including tour opener and the final show) and I can say that this show was not worse than others. And possibly better than some shows that happened this year.