Per Gessle Unplugged. A review
Some thoughts about a very unique tour
Three more gigs, and Per Gessle’s Unplugged tour is over, for now. It’s a sad fact but at the same time it was a great thing while it lasted, and hopefully later on as well. I’ve seen quite a lot of concerts, not only with Per and his various projects. Most of the time, you go there, they play their set of songs, sometimes they vary their setlist, and then you go home, more or less happy. Even when a band is performing an unplugged show, like many of the “good old” bands (even Roxette yes) did on MTV in the 1990s when MTV was still all about music (and music was still all about music… well, you know what I mean), they more or less “translated” their songs into an acoustic setting and on they went. Interesting to watch but not very entertaining to be honest.
Per’s recent tour was different. It took me a while to find the right term for it. What about “musical play”? It would fit at first sight but this term is already taken and describes a form of the musical theatre in the 1920s with a more serious background and a more dramatized plot. What about “acoustic concert”? Nah, that would not even half cover it. “An Evening with friends”. Hmmm, maybe. Then I remembered a line I used in my earlier concert reviews sometimes: “Per Gessle’s Flying Circus”, obviously referring to the famous British comedy group Monty Python. They were famous for their absurd comedy, great accuracy at performing their sketches, regularily interrupted by the line “and now for something completely different”. This is what we could find on this tour: Perfectly performed songs, inbetween the songs well planned anecdotes, a lot of jokes, some running gags, nothing makes sense on its own but everything falls in place when you see the big picture. It’s a pleasure to watch Per and Chris ranting about the AGM studio and its facilities. It’s with awe you hear the story how Roxette had quite a loud conversation with Tom Petty through a hotel window. It’s with a tear in your eye to see the band dedicating a song to never forgotten Marie and Pelle.
The whole evening is an emotional rollercoaster. Mostly on the funny side, sometimes it drags you down a bit. The way Disney used to write their movie scripts, by the way.
Sometimes you feel like you sit in a movie theater and on the silver screen, a movie is shown. A movie about Roxette and Per and their story. The script is really good, the sound is superb (and this is thanks to Mats MP Persson who is obviously not only a gifted guitar player and producer for Gyllene Tider but somehow also a very talented live sound engineer. (Why did they not come up with him earlier, you wonder?) and the picture a dream. Well lit stage, colors fitting each other so much you want to cry a little, stage props that push you into another dimension already before the show even starts. But then you realize that this movie is not something prefabricated but it’s performed live in front of you. The band reacts to your emotions. If you stand up, they know they did their thing right and put in a higher gear then. It’s with huge audiences Per shows his full capacity as a professional in the business. But it’s with small audiences when he really shines. The man knows how to pull the right trigger and he really seems to enjoy the direct contact with his audience. This had been obvious for the first time really during his 2009 “Gessle over Europe” tour where he performed in small clubs in front of a standing audience and it comes forward in this tour again, even though people had to sit. Just like the band, funnily enough.
You really need to think this through to grasp the full weight of this tour. We’re talking about the most creative stage design they had in years (by Åsa Gessle). I don’t really care about fancy video animations being projected onto curtains in the background or expensive stage light programmings. (Fine, that ring of stage lights suddenly being lowered during the 2003 Mazarin tour version of “Spegelboll” is still stuck in my head and I still love it.) It was certainly not expensive to put a ladder, some boxes and pallets on the stage and then add some light bulbs to it but it shows how much creativity went into the planning to make it look that great in the end. We have a full band on the stage, we have an unbelievably crisp sound (yeah, this was mentioned before but I really want to stress this) Per must have taken some time to change his usually well produced songs into something five people can perform live on a stage properly. He must also have taken some more time to come up with all these stories and anecdotes he would want to share between the songs, and I know how hard it is for him to be this “personal”. It even turned out to be funny. The band then had to sit down and learn their texts. Hmm! And you should not forget that one gig is almost two hours long. All that and most probably even more for a tour with venues for most of the time less than 1,000 people. You need to see the financial aspect of this. Per’s so well-loved 2009 solo tour was anything but a financial success. He loved it anyway because he enjoyed it so much (and he liked to call it a birthday gift to himself as he turned 50 that year). Yes, they traveled a lot but the overall concept was simple. It was really very basic but it turned out that this is what his fans actually wanted. Now, with the same kind of small venues meaning little potential turnover compared to huge summer tours with thousands of fans each night but much more love put into the planning, you will find out how special this tour really was. To Per, to the band, to all of us.
What started out as a gap filler for the Covid-19 ridden hotel of Per’s in Halmstad has turned into the what I would call most personal show he has done so far. There is hope we will get to see another tour worth being compared to this one. Seeing that almost every gig was sold out although most international fans could not really travel, I could imagine that this show, performed in English, might attract more audience in the future if the will is there to continue. Time will tell. I’m sure everyone involved (except for the financial department) was intrigued so let us hope this will lead to the right conclusions some day.
If you’re sad now that you did not have the chance to attend one of the shows, be told that the Karlskrona gig was recorded so there might be something under your Xmas tree this year again. Ho ho ho. Anyway, like I said above, there are three shows left to go to. If you have any opportunity to go and see one of the shows, do everything to do it. Trust me, it’s worth it.
Photos are from the Malmö show