“Hello! You fool, I love you!’ and with that frankly confusing message Roxette managed to ram-raid their way into our hearts. They had a thing about cars, did Roxette: ‘Joyride’ ‘Sleeping in my Car’, ‘Crash, Boom, Bang’ all piling up on the highway of disposable pop like a JG Ballard musical. It was as if they were keenly aware of their fate, to be forever mingled with memories of being a sleepy back-seat child roused into alertness by Larry Gogan blasting out their latest hit in between ads for Sunkist and Michael Bolton’s latest, tragic offering.
They were the Silverkrin-stiff hydra headed beast of AOR rock that ruled the early 90s airwaves, a bizarre missing link between Abba and INXS who created tunes so consistently infectious it was slightly scary and now they’re back to test our memories and for us to see if their pop-voodoo spell has worn off or tarnished during the intervening years. Catching the crowd unawares they blast on stage to ‘Dressed for Success’ followed a little too quickly by ‘Sleeping in My Car’ and ‘The Big Love’ to a muted, almost fearful response as if the crowd are concerned that dispensing with such hits in rapid succession could mean a night of….NEW MATERIAL. Thankfully those tense, nervous jitters are dissolved as a shiny, smiley, GHD-haired Per cheerfully announces they’ll be more hits to come just after they’ve gotten the forgettable nonsense of tracks like newbie ‘She’s Got Nothing On (But the Radio)’ (yes, really) out of the way.
As it slides across the temporal lobe like cheap spreadable cheese, it highlights all that is rotten in the state of Roxette. Dated, lumpen and with snazzy keyboards in an attempt to sound ‘current’ the song misfires on every level and without Marie’s powerhouse vocals it dribbles away into forgettable mush. It’s disappointing to see a band so soaked in catchy melodies succumb to this, in a more fair world Roxette should be handing bands like Maroon 5 and The Feeling back their arses for making piss poor attempts at capturing their radio-friendly adultpop, let alone suing Savage Garden for continuously ripping them off. Sadly, offerings from the Charm School album predictably fail to reach their old dizzy heights possibly because they are not imbued with dewy-eyed nostalgia or possibly because they’re just a bit shit.
Thankfully, you can never fail if you have a song as defining as ‘It Must Have Been Love’ in your arsenal. Beginning as an acoustic strum-fest/ audience sing-a-long it then restarts into the full throated bombastic original with Marie’s vocals sounding like they’ve been on ice since 1991. As the tinkling piano melody flows over the crowd the irony smirks evaporate from the coolest of faces as a million memories lay a carpet of goose bumps on every raised limb. It wasn’t just Julia’s gnashers that the success of ‘Pretty Woman’ belonged to it was also the raw power of this one song.
From this classic onwards the night descends into a giant Roxette version of the intros round from ‘Never Mind the Buzzcocks’ as they speed through almost forgotten gems like ‘Fading like a Flower’ ‘How Do You Do?’ (AKA ‘Dressed for Success’ with different words) and fan favourite ‘Dangerous’ with the crowd palpably becoming more frenzied… for a dismal Monday night. As giant Roxette balloons fill the 02 for the giddy triumph that is ‘Joyride’ and everyone stands to attention, goofy grins unfurling across faces, it’s clear the pop-voodoo is still intact but sadly it’s a magic that now permanently belongs to the allure of the past.
Photos: Paulo Goncalves [nggallery id=615]