Better than ever

Swedish pop duo Roxette comes to Tel Aviv as part of its revival tour.

Roxette 311 (photo credit: Caroline Roosmark)
Roxette 311
(photo credit: Caroline Roosmark)
There truly are second acts in the entertainment world – just ask Marie Fredriksson and Per Gessle, collectively known as Roxette.
Between the late 1980s and the mid-1990s, the stylish Swedish pop-rock duo sold more than 75 million albums and scored four No.1 hits in the US, which included the mainstream modern rock staples “The Look,” “Listen to Your Heart” and “It Must Have Been Love.”
Their first album as a duo – Look Sharp! – made them stars in their home country, but it was a fluke that brought them international stardom. In 1988 an American exchange student from Minneapolis heard “The Look” in Sweden and brought a copy of Look Sharp! home for the holiday break. He gave the album to a Minneapolis radio station and the song’s popularity began spreading to other radio stations, resulting in “The Look” becoming a hit before the album or the song had been commercially released or promoted in the US market.
Call them a spikier ABBA or a European Fleetwood Mac, but the fact is that from that point on, they were huge, dominating MTV and the radio charts until one day, for reasons that can only be explained by a radio demographics expert in some Madison Avenue tower, they no longer did.
“I remember hearing Nirvana for the first time. I started playing in the 1970s, and my first band was a punk band. So I just loved the grunge thing immediately. But it was the end of an era [of polished pop],” Gessle told the BBC in 2009.
By the beginning of 2000, Frediksson and Gessle were distancing themselves from the Roxette name and working on low-key solo projects. Then in 2002, Fredriksson was diagnosed with a brain tumor. Although she underwent successful surgery and follow-up treatment on the road to a full recovery, it marked the end of the road for Roxette.
Throughout the decade there were occasional appearances together and anniversary compilation CDs, but it wasn’t until 2009 when stirrings of a reunion began gathering steam.
In May of that year, an announcement was made that Roxette would reunite for the Night of the Proms in Belgium, The Netherlands and Germany, and later that month, Fredriksson appeared onstage at the end of a Gessle concert to sing “It Must Have Been Love” and “The Look.”
2010 witnessed a few more shows in Europe and Russia, which became the dress rehearsals for a full-fledged world tour that began in this year in February and will mark its 62nd performance on October 22 at the Tel Aviv Exhibition Center.
Promoter Shuki Weiss, who’s bringing the band here in conjunction with Live Nation, wanted to make sure the band was still at the top of their game, and he wasn’t disappointed.
“A few moths ago, I flew to France to see Roxette in concert, and what I saw was that the band has only gotten better over the years. Their communication with the audience was amazing, and their show was one of the best and most enjoyable there is,” he said. “I had some doubts before about the vocal and physical capacity of Marie following her battle with cancer, and to my great joy, I witnessed her conquer the stage and audience, stronger than ever.”
Likewise, Live Nation Sweden chief Thomas Johansson told the music industry magazine Pollstar that Roxette’s reunion has succeeded way beyond his expectations, with estimates of more than one million fans attending their 2011 shows.
“If I had said we would do a million tickets when we first started out, I’m not sure if people would have told me to go to the pub or to come out of it,” Johansson told Pollstar, adding that the tour will continue into Southeast Asia, New Zealand and Australia early next year.
Gessle himself seemed to have a premonition of the Roxette revival when he spoke to the BBC a couple of years before it happened.
“When you’re working with pop music, you have your heyday and then you wane out. And if you’re lucky, your songs survive and then you come back into fashion again after 10 years or so.”
Roxette, October 22 at 6:30 p.m. at the Tel Aviv Exhibition Center, NIS 370.