The one unique feature of Rowlit was the location: the concert venue was in a open limestone mine. Due to security reasons one couldn't drive down there by car, instead the organizers had booked 14 buses to move people in and out of the mine. The descent to the mine was rather spectacular, the place looked really wonderful. I won't even try to explain, just take a look at the photos.
It became apparent really soon that the acts playing at the festival weren't the biggest draw for most of the people. I guess Rowlit is more like "a place to be seen" and "a reason to get wasted" for some of the attendees. Right until the Roxette gig, all three previous acts were playing to rather small crowds. It's not that the people hadn't arrived, they were merely more interested in what the bar areas had to offer. Some folks had started "Rowlin'" quite a bit earlier, as they could barely walk when they got out of the bus. In a way it was a bit strange, especially since the majority of the crowd was a bit older and dressed "sensibly", polo shirts and sweaters casually thrown over the shoulders etc. They didn't act too sensibly though, as the security staff had their hands full and unlike on other festivals, the emergency tent seemed to be in use quite often. Some of the most rowdy people were actually escorted out of the venue by the police.
The actual showtimes of the acts were kept as a "secret", so we got to the venue quite early, so that we wouldn't miss anything. The two first acts didn't exactly offer too much for us, so we could've just as well skipped them. The first band RIZZLE was youngsters playing irish music. They were energetic and played a lot of different instruments, tin pipes and didgeridoos and there seemed to be a whole lot of people on stage. However, it sounded like they were playing the same song again and again, sometimes faster, sometimes slower... A few people were really getting into it, doing their version of the riverdance or something, so their hard work was at least partly rewarded.
The next band was "blessed" with one of the worst band names I've ever heard, "PAPPAS EGET BAND" (="Daddy's Own Band"). I don't know about you, but for me that just sounds like a band that's merely a hobby not taken seriously, something that daddy and his pals are doing in the garage on sundays. I wasn't expecting much, and my expectations didn't grow when they set up bongo drums to the stage. PEB had even less people watching their set than Rizzle, and their set wasn't received enthusiastically.
PEB played the kind of sedated soul-pop that you can hear on the adult contemporary radio stations, for people who think that Phil Collins or Toto are too edgy. Despite the hobby-like name, the band played very professionally, but for me they were extremely dull and only a handful of other people seemed to care anyway. A funny detail of the show is the fact that they played their "radio-hit" twice... give the people what they want, right?
Coming second in the worst band names competition would be the next band, TRR TRR TRR. Seriously, "TRR TRR TRR"? Anyway, although they didn't exactly pack the arena, Trr Trr Trr gathered a considerably bigger audience to watch their set of cover songs, and people seemed to really enjoy their show. And why not, they played songs that everyone knew, giving pop hits like "I Wanna Dance With Somebody" and "Fame" a very hard rockin' edge. Not to mention that they were a very visual band, dressed up in eighties' styled rock rags and make-up.
With a set that included "Boys Of Summer", "Livin' On A Prayer" and Heart's "All I Wanna Do Is Make Love To You" the band made a great impression on us. Three of the band members sang lead vocals, with guitarist Will Trr Erix and keyboard player Freddie Trr Michaels taking the lead on most of the songs. Michaels' camp performance throughout the show was fun to watch, he obviously has taken some influences from the guys he stole his name from too... Will Trr Erix took a shot at the aforementioned Heart song, and it was a bit strange to hear a guy sing the song without changing the lyrics, but it kinda suited the whole Trr Trr Trr vibe.
Then, it was time for the main attraction - ROXETTE. As you might know, Roxette has been on a hiatus for the last few years, as vocalist Marie Fredriksson was diagnosed with a brain tumor and was operated in 2002. In February this year, the band started their first major tour in years, and this tour took the band to the chalk mine as well.
Kicking off the set with "Dressed For Success", "Sleeping In My Car" and "The Big L.", the band appeared to be very lively and in good spirits. Guitarist/vocalist Per Gessle and guitarist Christopher Lundquist were all over the stage, going through the book of "Poses for Guitarists" page by page. However, it was easy to notice that the illness had taken its' toll on Marie. She wasn't moving a lot, and her vocals weren't what they used to be. She got a lot of support from backing vocalist Malin Ekstrand, who doubled several vocal lines with her. It was actually a bit heartbreaking to watch Marie perform, she looked so fragile. According to the comments made by Per Gessle, she is the one who wanted this tour to happen, but I've got to wonder whether almost a year on the road will do her any good. Hopefully the support from the fans and the fact that she's doing what she loves to do will have a positive effect on her.
Marie's finest moment was most probably the delicate "Perfect Day", on which she was only accompanied by the keyboard player Clarence Ofwerman. During the other songs, the crunchy power-pop of the band was a bit too powerful for her to compete with, and there were times when she just couldn't hit the higher notes.
When it comes to the set list, it was one hit after another, with three tracks from the new album in between. Apart from the catchy first single "She's Got Nothing On (But the Radio)", the new songs didn't leave much of an impression. Only the hardcore Roxette ones knew those, but "It Must Have Been Love", "Joyride" and the other big hits were sung along by most of the crowd. The band does have quite a few instantly regocnizable songs on their repertoire, they could've played nothing but hits if they had wanted. Three big hits were saved as the encores, namely their breakthrough hit "The Look" and the ballads "Spending My Time" and "Listen To Your Heart", both memorable moments and my personal Roxette favourites.
All in all, this wasn't Roxette in their prime, but more like the best they could do under the circumstances. While it's good that Marie has overcome her medical problems, but I do think that maybe this tour came a bit early for her.
After the Roxette set, Finnish band SUURLÄHETTILÄÄT were to play their set, but we decided to call it a day and head home. The same thought had occured to a lot of other people too, and the buses filled up quickly. Hopefully Suurlähettiläät didn't have to play to an empty arena...
Review by Kimmo Toivonen