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Joyride has bumps, but fans don't care

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With a National Hockey League lockout looking more and more likely, Roxette might be the only Swedes that play in the MTS Centre this year.

With the possibility the likes of Tobias Enstrom and the Sedin brothers won't be skating here any time soon, we are left with Swedish pop stars Marie Fredriksson and Per Gessle for entertainment at the MTS Centre, which won't please many Winnipeg Jets fans, but left smiles on the faces of a surprisingly large Groupon-bolstered crowd of 7,000 people, many decked out in '80s-era neon, high heels and tight pants.

Yes, Roxette is still a band -- to answer the question of the week, "Roxette is still around?" -- and no, they were not at the casino, but at the arena Friday for a night of nostalgia that included Can-pop survivors Glass Tiger and former MuchMusic VJ/programmer Kim Clarke Champniss spinning music before the two bands, neither of which would have been featured on any of his alternative rock shows back then.

There have been a few gaps in Roxette's career since the 1980s -- most notably in the early 2000s, when spiky-haired vocalist Fredriksson successfully had a brain tumour removed and waged a battle against cancer that left her blind in her right eye -- but they never broke up and have released two albums in the past two years.

The group -- consisting of vocalist Fredriksson, vocalist-guitarist Gessle and a five-member band -- offered up a few new numbers, but wisely stuck to the keyboard/synth-driven hits that made them international stars between 1988 and 1994.

Things started a little shaky for Fredriksson -- she sounded out of tune and weak on opening numbers Dressed for Success and Sleeping in My Car -- but found her voice on the third song of the night, The Big L, and only occasionally lapsed into some muddiness during the slower numbers throughout the rest of the night. Her battle with cancer might have robbed her of some of her range, but at various times during the set, the 54-year-old proved she still has some powerful pipes and the fact she sounded as good as she did is a testament to her hard work following the operation, radiation treatments and chemotherapy, which diminished her ability to read, write and count.

The group came armed with some huge hits in their arsenal with The Look, Listen to Your Heart, How Do You Do!, Dangerous and Joyride, but the show often lagged when they weren't playing their singles. They have a knack for writing a big hook, but they also have a lot of filler in their catalogue, including Stars, Things Will Never Be the Same and Spending My Time, all which made the setlist.

The party-ready crowd sang and danced along to their favourites, but you could hear a steady chatter over the Fredriksson solo spot, Perfect Day. Things were different on the smash tear-jerker It Must Have Been Love when people stopped talking to sing along and raise their fists and lighters in the air.

Glass Tiger opened the night with a 45-mintue set of lightweight pop that earned them three Juno Awards back in the day, but whatever excitement they generated back then hasn't held up over the years, or at least during their set in Winnipeg Friday.

The Newmarket, Ont., quartet, fronted by Scottish expat Alan Frew and augmented with a female backup vocalist, started off mellow with songs like Thin Red Line, My Town and Someday, before things picked up near the end with the punchy Frew solo offering, Healing Hands, energetic Animal Heart and their biggest hit, Don't Forget Me (When I'm Gone), which transported the crowd back to 1986 and had them singing and dancing along, ending an otherwise forgettable set.


Sept. 7, 2012

MTS Centre

Attendance: 7,000

HHH out of HHHHH

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition September 8, 2012 B2

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