Bank holiday Monday, and the city was absolutely drenched with rain so uncommon for June. I got wrapped up in the winter jacket, with the umbrella in the bag, knowing had I opened it the wind would play one of its ‘flip-it-around’ games and most likely broke it. So I walked out with only the hat protecting me from getting wet. I sat on the bus and headed into town. My favourite band from my teenage years was in Dublin and I was going to the concert. How exciting.
I stopped listening to them perhaps more than 15 years ago, but the memory of the young me growing up in Croatia, when dreams only started to bud within my heart, reminds me of the books I read at the time and Roxette playing in the background. So much of what I would learn to love and who I would become was not yet developed when I started listening to Roxette. I remember being in the small apartment in Zagreb, where my mum, dad, my brother and I all shared one room, when I played tapes with my favourite music over and over again. We moved to a house on the outskirts of Zagreb when I was 12 or 13, so I must have started to listen to Roxette some time before that. Whenever I think of my teenage years I think of it as a very fruitful time when my deepest dreams surfaced within me. Somewhere there in those formative years I entered into the journey of faith, starting to get to know God, which is a big contrast to my childhood. Also an intense love and longing for Ireland, where I now live, has come to pursues me, from within. Therefore having a favourite band from that time of my life is special to me. As if their music, somehow, maybe unintentionally, also watered those dreams.
When a friend and I were seated in 3Arena in Dublin waiting for Roxette to come on stage, I felt a wave of gratitude and excitement gently visit me. But nothing prepared me for what I would see. Just before the concert started I googled Roxette to remind myself of the names of the two lead singers, a man and a woman from Sweden, and though they have other musicians with them, it is the two of them who make the band. Then I found out that Marie Fredriksson had been diagnosed with brain tumour in 2002 and presumed she must have recovered since they are on tour now. The arena was finally packed, the opening band finished playing and it was time for Roxette to come out, shortly after 9pm. My eyes were focused on the stage, my face turned into a smile, the lights got dimmed and in came Per Gessle with his guitar, but Marie was helped with someone from their team, unable to walk fast. Slowly the man who was helping her accompanied her to a chair in the middle of the stage, she sat down and the lights came on, the music started. She remained seated all throughout the show.
I was impressed not only with the quality of music, but also with her gentle posture silently giving dignity to all who go through difficult illnesses, difficult experiences in life. She was an encouragement for she is still singing, being on tour with Roxette, even if physically she seemed fail. I love people who are survivors and yet who show you that life is worth living. Pondering about this made me recall a statement that says, “Don’t stumble over something behind you”. While there is wisdom in that, wisdom that tells you about moving on, I thought to myself, “Don’t throw away your past too soon, maybe it still has lessons worth learning from”. It is experiences in our past that made us who we are now. For a moment, I was proud of the ‘teenage me’ for choosing such a band as my favourite. And even though I stopped listening to them during a good portion of my life, they enriched me those years later, singing in Dublin.
During the concert, I didn’t know all the songs, but amazingly I remembered lyrics from those I did know, even if I haven’t listened to them in years.
‘I’m gonna get dressed for success
Shaping me up for the big time, baby
Get dressed for success’
‘Spending my time, watching the days go by
Feeling so small, I stare at the wall
Hoping that you think of me too
I’m spending my time’
And yes, I sang along. I put a few songs on, as I’m writing now, and the melody is filling me with happiness. Hey guys, I was at the Roxette concert just a few days ago. Honestly, pinch me. When they finished singing that evening, the lights got dimmed again, someone came to help Marie walk out; slowly, in all her fragility she left and others did as well. The stage was empty. People were clapping, but some of them also started to leave. I kept cheering and among the minority of those of us who continued clapping, I said, “Come on, come out again. Come on, come on”. And I kept applauding. The momentum pickup up and others joined, so that the quiet sound of a few (hundred?) hands clapping increased, and they came out. “Listen to your heart”. They wouldn’t have sang it had we not called them out! One of their most famous songs ever. Another one of the old favourites they sang earlier is “It must have been love”. Well, if it was love then – it still is. Roxette were absolutely amazing. After they sang another few songs, Per Gessle offered a hand to Marie, and the woman who was the back vocal did too, from the others side, and they helped her stand up. My heart nearly melted. Together they gently bowed down, the audience cheered loudly, and then Per and Marie walked hand in hand and left the stage. They turned around briefly, Per helping Marie turn towards us, as we applauded ‘well done’, ‘goodbye for now’.
© Iva Beranek (Dublin, 20th May 2015)
Photos by © Iva Beranek