Three songs into Tuesday’s show at the House of Blues, Roxette guitarist Per Gessle had a request for the audience: “If you know the lyrics, please sing along. If you don’t know the lyrics, please sing along anyway.”
A tall order, seemingly, but Gessle and Marie Fredriksson have been crafting canny pop music together for a quarter century, with songs that lodge in your brain before the final verse. The Swedish duo titled its first greatest-hits album “Don’t Bore Us — Get to the Chorus!” for good reason.
The set list reflected that sentiment. Roxette played only six songs released after 1991; by contrast, there were that many songs from 1991’s “ Joyride” alone. Perhaps as a result, there was no effort to modernize the group’s sound. Keyboardist Clarence Öfwerman made sure not to leave out the ’80s synth riff from “The Look” and added enough surf organ for songs like “How Do You Do!” and “The Big L.” to soundtrack a new-wave beach party.
One change that was hard to miss was the frailty in Fredriksson’s voice, with a heavy quaver that sometimes knocked her off pitch. Except for the slow unfolding of the excellently dramatic and vulnerable “Crash! Boom! Bang!,” she seemed to sing with effort, rather than simply unleashing, and she avoided the power notes on “It Must Have Been Love” entirely. The full band often helped bolster her, but when things were stripped back — as on “Perfect Day,” where she was accompanied only by piano and lap steel guitar — there was nowhere for her to hide.
For his part, Gessle was perpetually eager to please, hopping up and down, marching in place and investing newer material like the garage-soul pastiche “She’s Got Nothing On (But the Radio)” with the same doofy energy he gave to earlier hits like “Dangerous.” But Roxette clearly knew where its bread was buttered, dropping completely out of “It Must Have Been Love” and its power-ballad sibling “Spending My Time” so the audience could sing by itself. During the choruses, of course.Marc Hirsh can be reached at email@example.com or on Twitter @spacecitymarc.