Europe has played the UK many times over the past few years. Indeed it was only this time last year when they were in the same venue supporting the same album that we are here to watch again. This time though the band has promised to mix the set up and play a few more “lesser known” tracks.
On arriving at the venue, I am sad to say we only caught one song of support act Voodoo Johnson, but what a song! It was a real shame we missed them, though I hear they are both supporting ex-Hanoi Rocks singer Michael Monroe in April and headlining the Classic Grand the same month. I feel it will be worth going along to see them.
Europe hit the stage to album opener and title track, ‘Last Look At Eden’ which blasts through the venue. It is worth mentioning here that since their return in 2004, Europe have consistently produced music which is current and in many ways bears little resemblance to that of their 80s output. For one, it is a lot heavier. Killer guitar riffs accentuate each song; though somehow manage to remain melodic.
The setlist was indeed varied, and much of the 16 tracks came from their post-2000 output. The title track from comeback album ‘Start from the Dark’, ‘No Stone Unturned’, and ‘The Getaway Plan’ were particular standout tracks for me. Europe did however manage to pull out some rare 80s material such as ‘Seventh Sign’, and ‘Superstitious’. For a band that have been around for over 20 years Joey Tempest runs around the stage, smiles and gestures to the crowd with all the excitement and energy of the lead singer of a band on their first ever tour.
But it is not just the attitude; he seems very comfortable in his skin. Gone are the 80s blonde locks, and he has grown old gracefully and more than kept his vocal talent. If anything it is stronger than any video I’ve seen of “yesteryear performances”. In fact, even during big sing-along ballad ‘Carrie’ there wasn’t a note that this reviewer could consider as being “off”. I’d also like to mention a surprisingly touching moment, which occurred during the show when Joey spotted someone in a wheelchair off to the side of the stage amongst the crowd. He spent the next few minutes ignoring the lyrics he should be singing and letting the band loop the music whilst he climbed past the speakers and lighting rig just to pass a plectrum to them. There was nothing “rock star” in the gesture; it was simply genuine and warming.
The encore comes around all too quickly, and first up the band treated the crowd to the first ever performance of new song “Doghouse” which proved that Europe are still very much are firing on all cylinders. There was only time for one more song, and it could only be one song – ‘The Final Countdown’. You can say what you like, it is slightly cheesy, it is also absolutely classic 80s rock, and it is what Europe are famous for. Perhaps a bit of an albatross to some, but amazingly the band do not look like they are bored playing it. The signature tune accentuated by punches in the air from Joey, and smiles all around. Credit should go to guitarist John Norum who played the inimitable solo (and in fairness the entire show) note perfect. It was a real pleasure to watch this song being played. It may have been that many in the crowd were here to hear only this, or at best a greatest hits of 80s nostalgia. Europe are not that nostalgia act, they are growing from strength to strength and their new material is head and shoulders above their earlier output which made them famous.
I never saw Europe in the 80s, in fact if truth were told I believed I hated them. “A lightweight one hit wonder with little to offer”, I would have told you had you asked me back then. However, since their return I have seen them live 4 times including at a Festival – where the crowd loved them – and each time they impress me beyond words. What they are now is a formidable act which hasn’t forgotten their heritage but continue writing new material that is contemporary and impressive. You should look them up and discover that they are not ‘lightweight’ – you won’t be disappointed.