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London Shepherds Bush Empire, 18 February 2010
remarkable revival is going from strength to strength. Despite this
being their fourth London show in under 18 months, and with no new
product, the 'house full signs' were posted at the Empire Box Office.
oddly titled 'Balls and Banners' tour, support came from West Midlands
rockers Voodoo Johnson. I am afraid that in a 30 minute set their grungy
sound failed to light my fire. To me they were lacking in melody and
stage presence, with the exception of energetic new singer Nik Taylor-Stoakes,
although to be fair they won a very warm reception.
It would be
easy for Europe to ride on a wave of eighties nostalgia, bolstered by
the recent melodic rock revival, but the Swedes have successfully
steered a more challenging path and the gamble seems to have been
rewarded. They have re-emerged as a harder, less overtly commercial
band, and the opening pair of the seventies influenced Last Look at Eden
and the uncompromising The Beast set their stall out, to use the lingo
of football pundits.
early they slipped in the crowd pleaser Rock the Night, Joey Tempest
twirling his microphone stand and getting the crowd to sing along. The
years have been kind to the one time teen heartthrob (and indeed the
whole band) and as well as being very much the visual focus with neither
guitarist John Norum nor bassist Jon Leven moving much from their spot,
he provides an object lesson in how to grow old gracefully.
of Anger was a reminder that Europe was originally founded on a love of
the classic sounds of Deep Purple and Dio-era Rainbow, and a series of
songs from the last two albums - the almost progressive,
eastern-flavoured No Stone Unturned, The Getaway Plan, Love Is Not the
Enemy, and Always the Pretender- show that they have returned to their
original love of hard rock and updated it for modern times.
propelled by John Norum's downtuned guitar, they can sound quite dark,
yet Joey's vocals manage to keep them nothing less than melodic, and he
shone on ballad New Love in Town which he revealed was written when his
son was born.
guests appeared as had been rumoured, but in tribute to another of their
influences, John also starred on a cover of Gary Moore's instrumental
The Loner. The one shock in the set was More Than Meets the Eye from
1988's Out of This World getting a rare dusting down, though frankly it
sounded a tad lightweight among the newer songs.
odd dip into the hits, Carrie sounded much better to these ears for
having the full band treatment rather than the stripped down acoustic
version they sometimes play, and Superstitious, moved from near the
beginning to the end of the set, saw John brilliantly replicate Kee
Marcello's unique solo on the original.
though seem entirely comfortable with Europe's new direction and - other
than Ian Haugland's drum solo to an accompaniment of Charge of the Light
Brigade - one of the biggest cheers of the night went up for Start From
the Dark, the almost industrial flavoured title track from their 2004
proving that nostalgia is not a dish on Europe's smorgasbord, they even
premiered a new song for the first encore, Doghouse, which was another
slight departure in style, with a raw rock n roll feel with a touch of
AC/DC and The Who's Long Live Rock.
there are limits to how far a band can escape their past and during The
Final Countdown the whole of the Empire was a joyous riot of people
singing, punching the air and, at least in the stalls, pogoing up and
Cherokee was dropped from the set, and indeed those of a fluffier
persuasion, myself included, might have preferred more material from the
eighties, especially as the set weighed in at a relatively short hour
and 35 minutes.
post-gig consensus was that this was a band not only moving forward on
their own terms but sounding better than ever live. This show was being
recorded for a DVD which should be force fed to any doubters still
associating them with poodle perms and one cheesy hit.
Last Look at Eden/ The Beast/ Rock the Night/ Scream of Anger/ No Stone
Unturned/ Carrie/ The Getaway Plan/ The Loner/ Seventh Sign/ New Love in
Town/ Love is Not the Enemy/ More Than Meets The Eye/Always the
Pretenders/Start from the Dark/Superstitious
Encores: Doghouse/The Final Countdown
a somewhat (for me) disappointing gig a year ago, hopes were high for
Europe's stop in Manchester (Academy 2, 25 February). Engaging
the partisan crowd from the kick-off - with references to football and
local brew Boddingtons - Joey Tempest led the band through an excellent
set and ensemble performance.
With the whole
band seemingly energized tonight, not least John Norum who even joked
about 'Dancing Queen' during a more playful interlude (and who played a
wonderful tribute to Gary Moore), there was a good mix of old and new.
The new track
'Doghouse' does have a more straight-ahead rock 'n' roll feel - more
Aerosmith than Audioslave - and this gig placed into juxtaposition the
lighter weight eighties stuff with the heavier material on the previous
two albums and the more mainstream rock of 'Last Look An Eden'.
that Europe is now attracting a wide range of punter - from those
shouting for Almost Unplugged's 'Wish You Were Here' (with Joey's
reaction that "you must think we are old farts from the sixties or
something') to those early adopters who latched on to the excellent -
and heavier - comeback albums 'Start From the Dark' and 'Secret
Society', to those who have discovered the band through the higher
profile 'Last Look At Eden'.
Europe can continue to cater for all these diverse tastes as they
prepare the next album but, as Andy says, they have firmly countered the
prejudice of any doubters (the press included). We can even forgive them
for that eighties cheese-fest 'The Final Countdown' which, I have to
say, is sounding better than ever.
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