Now slap me sideways and call me Keith, I never expected to be blown away by a rock band that have been playing music that most of you will remember for one particular track since 1986-ish.
Tonight, I was shown how a band can morph believably from 80’s cheese into a right down and dirty slut of a 2012 band and have an audience of 18-60 year olds on their proverbial knees.
Tonight, I went to see Europe. Yes, “The Final Countdown” 1980’s permed mullet Europe. And by god they have changed (thankfully!). That is not to say the Swedes do not sound like Europe, because they do. Only they sound tighter, harder, feistier and downright goddamn sexier.
The sole support band, Stonerider, hit the stage on time. This was a new one for me, in both cases as it was the first time seeing the band play, and a band hit the stage on time. The long haired Atlanta based trio were groove ridden laid back rock in the style of Graveyard and early Skynyrd and 1970’s classic flares attitude without the flares.
The threesome I believe, used to be a foursome, but there is no hint as to why they were appearing as a trio this evening, however, at times it did feel like they could do with a replacement fourth member with some lack of depth in places. Having said that, it was a good solid set of gutsy southern groove, laden with lip curlin, head nodding sway worthy rock n roll and Stonerider were well appreciated by the already filling room.
With the lights dimming, and a roar from the crowd, here came the band that filled me with both trepidation and wonder. But it turns out the trepidation was completely irrelevant.
From the get go, Tempest hit the stage with an energy far exceeding his almost 50 years, and the packed (and I mean packed) venue at Shepherds Bush Empire were up for it one hundred percent. If they could have moved any further forward, it would have made a sardine tin look as spaced out as a New York Loft.
The seating area was full, the floor was full, the tiers were full and every person in the room was grinning from ear to ear from the first note struck to the end note sung. It wasn’t like being back in the 80’s though as I’d originally feared, this was no cheese fest. There were no mullets, there was no spandex and there was no sign of tweeness, what there was in front of me, was a rock band with attitude, flair and balls. The venue was also full of people from every creed and age bracket, and the band on stage was as far removed from 80’s fromage as you could imagine.
A set comprising twenty tracks from their entire catalogue with a good smattering of new material from the bands latest album ‘Bag Of Bones’ sent the adoring audience into a trance-like head nodding state. I am used to watching metal shows, where fans show their appreciation by moshing and entering a wall of death. Tonight I witnessed a whole different show of appreciation. Fans watched, listened, and sang along. I also need you to note again that they watched, listened and sang along.
Yes, there were barely any camera’s being held aloft and for once it wasn’t like being stood surrounded by a sea of bloody fairy lights. Know why? The people in the audience cared not one little shit that they captured the event to upload to YouTube, they were more concerned about enjoying the fucking gig.
The one exception to this was on a keyboard solo, when I saw the floor light up briefly, with maybe 20 people flicking on their phones, then when the band hit the stage again, the phones were put away. To say that this was a breath of fresh air was an understatement.
People were more concerned about the performance Europe were throwing at them by the bucketload rather than upping their personal YouTube channel views? I almost shed a tear. Arms were aloft without cameras, and I don’t think one person in the audience left their spot on the floor for a piss during the full set. The light show was pretty good too, although on the balcony I think I almost had a seizure at one point when the spots were flashing at my particular seat for a good 5 minutes.
With hooks and riffs aplenty threading their way expertly throughout, it was hard to believe this was the band I remember from my teen years, Tempest as mentioned, was on fire. Easily passing for a love child of Steven Tyler and Michael Hutchence, but oozing double the combined sex appeal and twice the stage presence, minus the ego. Throwing the mic stand around like a majorette baton and sliding backwards on it like a pole dancing pro the frontman owned the stage and it was exceptionally hard to look away.
What to say about Tempests vocals, the guy can sing like a lark that’s what. Spotless notes, clarity, power and precision, with the right amount of emphasis on peaks and troughs..I hate the fact I cannot fault it at all. No duff notes and I bet canaries around the world just went for singing lessons. Bastard!
Drum wise, there were no spectacularly self-indulgent solo’s, there were no ridiculous attempts at cock rock pomposity, it was straight down the line, solid percussion and it was a lovely thing. Beautifully toned, not overpowering, and a guy that has clearly honed his art without feeling the need to try to dominate proceedings. A backbone to be uber proud of.
Synths did exactly what they said on the tin, with flair. Guitars. Yes we had fret wanking, of the good sort. Notably the occasional solo morsels that were never overly long, nor arrogantly short, beautifully composed, with a Slash-esque pose or two thrown into the mix. The bassist I just couldn’t see from my balcony spot, but there was no mistaking he was there, again, spotless in sound, throwing some gutsy tone behind the intricacy of the lead guitar. But, pretty much everyone was overshadowed by Tempest.
There was not much to complain about this evening, actually, the only thing I can complain about was an oddly thrown in track that stopped the flow of the set and visibly threw the audience into a situation where they started chatting to each other, but that was one track, and a short-lived hiatus. A funny moment was a stage hand running on bringing some percussion drums, running off, then running back a mere 15 seconds later to take them again after Joey had finished his hand tapped out mantra.
The rest was an exceptionally tight and incredibly buzzworthy balls out performance of hook laden stadium worthy rock with no hint of cheddar whatsoever. If they were a pizza, they would definitely be a 15″ stuffed crust super supreme chargrilled meat feast, easy on the mozzarella.
Europe have managed something quite remarkable in my opinion, they have bridged the era gap and have come back massively stronger. The older tunes remastered into today’s sound with none of the feeling lost, far from it, there is more grit and substance now emanating from the stage than there was 30 years ago. Europe have proved without a shadow of a doubt that they have left the 80’s behind, and are now a band to be taken incredibly seriously.
When the opening bars to The Final Countdown began with a roar of crowd approval, there was probably not one single person, including staff and stage crew, that didn’t begin singing along with their metal claws and fists in the air. Having spent time on the floor for the opening band, Stonerider, and being on the balcony for Europe, we stood up together from our seats as if honouring a national anthem, but instead of saluting, we air guitared.
For me, a real metal head to thoroughly enjoy a rock show, it had to be good, it had to make my toes curl, and it had to be hard. Europe ticked every box. Basically, if there was a musical avenue to world peace, I think it would be Europe performing that could achieve it.
Europe, come back soon, please. We need this style of quality rock, more so now than ever.
[tabgroup][tab title=”europe SET LIST”]
- 1 RICHES TO RAGS
- 2 NOT SUPPOSED SING THE BLUES
- 3 FIREBOX
- 4 SUPERSTITIOUS
- 5 SCREAM OF ANGER
- 6 NO STONE UNTURNED
- 7 NEW LOVE IN TOWN
- 8 DEMON HEAD
- 9 Akk BLUES trad
- 10 Akk A DRINK AND & SMILE
- 11 Akk OPEN YOUR HEART
- 12 GIRL FROM LEBANON
- 13 LOVE IS NOT THE ENEMY
- 14 CARRIE
- 15 SIGN OF THE TIMES
- 16 THE BEAST
- 17 DOGHOUSE
- 18 ROCK THE NIGHT
- 19 LAST LOOK AT EDEN
- 20 FINAL COUNTDOWN
[/tab][tab title=”Europe members”]
- Mic Michaeli – Keys
- John Levén – Bass
- Joey Tempest – Vocals
- John Norum – Guitars
- Ian Haugland – Drums
[/tab][tab title=”Europe links”]
[/tab][tab title=”Stonerider members”]
- Matt Tanner – Lead Guitar/Vox
- Adam McIntyre – Bass/vox
- Jason Krutzky – Drums/vox
[/tab][tab title=”stonerider links”]