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Latest review! (February 2010)

Bloodstock Festival, 16 August 2009

Europe, photo by Ian Pollard

February 2010 cannot come quick enough. That's when melodic rockers Europe will be touring the UK again on the back of their new album 'Last Look At Eden'.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, the title track of the album (and EP released on August 10) was the only reference to the new work in their one and a half hour set. It was a great opener though, setting the scene for one of the highlight gigs of the year.

The headlining position on the closing day of the three-day festival amongst such hardened metallers as Satyricon and Equilibrium may seem somewhat incongruous. I had no doubts though that the band would win over a cynical audience although I heard early crowd calls: 'Play Countdown and get it all over with…" "The Final Countdown" is a blessing and curse for the band, but more of that later.

Europe, photo by Ian Pollard

Joey Tempest and John Norum had told us in interviews that here was a chance to reach out to a new audience and upset their preconceptions and John Norum's comments that they can rock out as heavy as Metallica was certainly fighting talk.

Europe showed tonight why they are so enduring, even after a ten-year hiatus. Basically, they are consummate professionals, write fantastic songs wholly suitable for a festival event, and they rock like hell.

The band successfully updated their slightly iffy late eighties sound with 2004's 'Start From The Dark' with the emphasis on drop-tuning and rumbling riffs melded to effervescent vocal delivery and solid rhythm. It was the perfect cocktail to entice back the faithful and woo the cynical.

John Norum, photo by Ian Pollard

It has to be said that much of Europe's appeal lies with their guitarist John Norum. Terribly overlooked even by some of his peers (judging from a recent 'Classic Rock' magazine Top 50 survey) he is quite simply one of the best players on the planet. I cannot put it any other way. Every note seems perfectly calculated to connect - emotionally - with the listener and whether it is slower, gutsy riffing or more fluid runs the impact is always significant and never over-egged.  The instrumental 'Optimus' was an excellent showcase too.

John and the band were aided by a simply fantastic sound mix where you could pick out every instrument (and the vocals) clearly, but in front of the ubiquitous Marshalls and enveloped in dry ice, Norum was the star.

Europe, photo by Ian Pollard

After that spectacular opening, the band quickly hit sixth gear with a volley of classics including 'Superstitious', 'Scream of Anger' and 'Sign Of The Times' whilst 'Love Is Not The Enemy and 'Always The Pretender' brought their story more up to date.

The funky swagger of 'Let The Good Times Rock' and 'Ready Or Not' (both from 'Out Of This World') and 'Seventh Sign' (from 'Prisoners In Paradise') were master strokes and particular highlights.  The latter has the same classic feel in the riff of '747 Strangers In The Night.' 

Once again, toughened up for a Bloodstock crowd, these earlier songs came out fresh and exciting. And the older 'Seven Doors Hotel' benefited from deft interplay between keyboard wizard Mic Michaeli and John Norum.

Mic Michaeli, photo by Ian Pollard

Of course, by the time Joey Tempest introduced their comeback signature tune - 'Start From The Dark' - we were all ready for this other set highlight. Once again lifted by Norum's riffing and solos.

In a perfectly paced set, the band climaxed with 'Ready Or Not' and 'Rock The Night' before two encores including 'Getaway Plan' and that tune.

In fairness, whilst anathema to many, 'The Final Countdown' always comes across well as an encore piece and like all the earlier material the band have subtly rearranged and toughened things up. Closing a festival, it was pretty damn perfect.

John Norum, photo by Ian Pollard

When the band arrive in the UK next February it will be some three years since their last tour. Given that length of time, it will be pretty damn essential to get along to at least a couple of gigs. And given that 'Last Look At Eden' is a highly accessible album that pushes the band further forward, their Bloodstock appearance suggested they are poised to take a new set of fans with them too.

Review by David Randall

Photos by Ian Pollard


1. Last Look at Eden
2. Love Is Not The Enemy
3. Superstitious
4. Scream Of Anger
5. Sign Of The Times
6. Always The Pretender
7. Girl From Lebanon
8. Seven Doors Hotel
9. Let The Good Times Rock
10. Optimus (guitar instrumental)
11. Seventh Sign
12. Start From The Dark
13. Ready Or Not
14. Rock The Night
15. Getaway Plan
16. Final Countdown


Bloodstock Sunday Photo Gallery


Album review

Podcasts (Joey Tempest/ John Norum)

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