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Latest review! (February 2010)
Bloodstock Festival, 16
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.
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.
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.
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.
funky swagger of 'Let The Good Times Rock' and 'Ready Or Not' (both from 'Out Of This World')
'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.
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.
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.
1. Last Look
2. Love Is Not The Enemy
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
Podcasts (Joey Tempest/ John Norum)
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