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Manchester Academy, 26 February 2010

Europe, photo by Lynne Saunders

The renaissance of Europe has pretty much paralleled the lifetime of GRTR! Our melodic rock experts Jason Ritchie and Nikk Gunns were early champions of the band's comeback in 2004, with the album 'Start From the Dark'. We were there at the start of the band's early-2007 tour promoting the follow-up 'Secret Society' when we interviewed Joey Tempest, and we witnessed their fantastic performance headlining Bloodstock last summer.

We have watched with wry amusement as other critics have finally caught up with the band so that the excellent showcase at Relentless Garage in London last November pretty much sealed their acceptance from those like the Bloodstock crowd who cynically remembered the poodle perms of the late eighties and the dubious pop rock that frequently went with it.  They can now do no wrong.

Europe, photo by Lynne Saunders

As the band approached the end of their UK tour dates, I have to say they looked tired. Maybe we were spoilt with that Bloodstock performance but it was as if the band didn't have to prove anything tonight.

The show only really moved up a notch after John Norum's all-too-short set-piece 'Optimus' which dove-tailed into the superb 'Seventh Sign'. In fact, the band only seemed to really get into their stride as they nudged the finale, with the song 'Rock The Night' referencing Queen and Oasis along the way. No doubt well rehearsed but something a bit quirky in a pretty much clinically faultless musical performance.

I think the problem may lie in the choice of set list, Bloodstock very much played to a metal crowd and therefore the hard rock quotient was beefed up.

Europe, photo by Lynne Saunders

I am still undecided about the new album. I can fully appreciate that the album marks a culmination of sorts but Norum's guitar is far too restrained and the album is less risk-taking as a whole, less urgent than its recent predecessors. 'Secret Society' for some perhaps a bit too dark and heavy - is actually one of the very best hard rock albums of recent years and one of the encores tonight 'The Beast' (from the latest album) is closer in spirit to that last album.

Europe, photo by Lynne Saunders

The new tracks they did play included 'No Stone Unturned' which, with seemingly more keyboard bombast than the recorded version, raised the spectre of cheese amongst the caviar as did old faithfuls 'Carrie' and 'Cherokee'.

The band - with the exception of Tempest who is a superb frontman and vocalist and drummer Ian Haugland - were strangely inanimate tonight. John Leven is usually more mobile and menacing and whilst John Norum is characteristically cool and restrained he only seemed to come to life during the encore, the inevitable 'Final Countdown'. There was little on-stage band chemistry and it sometimes seemed as if poor Joey Tempest was flogging a dead horse.

And as if to reiterate my earlier point about a certain perfunctoriness about this show, the band played their encore and disappeared, no traditional final bow for them tonight.

There is no doubt that Europe is a class act but I think - torn between their roots and something a little more risky - they could end up pleasing no one, including themselves.

EUROPE Setlist: Last Look at Eden / Love Is Not The Enemy / Superstitious / Gonna Get Ready / Scream of Anger / Sign Of The Times/ No Stone Unturned / Let The Good Times Rock / Carrie / Optimus / Seventh Sign / New Love in Town / Start From The Dark / Cherokee / Rock The Night - Encore: The Beast / The Final Countdown

Review by David Randall

Photos © Moonshayde Photography


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