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Manchester Academy, 26 February 2010
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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