Curses. Following a hectic dash from work, a drive at breakneck speed from Leicester to Birmingham with latest Europe album ‘Last look at Eden’ burning my speakers it transpires that the Birmingham O2 Academy have messed with the stage times and Europe are almost thirty minutes into their set when we arrive some twenty minutes before their allotted stage time. Looking around, it’s also clear that we’re not the only ones to have missed the start and there’s a general feeling that this most corporate of entities has irritated a lot of Europe fans particularly as the reason is that they want to get their Indie night underway. Now don’t get me wrong, indie nights or whatever have their place (preferably very far from my place) but Europe are a band of international renown embarking on a headline tour – they deserve some respect and to demand that they go on stage at eight PM, thus finishing before ten, is nothing short of disrespectful to a band who seem to forever battle against the idiotic mentality of people who think their only release is that song.
However, having made it to the show the remaining fifty-odd minutes was worth it. Europe are masters of their instruments. From a blistering Gary Moore tribute to a frantic ‘start from the dark’, Europe were blazing with passion and fire and early slot or not, Joey Tempest was determined to send the audience into orbit. Tracks such as ‘seventh sign’ clearly highlight the band’s desire to rock out with as much ferocity as possible, while tender ballad ‘new love in town’ (written for Joey’s young son) is a beautiful and touching tribute which still manages to nail that all important epic chorus that Europe are so adept at crafting. A blistering ‘love isn’t the enemy’ sees guitarist John Norum slash out a frantic and fluid lead that has the audience cheering, while a bizarre sample of Monty Python’s ‘sit on my face’ introduces a classically influenced drum solo that hits the spot by being both proficient and yet short enough to maintain interest. Europe are consummate showmen and they know how to work a crowd but what really shines from the stage is the simple love the Europe have of the music that they make and that’s what makes their recent return to the top of the classic rock heap so life-affirming.
Kicking off another almighty jam, and with arms aloft at the front of the house, ‘superstitious’ rounds out the main set before the band return with a new track entitled ‘doghouse’ that has a mean groove and sees Joey attacking his guitar with customary vigour. That only leaves time for the thunderous wall of bass to give way to one of the most famous keyboard intros of all time and the place goes mental for ‘the final countdown’ and rockers young and old, boasting jackets covered with patches for everyone from Maiden to Slipknot, unite to sing the words to a tune that may well be classic but on the strength of tonight most certainly does not overshadow the other mighty material that the band have produced.
Overall we were gutted to miss the start of a show that was clearly a rocking experience from start to finish. The strong crowd were mightily appreciative and it is a sign of how badly O2 misjudged their audience when, despite a wide array of posters allowing Europe attendees free entry to the indie night, everyone filed out into the night confused as to how a Friday night rock concert could end before ten PM. However, annoyance with the venue notwithstanding, Europe were masterly. While their appearance at Bloodstock may well have converted many, the performance here was a tight, well balanced blast through tunes that make you feel good and the audience responded with a warmth that was a pleasure to see. Joey Tempest is, quite sincerely, one of the best front men, and one of the best voices currently in rock and John Norum’s guitar playing is simply stunning. Moreover, ‘Doghouse’ highlighted the fact that the band have been fired by the runaway success of the quite excellent ‘Last look at Eden’ and it’s clear that there is plenty of life left yet within this most enduring of classic rock bands. Europe ruled last night in Birmingham and I was left only with the thrill of anticipation of getting to see them again on the next tour – surely the sign of an excellent night out.