Europe @ Birmingham Academy, 19th February 2010

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After a month that has so far given me the brutal likes of Decapitated, Black Dahlia Murder and Morgue Orgy, as well as an unforgettably transcendental Mastodon performance, it was time for a brief respite. I headed to the Academy for a welcome relief after a fortnight of aural abuse for an evening spent in the company of Swedish hard rock titans Europe.

Support act Diamond Head were notable to me for being one of the Midlands’ leading lights in the then burgeoning NWOBHM scene (hailing from Stourbridge) and for being the originators of ‘Am I Evil?’, famously covered by Metallica with Lars in particular acting as a constant ambassador for the band over the years. Due to the early start for Friday shows, I arrived to find the band halfway through said song, so left the gig knowing precisely nothing more than the fact they were from Stourbridge and were the originators of ‘Am I Evil?’ Gutted.

Thankfully, the early start meant that the changeover time was kept to a bare minimum , and it wasn’t long before the prelude from their latest album, ‘Last Look At Eden’ bled into its title track to herald the introduction of Europe. From the get go, elfin vocalist Joey Tempest was a diminutive ball of energy, twirling the mic stand in a fashion straight out of the eighties that made a mockery of his advanced years.

Moving along quickly into ‘Superstitious’, it became growingly apparent that that through a combination of a great live mix and an almost telepathic tightness achieved only by years of playing together, that Europe sounded fantastic tonight. Often pilloried via accusations of being one-hit-wonders (you know, with that “do-do-doo-dooo” song), and for their tenuous associations with glam rock, tonight proved that both points are wildly off-the-mark. Europe’s music is worlds away from the soulless preening cock-rockers of yesteryear, owing more to classic hard rock albeit a particularly hyper-melodic strain of it.

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The exhaustive setlist touched on all points throughout their career, from ‘Scream of Anger’ and ‘Wings of Tomorrow’ through to ‘Start From The Dark’ and ‘Gonna Get Ready’, and not a single note sounded dated, although a few of the newer tracks suffered a little bit from lack-of-recognition-syndrome as opposed to the tried and tested ‘Seventh Sign’ and ‘Let the Good Times Rock’, although all were played by the talented band with equal enthusiasm before ‘Carrie’ became a real centrepiece of the evening.

With Tempest on acoustic guitar and keyboard wizard Mic Michaeli playing the opening section alone, it was left to the crowd to fill in the gaps, which they carried out with great voice. Tempest is still every inch the consummate frontman, giving thumbs-ups and winks to those he spots singing along, with those dazzling gnashers shining as bright as ever, no doubt sending a tingle of nostalgia to ladies of a certain era here tonight.

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The closing stretch of the set was the real crowd-pleasing part, with the classics and fan favourites unleashed, with the one-two-three punch of ‘Ready or Not’(a song ostensibly about being rocked right down to the ground), ‘Cherokee’, and ‘Rock the Night’ a real gold-plated triptych of classics.
Returning for the encore, Europe gave nods to both present and future, with ‘The Beast’ representing the latest record once again, before the inevitable happened, and it was time for ‘The Final Countdown’, a more perfect slice of eighties metal you’re unlikely to hear. It was odd at this point to see everyone in the building suddenly pay attention, from security guys to the bar staff in recognition of a song you could argue has become even more immortal than the band who wrote it.

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At the conclusion of the show, it was apparent that despite some of the barbs that have come their way over the years, Europe play hard rock led from the heart and soul, as opposed to radiating directly from their collective groin. Also, with the rejuvenated band now on three albums since their reformation in 2004 from a decade plus of inactivity, they have two distinct eras and bodies of work, namely ‘old’ and ‘new’. Their set meshed the two worlds together seamlessly, the pacing executed perfectly to keep the attention of both their die-hard fans and the nostalgia seekers, meaning that whatever you’re seeking from a Europe show, you’re not likely to go home disappointed. They did play the “do-do-doo-dooo” song after all.

Reviewer – Duncan Wilkins
Photographer – Ian Dunn

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