Europe @ O2 Academy, Birmingham – Wednesday 21st November 2012

Europe @ O2 Academy, Birmingham – Wednesday 21st November 2012Europe @ O2 Academy, Birmingham – Wednesday 21st November 2012Europe @ O2 Academy, Birmingham – Wednesday 21st November 2012Europe @ O2 Academy, Birmingham – Wednesday 21st November 2012Europe @ O2 Academy, Birmingham – Wednesday 21st November 2012Europe @ O2 Academy, Birmingham – Wednesday 21st November 2012Europe @ O2 Academy, Birmingham – Wednesday 21st November 2012Europe @ O2 Academy, Birmingham – Wednesday 21st November 2012

Sadly, Stonerider had to pull their support set due to illness so Europe agreed to bring their’s forward by fifteen minutes. Still plenty of time for those of mischievous intent to retell the ubiquitous gags about the band’s evergreen monster hit ‘Final Countdown’, Carol Vorderman and Richard Whiteley’s big clock. Which were neither funny, grown-up or printable. The single sold over three million copies and during the 80s the band shifted over twenty million albums and still counting with them touring their reunion latest album ‘Bag Of Bones’. Step aside Volvo, Abba and dodgy knitwear Scan-noir crime detectives – John & Joey are back in town.

It was a surprisingly less than capacity crowd in the 02 main theatre with just one balcony open for request seating needs. And, the promised 20.45 start had sort of been allowed the flexibility of an MP’s expenses return. But, all is forgiven as the ‘Rags To Riches’ prelude is a beat-up mix sampling of Zeppelin and Fleetwood Mac with the stage exploding in a furnace of boiling red light and brain-frying strobes. Yup. We’re in to Europe and there’s fuck all UKip are going to do about it.

Joey Tempest (odd Swedish name that, not a single Ø in it!) swirls his windmill trademark white mic stand complimented by a dentist’s delight of pearly teeth and a smile to charm a nun’s knickers off. And, it’s evidently clear that guitars, John Norum, developed his finger muscles by hand-crushing glaciers for fun. They fly about the fretboard like epileptic spiders hot-wired to the National Grid. ‘Superstitious’ (no, not THAT one) had a moody Moog opener and some heavenly Glasgow gritty Alex Harvey Band power chord aggravation. The heroic deluge of synths felt like a signature tribute to the late, lamented John Lord – no more so than in the amphetamine fueled ‘Scream’ that could be approximated to a steroid-stuffed Autobot humping a skip full of skulls.

Joey goes a bit new-man soppy on acoustic guitar for the softy power ballad ‘New Love’ inspired by his new born son. Holding up a swaying mobile phone isn’t a patch on the old days with cigarette lighters though, is it? Introducing ‘Demon Head’, Tempest tries out his ‘Parlez Vous Et Brummié’ much to the punters’ amusement but wisely steers clear regarding Brum/Black Country dialectics. Norum’s gratuitously infectious wah-wah riff mayhem was climaxed by a Gollum growling keyboard solo from Mic Michaeli that suggested Keith Emerson was in the wings sharpening his knives ready for some Hammond organ transplants. It was a seamless piece of stage-craft segueing in to a sit-down acoustic Delta blues from Norum.

The acoustic set that followed seems to be the done thing these days – potentially risky given its possible disruption of the evening’s dynamic – but it worked well. The plaintive, hymnal ‘Open Your Heart’ had a haunting guitar solo the likes of which Al Stewart’s ‘Year Of The Cat’ would have been proud of.

Back to some serious head-banging with ‘Lebanon’ and Norum’s spot-lit Peter Green/Gary Moore panther prowling agit-rock. Then it was power-ballad, stadium sing-along time with ‘Carrie’. Tempest tugs at punter-loyalty heartstrings with a sincere thanks for years of loyal support. It was a frightening prospect that some of those here tonight might’ve had sex listening to this song and brought their progeny along as tribute. Just think of the denim, the patches, the hair!

‘Beast’ was an up-yours, unashamedly Black Sabbath/Iron Maiden bastard-mongrel spawned in UFO’s drinking den that inevitably ear-bled into ‘Rock’ and it’s foot-stompin’/hand-clappin’ get down dirty head-bangin’ reprise from the ‘Countdown’ album. It preened and strutted in to ‘Another One Bites The Dust’ and then, what a surprise! ‘Paranoid’. How to work a Brummie crowd, eh?

Encore time – ‘Here’s one for ya!’ grins Joey Tempest as the ‘trumpet’ fanfare riff of all time, written into the DNA of all sentient beings across the galaxy, heralds ‘Final Countdown’. Outstanding show, wonderful crowd. And, the Mothership of all lighting design deserves a mention.

Setlist: Rags to Riches, Sing The Blues, Firebox, Superstitious, Scream, No Stone, New Love, Demon Head, Acoustic – Blues/ Drink & Smile/ – Bag of Bones, Lebanon, Carrie, Beast, Doghouse, Sign, Rock,

Encore – Eden, Final Countdown.

Review by John Kennedy

Photographs by Ian Dunn

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