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Artist: Europe

Venue: London, Palladium

Date: 26 October 2023

"I don’t know who had the biggest smiles, the band or the fans, but what I do know is that everyone was happy. There was nothing final about this countdown. I’m sure there is still a lot more to come from a band that is very far from over."


Some bands are unable to make it past forty days. Forty weeks will be a challenging period of time for most of them. To make it to the forty month mark should be considered a great achievement, but to last forty years is nothing short of astonishing. But Europe are a band that have not only been together for forty years, they are arguably now at the peak of their powers.

Tonight’s show, a second of two sold-out appearances at the prestigious London Palladium, is part of their fortieth anniversary ‘Time Capsule’ tour. A brilliantly constructed celebration of the bands remarkable musical legacy.

I first saw Europe in 1987 on ‘The Final Countdown’ tour when they were promoting an album that saw them turn from relative unknowns outside of their native country Sweden to global superstars. I am sure that within those forty years they have had to overcome many challenges, emotional ups and downs, and trials and tribulations. But tonight none of that mattered because it was all about the band’s music and the heart warming relationship they have with their fans.

The show starts with an entertaining and insightful documentary made up of candid interviews by each band member talking about how they came together and their early musical history. It set the tone for the evening perfectly. Now the real show could begin. The lights dimmed and the intro tape started to filter through the PA. The stage was filled with a blinding white light reminiscent of the spaceship in ‘Close Encounters Of The Third Kind’, and through the curtain, you could see silhouette’s moving one by one into position. The drama intensified when the sound of tribal drums were added to the build-up. The anticipation from the audience was palpable. Then with a flash of light the curtain dropped to reveal Europe onstage tearing into the opening song ‘On Broken Wings’ The band were greeted like long lost sons returning from war and it was obvious that this was not an audience that needed to be won over. Right from the start the sound was pristine, every instrument was crystal clear and the vocals cut through like a razor.

Something that is rarely mentioned and often overlooked about Europe is just how powerful they sound. If I had to make a musical comparison I would pick Deep Purple around the ‘Machine Head’ and ‘In Rock’ period. This is an exceptionally tight band, with each member meticulously and ruthlessly performing their parts like a well-oiled machine. We were watching a band on fire and at the height of their game.

Joey Tempest was a star forty years ago and forty years later his light is blazing brighter than ever. His stage presence radiates around the auditorium and you can’t help but be touched by it. From the very first second he commands the stage with absolute authority. I was taking photographs for the first three songs and it was hard to keep up with him. He was everywhere. You could tell he was on a mission to make an emotional connection with every single person in the audience, even the photographers. He was both captivating and mesmerising. Every member of the band looked supremely confident in their abilities but in John Norum they have a musical juggernaut. One of the most gifted guitar players I have ever seen play live but also one of the most understated. After the second chorus he dropped to one knee and unleashed one of the most breathtaking guitar solos I have ever heard, and I have heard a lot of guitar solos. I actually stopped taking photographs and stood with my jaw open wide as I watched him pour his soul out through his guitar. It was an honour and privilege to be so close and witness such virtuosity. But this was just the tip of the iceberg as I found out later on. ‘On Broken Wings' went seamlessly into one of my favourites, ‘Seven Doors Hotel.’ The audience were invited to sing along with the chorus and they didn’t need to be asked twice. It was a powerful moment that only energised the band even more.

The classic ‘Rock The Night’ came next and was met with even more euphoria. The band were brimming with confidence and knew that the audience were in the palm of their collective hand. ‘Start From The Dark’ and ‘Walk The Earth’ followed and I have to confess that I hadn’t heard either song before this evening. A shocking admission to make as both are fantastic compositions, the latter being one of the musical highlights of the evening. The new single and instant Europe classic ‘Hold Your Head Up’ showed that this is not a band resting on its songwriting laurels. ‘Dreamer’, taken from the band’s second album ‘Wings Of Tomorrow’, lightened the mood a little and gave Tempest the opportunity to show off his considerable vocal ability. In stark contrast, and not by accident I suspect, the following song ‘War Of Kings’ contained a contender for the heaviest riff of the evening. A truly majestic piece of music. Norum at this point was playing like a monolithic guitar God that very few people could match, and I mean very few. He was just hitting his stride when the band performed the instrumental ‘Vasastan’. He is unquestionably one of the greatest guitar players in the world. The perfect blend of Michael Schenker and Ritchie Blackmore with a little hint of Gary Moore thrown in for good measure. Watching him play is an electrifying experience, yet his stage persona is like a man whose genius weighs heavy on his shoulders. It’s almost like he is apologetic for his brilliance.

Next on the setlist was ‘Girl From Lebanon’ the first song taken from the 1991 album ‘Prisoners In Paradise’. It was obvious that a lot of thought and planning had gone into the construction of the ‘Time Capsule’ stage show. One of its key features was that each band member got their individual opportunity to talk to the audience, to share their personal reflections on the last forty years and pay tribute to their loyal fanbase. The first to do this was keyboardist Mic Michaeli who gave his heartfelt appreciation to everyone that had supported the band throughout their career. It was a very touching moment and something that became a recurring theme during the whole show. He finalised it by introducing the classic song he co-wrote, ‘Carrie’. For me. the band’s third album ‘The Final Countdown’ was where their songwriting skills went to another level, something this composition perfectly demonstrated. The first set concluded with a supercharged version of ‘Stormwind’, containing yet another breathtaking guitar solo from Norum. The band left the stage to rapturous applause for a twenty-minute interlude allowing for a costume change and for the second half of the documentary to be screened.

Ding Ding! Seconds out, Round two.

The second set quite literally took off from where the first set ended, with absolutely no signs of slowing down. Quite the opposite in fact. The restart began with ‘Always The Pretenders’ taken from the 2006 album ‘Secret Society’. This was yet another song I didn’t know but it instantly became one of my favourite Europe songs and another one of the evening’s many musical highlights.

‘Ninja’, ‘Prisoners In Paradise’ and ‘Sign Of The Times’ all followed. Each song was perfectly performed and delivered. Each song was loved and adored by the audience. What then followed was yet another demonstration of how to perfectly control the emotional ebb and flow of a Rock concert. Armed with a couple of acoustic guitars, Tempest and Norum took centre stage and created an intimate atmosphere, allowing both of them to engage with the audience. The most endearing moment was when Tempest took the opportunity to give Norum the full credit he rightfully deserves. For anyone who isn’t aware of the history, Norum left Europe in 1986 to pursue a solo career but rejoined the band in 2004. In my very humble opinion, I would say that on the first two Europe albums, it was his star that shone the brightest. I understand why he chose to follow his own path, but his return was absolutely the best decision for all concerned. The mutual respect given by the two musicians to each other was obvious for everyone to see. This situation created a platform for them to perform a song they played in their early formative years, the David Bowie classic ‘Space Oddity’. It was at this point that you saw the real influence Norum has in the dynamic between the two of them. He has a confident singing voice and when he sang it actually sounded like a lead vocal. What is surprising is that he actually sings very little through the rest of the show.

The lightest part of the show was followed by possibly the heaviest song of the night, ‘Last Look At Eden.’ It’s in these type of songs where drummer Ian Haugland and bass player John Leven really excel and show off their formidable musical muscles. If you closed your eyes it sounded like you are listening to Rainbow in the ‘Rising’ era. For me, the second Europe album ‘Wings Of Tomorrow’ contained a stand-out composition which gave a glimpse of how Tempest’s songwriting would develop over the years. The song was so good that they re-recorded it on their fourth album ‘Out Of This World’ and released it as a single. As soon as the opening notes of ‘Open Your Heart’ rang out you knew this was a song that had a strong connection with the Europe faithful. It was a spectacular rendition of a timeless classic and another highlight of the evening.

Next up was ‘Memories’, a track from the band’s debut album. Probably more than any other song in the set it showed how far the band had musically progressed in forty years. The album version is almost unrecognisable compared to the level of power that the song is now performed with. The rhythm section in particular sounded thunderous. Levin also used the song as a vehicle to perform a bass solo and an opportunity to engage with the audience. Another one of my favourites ‘More Than Meets The Eye’ was next. A well constructed song with a fabulous top line melody which was superbly delivered. It also contained the now mandatory mind-blowing guitar solo from Norum. The audience were loving every second of what they were seeing and hearing.

It was now time for Haugland’s cameo section, a larger-than-life character who obviously enjoys his crazy drummer persona. His double bass drum driven version of the ‘William Tell Overture’ was very reminiscent of the late, but great Cozy Powell, who I suspect had been a major influence in his musical development as a young aspiring drummer. The band returned to the stage and performed a supercharged version of ‘Ready Or Not’. You could see them now shifting up through the gears and building momentum for the big finish. The ace up the sleeve is the classic rock masterpiece ‘Superstitious’. The audience were in AOR heaven at this point and a sea of smiling faces filled the room. I have to give a mention to one time Europe guitar player Kee Marcello at this point because he constructed one of the most brilliant guitar solos ever for this song. To his absolute credit, Norum performed the solo note for note and gave it the total respect it deserved. He made it his own and delivered one of the absolute stand out moments of the night. Even Tempest uncharacteristically took a step back and let the guitarist take the spotlight. It was the perfect way to end the second set and the band left the stage to even more rapturous applause.

The audience knew that the show wasn’t over and they didn’t have to wait long until the band returned with ‘Cherokee’. Both band and audience were singing their hearts out and no one was smiling more than Joey Tempest. A truly remarkable human being who at sixty years of age is still capable of singing twenty-four songs in a night. Compositions that are made up of extremely sophisticated harmonic structures that require a very precise delivery, and he hits every single note. At the same time he is delivering a masterclass in what it takes to be Rock star with the energy levels of a man half his age. He has rightfully earned the title legend.

Everyone in the building knew what song was coming next. A song that is known all around the world and will be played and listened to for at least another 100 years. The only word that can describe the reaction to the opening notes of ‘The Final Countdown’ is euphoric. The audience are singing every word as if their lives depended on it. But Norum still had one more card to lay and everyone was waiting in anticipation. The second chorus ends with the dramatic suspended chords, allowing Joey Tempest to deliver the spectacular vocal ad lib which is underpinned by the classic Ian Haugland drum fill, all of which sets up one of the most famous and stunning guitar solos ever written. A thousand air guitars came out including mine as we all pretended to emulate the masterpiece which was being performed by the master who wrote it. Magical. The show reaches its climax and the audience is emotionally spent.

I don’t know who had the biggest smiles, the band or the fans, but what I do know is that everyone was happy. There was nothing final about this countdown. I’m sure there is still a lot more to come from a band that is very far from over.


Review & Photos: Myke Gray




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