THE ROCK FEAST – Europe

@ Newcastle o2 Academy, February 27 2010

To the majority of music fans the world over Europe will forever be referred to as ‘that band who sang the Final Countdown’. To those of us who have followed their career closely for more than 25 years they are so much more than that but there’s something strangely satisfying about being part of this secret society.

Let’s face it, if the cat got out of the bag then these guys would be back in arenas and no longer within touching distance of the people who really care. For longstanding fans of the band, watching them roll back the years in more initimate venues is a genuine treat. At their peak Europe were distant cover stars, Top Of The Pops studio guests and a global phenomenon out of reach and out of this world. These days you can feel the emotion.

It’s difficult to remember Joey Tempest and his mates appearing so comfortable with their position as entertainers, with their magical back catalogue and, crucially, with each other. Of the classy quintet only John Norum still appears ill at ease in front of a baying crowd but this masterful musician is all about technical perfection. If delivering the dream solo requires deep concentration then so be it and it’s not as if his band mates are incapable of compensating for any lack of showmanship.

Tempest namechecked Paul Rodgers and David Coverdale (and Ant and Dec) and in 2010 there is every reason to include the silky smooth Swede in any list celebrating the best in blues rock vocals. In the late 80s Europe’s frontman wasn’t afforded the opportunity to let his voice breathe but with greater artistic freedom and greater experience he is capable of crooning with the best of them. Even chart-busting standards Carrie and Cherokee sound so much more polished in the 21st century.

Drifting into Whitesnake mode during Superstitious and slipping in a line or two of All Right Now to fuse Cherokee and Rock The Night offered further nods of respect to two of  Tempest’s all-time heroes and most influential peers. This was a carefully crafted set designed to impress a mesmerised native crowd although Joey really needs to dip into his copy of ‘Larn Yersel Geordie’ after a cheesy attempt at conversing with the locals in their own tongue.

Thankfully 2009’s incredibly accomplished Last Look At Eden was given ample opportunity to shine and New Love In Town may well be the best song Europe have written since the standout Superstitious. Bona fide spine tingling ballads are in short supply these days but this is lighter-waving gold dust. Twenty years ago it would have topped the charts – tonight it simply topped the night.

But it was ‘that song’ which brought the house down and Mic Michaeli proved his fingers are as dextrous and devilish as ever. The man deserves a medal for transforming an old Tempest keyboard riff into a worldwide classic and even after all these years he managed to make this version, on this night, the best ever. With a slew of superb new songs, another Swedish number one album under their belts and boundless energy to boot it seems there’s no stopping Europe right now. Catch them rocking your night somewhere soon.

I’m a journalist specialising in sport and rock music. Can’t play either so I write about them instead.

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