@ Newcastle 02 Academy, February 27 2011

It takes a brave band to open their encore with a brand new song but Europe have every right to be confident right now. Sounding better than at any time during their 30 year-plus career the hair  metal heroes have successfully morphed into bona fide blues rock bastions. But maybe it was always so. 

Not for the first time Joey T and the boys worked a few lines of Whitesnake into the sensational Superstitious. That tune – the first single to be released post-The Final Countdown album – is still the career-defining song for a band with more than a few decent tunes up their sleeves. Rich in blues rock emotion it may not have matched TFC or Carrie in terms of commercial success but it always offered a glimpse of what this band were capable of.

These days Europe do Whitesnake for fun. Their three post-reformation records are oozing licks David Coverdale and co. would die for and at the end of the Last Look At Eden touring cycle that remarkable record still sounds incredibly fresh.

The follow-up is due nest year but Europe are already under pressure to reproduce songs of the quality of New Love In Town and the rousing title track. Clearly the best record the band has made in the last 20 years it could well be their best ever. Such a shame, therefore, that New Love In Town was cut short.

Carrie – the band’s biggest US hit – was rolled out far too early but Rock The Night was timed to perfection as a buoyant crowd burst into full voice. Tempest, youthful as ever, confirmed his reputation as one of rock’s greatest showmen and even the set fillers took on a spine-tingling significance in the great man’s company.

In the 13 months since Europe last played Newcastle Gary Moore, amongst others, has passed away and John Norum delivered a fitting tribute to the rocker cum blues rock legend. Norum, of course, has released a fabulous solo album soaked in blues tradition in the same period and if you think Joe Bonamassa’s a special talent then open your ears to this magician of the fretboard.

Showcasing newie Doghouse to open up their much anticipated encore proved that Europe know they’re back and that they’re back with a bang. Expect it to be remixed and revamped in time for the new record – in production this summer – and on this evidence it has every chance of matching the band’s former glories.

And then came that song. Only the most wizened of cynics could argue that there’s nothing less than unbridled joy every time Mic Michaeli punches out the opening notes to The Final Countdown and, yet again, the band’s biggest hit hit the mark. It might have morphed into a cliche of the hair metal era but played live its unifying power and heady passion does wonders for those lucky enough to bear witness to a stone cold classic. See you next year? Too right.

Simon Rushworth