@ Newcastle O2 Academy, November 25 2012

They may never be tagged the Kings of Cool but do Europe really care when they’re  red hot on stage?

More than two decades after Joey Tempest and the boys ruled the AOR airwaves with their sugar-coated melodies, a harder-edged Europe have morphed into a highly impressive classic rock act. 

In front of a sell-out crowd at the O2 Academy in Newcastle last night, Europe proudly demonstrated their new sound without for one moment alienating those who’d unashamedly come along to ride a wave of 80s nostalgia.

The band are justifiably proud of their 2012 album Bag of Bones. So proud in fact, that they kicked off their 105 minute set with three songs from it.

Riches To Rags, Not Supposed To Sing The Blues and new single Firebox all possess that familiar Europe sound but with a bluesier, rougher tone.

How many bands with such a history would dare kick off a gig with three brand new songs but not only did they get away with it, the triumvirate set the standard for a night of musical excellence.

Over half the set featured material from Bag Of Bones and its immediate predecessor Last Look At Eden, emphatically underlining  the fact that not only have Europe never been in a healthier state since their reformation nine years ago, there’s the promise of much more to come.

Personal highlights were the pounding Demon Head and the anthemic Doghouse – an ode to every man who likes a good time.

Of course, they dipped into their vast library of hits to remind us all that once they rivalled Bon Jovi as the Gods of Hair Metal with a pounding Scream Of Anger, a swooning Carrie and an enchanting Open Your Heart, which closed a three-song acoustic set initially featuring John Norum on vocals singing the blues.

The technically-gifted Norum provided the aural highlights but Tempest, 48-years young and not looking dissimilar to the pretty boy frontman who melted millions of female hearts in the mid-80s, was the undoubted star.

Paying tribute to the region’s own musical legacy – AC/DC’s Brian Johnson and David Coverdale drew loud applause, X-Factor winner Joe McElderry, good natured jeers – Tempest even dropped in a verse from Whitesnake’s Here I Go Again, during Superstititious.

The main set closed with a rousing Rock The Night before the first encore, Last Look At Eden and then…..

…well, you can guess what closed the show and, inevitably, it brought the loudest cheers too.

But do you know something? Even if Europe hadn’t played The Final Countdown, the crowd would probably have headed home satisfied. And that’s the biggest tribute that can be paid to a band wallowing in their second coming.

Ian Murtagh