@Ramblin’ Man Fair, Mote Park, July 23 2016
On the one hand Europe are justifiably proud that The Final Countdown is 30-years-old: celebrating its singalong standards will always be a part of their incendiary live set.
On the other hand it’s clear that Joey Tempest and co. have more faith in the peerless material they’ve produced during the last decade. It’s the powerful, driving blues rock that the band always aspired to deliver but it’s a genre that had no place in the pop metal era.
As a consequence there’s a strange juxtaposition between style and substance whenever Europe step on stage. The one constant – a quality that spans the decades – is the consistently impressive musicianship.
Take John Norum. He might look and feel more comfortable firing off riffs from Last Look At Eden or 2015’s War Of Kings but he accepts a festival crowd wants to see passion running through the chart-busting Rock The Night, Cherokee and The Final Countdown. And one of the finest guitarists of the 21st century never takes his foot off the proverbial pedal – feeding off the super-cool Tempest with a fusion of neat improvisation and reliable professionalism.
Europe’s singer, meanwhile, comfortably took the title as Ramblin’ Man’s most charismatic frontman. A little croaky in between the hits, Tempest produced a towering vocal tour de force when it mattered – hitting his peak on the superlative Superstitious.
Firebox and Nothin To Ya wouldn’t have been missed in an otherwise career-defining setlist but the Tempest managed to revive the latter after a less than convincing start. By contrast the dynamic Days Of Rock N Roll is just one of the stunning songs that’s helped to re-establish Europe’s reputation as one of classic rock’s main players and its place immediately prior to the inevitable set closer was fully justified.
Three decades after their breakout album Europe are setting new standards and destroying preconceptions. Don’t allow age-old prejudice to cloud your judgement where these brilliant Swedes are concerned.