Where: Shepherd's Bush Empire
When: Feb 19th 2011
If like me, your main exposure to Europe was the mammoth hit "Final Countdown" you'd be in for a shock with this gig. Gone are the poodle perms and synth based Euro rock to be replaced with a much harder classic rock feel.
Europe have certainly done a good job of emerging like a butterfly from the cocoon of their 1990s hiatus. Their latest album "Last look at Eden" is widely accepted as one of the best rock albums of the year. Europe opened up with the title track of that album although I had to listen to it back stage. The photo pit at the bush is really tight anyway but with over twenty photographers for tonight's gig they decided to bring us to the pit in two shifts! This is a first for me. I'd have preferred space to get more varied angles and not have the lenses fog up from the sudden change in temperature and humidity but it was worth the wait and the many elbows jostling for space.
Lead singer Joey Tempest was in full flow once I got out front and certainly commanded the stage and the audience's attention. A sold out Shepherd's Bush had obviously been keeping up with Europe's transition better than I had and were spellbound by the Joey and the band. As the gig progressed I began to see why. I must admit going into this gig I was probably expecting to come away writing a review confirming my prior prejudice but they won me over.
I must also admit that this was greatly helped by listening to their latest album in the week leading up to the gig. Most albums take a few runs through for the hooks to get into you but I can honestly say that bar a couple of tracks I really felt at home with the music. I could hear elements of Lizzy and even Joe Walsh's James Gang. In fact I found it hard to get Last look at Eden's hooks out of my head. I'm willing to share that love so we have a competition at the end of this review to win a copy of the album.
Talking of Lizzy, there was a lovely tribute to the recently departed Gary Moore when John Norum's guitar led the band beautifully through Moore's "The Loner". Europe showed that they are good at all aspects of the rock genre from the heavy to the delicate ballad. Joey introduced another good example with "New love in town" from the latest album which he wrote following the birth of his son.
The stage setting was simple yet worked really well because of the lighting. It reminded me a little of early Queen with lots or down-lit strong red and whites up at the drums. As a back-drop there was a large spiked Union Jack which has been used to promote the "Balls and Banners" UK tour. This picks up on the spiked apple from the Eden album. As a photographer I often hate a stage set in red as it's throws a nasty colour cast, however the lighting techs kept the red at bay with some good strong white spotlights. Unfortunately the same can't be said when the stage was set with blues. The lack of white spots made the band sink back into the overall gloom at times.
It seemed that almost no sooner had Europe taken the stage than they were leaving for the end of the gig. It was perhaps and hour and ten/fifteen of high octane rock that had the crowd expecting more. As usual they weren't disappointed however I was. I find it strange when bands whip the crowd into a climatic frenzy at the end of the gig to return and do a new song. It was a good new song called "Doghouse" however not one that many of the audience would know and has the inevitable effect of taking the crowd off the boil.
It was at this point as my interest waived to the audience's reaction that I noticed a dog. Now I've seen a few at rock concerts before but never one of the canine variety. I assume from it's high-vis jacket that it was of the "helping dogs" variety. It sat or laid obediently at it's Mistresses feet complete with noise blocking headphones.
The dog didn't have too much longer to wait as the betting man's choice for an evening ending song thundered out the opening synth horns intro to "Final Countdown". It may no longer represent the sound of Europe however with album sales topping 10 million world-wide it will no doubt always be associated with them. This is a shame as it probably prevents a large section of the gig going public from venturing out to see the band.
See the photograph section for more images from tonight's gig and catch Europe on the remaining nights of their short UK tour in Bristol, Manchester, Leeds and Newcastle.
To win a copy of the "Last look at Eden" CD, please answer the following question:
Q: What country do Europe originate from.
Send you answers by email to firstname.lastname@example.org Please ensure the subject line reads Europe competition.
The winning entry will be drawn at random from the correct answers on March 28th 2011.