Europe – HMV Ritz, Manchester 23rd November 2012

November 29, 2012

As I approached The Ritz, my head was a whole mess of thoughts – would the venue be full, would they play “that song” and, most importantly, what would the show be like – can Europe still , ahem, “Rock the Night” in the 21st Century? Soon we would know as “The Final Countdown” (sorry!) to showdown fast approached.

Straight from the outset it was clear that Joey and the guys have absolutely no intention of this being a heritage show. With an opening 3 punch salvo of tracks from the latest (and absolutely stunning) “Bag of Bones” record the message from Europe was loud and clear – we are a band for now and we still have a great deal to say. Second song of the night “Not Supposed to Sing the Blues” squarely confronts the opinion that bands like Europe, with their 80s history, are not supposed to sing the blues. Yet, Joey’s voice has developed over time and now combines a bit more grit and growl – combine this with John Norum’s guitar and Ian Haugland’s drumming (whihc reminds me of John Bonham’s power and drive) and these Swedes can really sing the blues. The single “Firebox” really lifted the crowd to new heights – so early in the set? Could they keep this momentum going?

The answer was a categorical yes. Song after song drove the crowd and the band to greater levels. Each one, whether off the latest recod (such as “Demon Head” and, my particular favourite, the song for every man on the planet “Doghouse”) or earlier tracks, showcases the range and power that for years Europe was never given any credit for – surely the super cool, hipsters must have actually listened to the music before drawing conclusions?

On the last tour, the surprise was a performance of Gary Moore’s “The Loner”, this time we were in for a different treat. About half way throught the show, the band took the opportunity to break down a few songs to their most simple of formats and performed three songs (“Blues”, “Drink and a Smile” and “Open Your Heart”) as acoustic numbers. Even the drums went back to basics with Ian bashing out the rhythm on a tea chest! Three beautiful versions of great songs that just about allowed us all to catch our breath before the next onslaught – the big build up to the still fresh “Rock the Night” that closed the main set. Interestingly, of all the shows numbers, it was “Carrie” that, for me, seemed the one that sounded like it was still stuck in an 80s time-warp but that is no criticism of that song – rather it sums up the fact that Europe now and then produced songs of such great quality that they will sound so current to the rock fans of today.

The packed Ritz were clearly in no mood to go home (despite the very early 10pm curfew for a clubnight featuring Russell Kane?!?) and were very swiftly demanding more. The two song encore  commenced with the title track of Eurpope’s last album “Last Look at Eden” which carried the crowd through to the expected last one. Come on folks, you know which one? That song…… and so it began, with the keyboard riff to end them all acting as a fanfare and building to John’s blistering solo. In interviews it has be mentioned that if they could, dropping “The Final Countdown” would be a consideration  and yet, looking around at the crowd bouncing, smiling and singing along, surely that time should never come.

This was probably the show that I have been looking forward to most this year and I was not disappoiuted. Next time Europe come around you MUST get to a show. In the meantime get hold of a copy of their “Live at Shepherd’s Bush” DVD of last year’s tour to give you an idea of what Joey and team can do now…or if you were at the show, to remind you of the most spectacular night!

SET LIST

1 RICHES TO RAGS

2 NOT SUPPOSED TO SING THE BLUES
 
3 FIREBOX

4 SUPERSTITIOUS

5 SCREAM OF ANGER

6 NO STONE UNTURNED

7 DEMON HEAD

8 BLUES (Acoustic)

9 DRINK AND & SMILE (Acoustic)

10 OPEN YOUR HEART (Acoustic)

11 THE GIRL FROM LEBANON

12 LOVE IS NOT THE ENEMY

13 CARRIE

14 SIGN OF THE TIMES

15 BEAST

16 DOGHOUSE

17 ROCK THE NIGHT

Encore

18 LAST LOOK AT EDEN

19 FINAL COUNTDOWN

Review & photographs by David Wilson

 

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