Interview edit: Joey Tempest, 10 October 2013
The Europe frontman talks about the ‘Live At Sweden Rock’ set
earMUSIC 2-CD/DVD/Bluray [Release date 21.10.13]
Since the dawn of GRTR! we have followed closely the progress of Europe, firstly Nikk Gunns and Jason Ritchie heralded the ‘comeback’ album ‘Start From The Dark’ in 2004 and we interviewed Joey Tempest at the start of the band’s UK tour in February 2007 and subsequently.
Of course, since that time the Swedish melodic hard rockers have gone from strength to strength and this gig recorded on 7 June 2013 is like a homecoming and also celebrating the band’s 30 years since the release of their eponymous debut album.
As ever it is a wonderful snapshot of the band’s stage show in the past 12 months and therefore complements previous releases including the Shepherd’s Bush Empire show (February 2011) and – earlier – the Hammersmith Apollo in November 2004. The DVD includes bonus behind-the-scenes footage and interview.
There is bound to be duplication, as the band have retained a core set of tunes that effectively scoop up their earlier career and more recent renaissance. However, with each recorded outing the band seemingly get tighter and the anally-retentive can perhaps debate the dynamics of the smaller scale shows in London compared to a large festival in front of 30,000 fans.
Fans will argue also about the relative merits of the last two albums ‘Last Look At Eden’ and ‘Bag Of Bones’ but both albums have seen the band progressively revisiting their earliest influences and unashamedly wearing those on their sleeves.
It comes as no surprise then that the ‘guests’ on this release include their heroes Michael Schenker (on ‘Lights Out’) and Scott Gorham (on ‘Jailbreak’). And in the acoustic interlude there is a definite nod to Led Zeppelin’s quieter moments in ‘Drink And A Smile’.
So, if ‘Bag Of Bones’ was a little more mainstream rock and a little less Renaissance Europe – under the tutelage of Kevin Shirley – it ensured the band’s acceptance amongst a much wider audience and in recent years it has allowed them to woo fans at Bloodstock, i-Tunes Festival and Sonisphere at least here in the UK. Strangely the band do not appear to have re-conquered the US market and perhaps remain now a truly European phenomenon.
It is to the band’s credit that some of the older songs still come out fresh and exciting (‘Superstitious’, ‘Sign Of The Times’ amongst them) whilst the inclusion of ‘In The Future To Come’, ‘Paradize Bay’ and ‘Seven Doors Hotel’ would have no doubt satiated those with a penchant for the band’s debut album in 1983. I have to say those tunes do still sound a little dated, not unlike early-Magnum.
The sad thing perhaps is the near total exclusion of tracks from their ‘comeback’ albums save for ‘Always The Pretenders’, ‘Love Is Not The Enemy’ and an always-majestic ‘Start From The Dark’. I wonder if the band views the albums as mere stepping stones on the way to greater acknowledgment (of influences, if not audience) and therefore revisit with only a perfunctory nod to those die-hards who welcomed them back so enthusiastically 10 years ago.
Musically, as ever this is a fully rounded performance from five true professionals and survivors, plus of course they still look very youthful on it. From John Norum’s classy guitar work (check out his all too short solo prior to ‘Girl From Lebanon’) to a nicely-mixed Mic Michaeli, plus John Leven and Ian Haugland’s thunderous rhythm work.
And we shouldn’t forget the guy who since 1983 has held it all together and kept the faith: Joey Tempest and his always excellent vocals, songs and showmanship. Europe have long emerged from the shadow of Bon Jovi and eighties hair pop metal and this anniversary show is yet another landmark in their second coming. ****
Review by David Randall
David Randall presents ‘Assume The Position’ on Get Ready to ROCK! Radio every Sunday at 22:00 GMT.
Europe tour with Foreigner and FM in the UK (April 2014)
Thursday 3 April O2 Apollo Manchester/ Friday 4 Newcastle City Hall/ Saturday 5 Glasgow Clyde Auditorium/ Monday 7 Nottingham Royal Centre/ Tuesday 8 Sheffield City Hall/ Wednesday 9 Portsmouth Guildhall/ Friday 11 Bristol Colston Hall/ Sunday 13 Hammersmith Apollo/ Tuesday 15 Wolverhampton Civic Hall
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