Thirty years ago Europe proved The Final Countdown was no flash in the pan by recording their follow up album Out Of This World. Having played its predecessor to death, I was initially underwhelmed, but over the years it has come to be regarded as perhaps the definitive album of the first phase of Europe’s career.
Europe did not follow up 2016’s 30th anniversary performance of The Final Countdown on their recent tour. However as ‘OOTW’ was also the first album on which Kee Marcello made his mark, replacing John Norum on guitar after ‘TFC’ had been recorded but before resulting tour, who better to perform a celebration of it?
This was the guitarist’s third UK tour in four years and the format has been subtly tweaked in that time. For this tour a second guitarist was shed in favour of the full time keyboard player (in PO Nilsson) necessary to give those Europe classics an air of authenticity.
With Kee never the most natural of singers, the sound was boosted by the way all three band members could provide backing vocals, including the rhythm section of Tim Brown and Ken Sandin and their distinctive but contrasting hairstyles!
After an enjoyable opening act of no-nonsense bluesy rock from the French-based Laura Cox Band, Kee came on stage looking every inch the rock star with the Underworld’s usual dim lighting accentuating his russet-coloured hair.
The band opened with an Out Of This World double in ‘Ready Or Not’ which always used to open Europe’s show in those times – unfortunately its impact dulled by some technical problems – and ‘Let The Good Times Rock’. As Kee unleashed those swooping guitar solos that crammed in so many notes without losing that melodic feel, it was a timely reminder that he was a big contributor towards the sound of that album.
However he also has recent product to his name to promote, though he exaggerated by calling ‘Scaling Up’ his new album as it featured in my end of year top 5 for GRTR! back in 2016.
The title track had a swaggering groove not unlike Whitesnake’s ‘Ready an Willing’, while after another old favourite in ‘More Than Meets the Eye’ came a double from the album in ‘Fix Me’ and ‘Don’t Miss You Much’, the latter proving Kee correct when he said he was aiming for a classic Europe vibe with many of the songs.
Talking of which, after a lengthy intro, ‘Girl From Lebanon’ was another showcase for his marvellously fluid guitar solos, and after some crowd encouragement he admitted he might celebrate the ‘Prisoners In Paradise’ album a bit further down the line.
There are stronger songs on the last album he might have played, while drum and guitar solos and a version of ‘Amazing Grace’ were unnecessary. However highlights were not hard to come by, and introducing the fact that the song was a big part of people’s lives with a hilarious but unrepeatable anecdote, he even bravely played ‘Carrie’, perhaps in a slightly rockier vein that Europe’s version, well supported by those backing vocals.
It was though chiefly a night to commemorate his finest hour with Europe, and with good humour he showed evident pride in his work, rightly describing Out Of This World as a ‘magic album’. ‘Sign Of The Times’ had some interplay between guitar and P-O’s grandiose keyboards, but if anything, more special was the chance to hear two of the songs absent from Europe’s live set for many a long year in the equally keyboard-driven ‘Just The Beginning’, and ‘Tower’s Calling’.
While the crowd was disappointing in number there was a high conversion rate in terms of those joining in to every word and reliving memories, not least with the seventh and final selection from the album, ‘Superstitious’ which would have been our first introduction to Kee’s unique guitar style back in the day. After the usual snippets of ‘No Woman No Cry’ and ‘So Lonely’ in the middle, I could not have been alone in roaring with delight as the final chorus kicked back in, and all was well with the world.
Disappointingly ‘Rock The Night’ was not on the setlist this year, but for a sole encore they had to perform ‘The Final Countdown’ – while he did not play on the original, there would have been an outcry had this not been played, and sure enough the party atmosphere was maintained.
For sure, this was a long way from the slick professionalism of Europe’s recent show, yet – as well as paying tribute to a classic album – for my money it was a lot more fun.
Review and photos by Andy Nathan
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