On a very pleasant evening in Belfast a large crowd starting filling into the iconic Ulster Hall to see an iconic band play the stage as tonight Europe are in town.
Up on stage first was King King, a Scottish blues band that immediately made an impression as the lead vocalist and guitarist Alan Nimmo struts on in a fantastic tartaned kilt. The gathered crowd, which was a very respectable size for a support act, were very evidently not there just for Europe. King King as they kicked of their set with “She Don’t Gimme No Lovin”, “Waking Up”, and “You Stopped The Rain” to a lot of joy. And if you had never heard King King before you quickly found out why there was so much love for the group.
King King delivered what can only be described as slick soulful blues rock filled to the brim with pure emotion. Alan, Lindasy, Wayne and Jonny worked perfectly as a rushing river of blues that just hit every emotion you could wish to have at a gig. On they went with “Long History Of Love”, “Rush Hour” and “Lose Control” as the crowd got bigger and bigger intrigued to find a support act that could very easily have been the main event. King King were consummate professionals as Alan made his guitar wail and keen with perfect blues infused melodies. You could close your eyes and hear the tones and style of Gary Moore. Almost every time Alan strolled out his meandering solos you could feel the vibes of Parisian Walkways. They finished off their set with “Stranger To Love” to huge acclaim and they had definitely won over a lot of new fans.
The stage was changed and the lights fell low. The anticipation began to pique when the backing track and then on came Europe to rapturous applause. And they hit the Ulster Hall with “Walk the Earth” and the full house gave a collective massive grin. Europe in their first song showed they had huge amounts of energy and joy and that set the tone for the whole night. On they went with “The Siege” before the classic “Rock The Night” which had everyone singing along. Every so often Joey Tempest delighted the audience with a perfect holler of “What’s the Craic?” out into the hall only to get a huge roar in return.
On they went with “Enemy”, “Eden” and “New Love in Town”. Showing absolute primacy of the stage the whole band showed pure showmanship worthy of a massive stadium. The now heaving crowd were lapping it all up as Joey and John bounced around the stage with aplomb, grace and utter joyful abandon.
Continuing to deliver an absolutely blistering set with “Firebox”, “Ready or Not”, “Vasatan” and “Lebanon” everyone was in rapture and responding completely to the infectious iconic melodic rock. “Turn to Dust” and “GTO” kept the whole place in pure ecstasy before the band took it up a notch with “Carrie” as you could physically feel the Ulster hall reverberate as every single voice raised up as one to sing the chorus. Interspersed was Joey’s incredibly relaxed interplay with the audience as they prepared to keeping knocking people’s socks of with “Nothin to Ya”. Then the light dropped before the spotlight fell on Ian Haugland standing up behind his drums as he spat, fountainlike, a huge spray of water out into the air raising his arms calling everyone’s attention in one joyous act of fun. The crowd went wild as he sat back down and produced a fantastically intense performance to the William Tell Overture. It was a joy to behold indeed.
“Wasted Time” exploded from the stage as Joey kept showing his adept skills with the microphone with a beautifully timed cover of Whitesnake’s “Here I go Again” dropped right in the middle of it all. Then came “War of Kings”, “Superstitious” and as an encore “Cherokee” that had every hand raised up in the air and clapping along before the finale that capped the whole perfect evening off – yes, they did – “The Final Countdown”. The crowd sang their hearts out along with Joey, who showed that he still had his slick superb vocal range.
What an incredible evening full of intense emotion, incredible music and unadulterated showmanship that had everyone leaving with a massive cheesy grin on their face. King King and Europe were a perfect combination. Blues rock and melodic rock in flawless symbiosis giving over two solid hours of a soul reaching extravaganza. This was the start of their tour and what a way to start – their stall was set out and it is one not to be missed. If you can get to any of the other gigs on this tour you owe it to yourself to go.