Review by Pete Finn for MPM
It’s a nice ‘Home’ fixture for MPM Tog ‘Statler’ Manson and myself on a cool midweek October evening. Manny picks me up in the tour bus and it’s a short 18-mile journey to Leicester and the impressive De Montfort Hall. The always efficient and friendly staff soon have us in, and I join the crowd in the hall, where there is a genuine buzz of excitement.
40 years ago, back in 1983, when ‘Star Wars: Episode VI – Return of the Jedi’ was the biggest selling film of the year, a band released their self-titled debut album, that band was called Europe. It all started in Upplands Väsby, a small suburb outside of Stockholm, Sweden. In 1979, Joey Tempest met John Norum and they formed the band Force.
With a shared love of British rock bands like Thin Lizzy and UFO, with Led Zeppelin and Deep Purple also making an immense impact on these young aspiring Rock Stars. They recorded their first demos when they were only 16 and 17 years old. Record companies turned them down, saying “the guitars were too loud and their hair was too long”.
But after the decision to change the band name to Europe, they obtained a major breakthrough in Sweden in 1982 by winning the televised competition “Rock-SM” (Swedish Rock Championships). Soon they became Rock Stars they had aspired to, proving those Record companies wrong.
The ’40th Anniversary Time Capsule Tour’ promises that, “shows will consist of a career retrospective “evening with” performance featuring all the hits together with deep cuts and fan favourites from all of their 11 studio albums.”
Since their formation, Europe have released eleven studio albums, eight live albums and five compilations. The current line-up has been together since 2003 and consists of Joey Tempest (vocals), John Norum (guitars), Mic Michaeli (keyboards), John Leven (bass) and Ian Haugland (drums).
Projected up onto a big white curtain, we have excerpts of a Europe documentary playing, including their formation and early performance footage.
The film stops and the hall is cast into darkness. A drum is beating, a flash of light, the curtain drops and we’re off. Europe open with ‘On Broken Wings’, which was the B-Side to ‘The Final Countdown’ and included on the 1982-1992 Greatest Hits compilation.
Tempest in a dapper velvet jacket is prowling the stage carrying his mic stand, Mic Michaeli and Ian Haugland up on risers either side of the stage, with the guitars of John Leven and John Norum in front.
Norum crouches down low as he plays his first solo. De Montfort Hall is already bouncing.
Without pausing we go to the 1983 self-titled debut for ‘Seven Doors Hotel’. Hands are clapping as Norum’s guitar squeals the intro, Tempest has the crowd chanting along, the combination of Michaeli and Norum is sounding great.
Next, we have track that was originally released on the ‘On the Loose’ EP from 1985 before appearing on the ‘The Final Countdown’ in 1986, it’s ‘Rock the Night’. Looking around, this is a popular track, nearly everyone is singing along.
The rhythm section of Haugland and Leven has the crowd clapping, we have a funk interlude during which Tempest has the crowd singing back to him, Mic Michaeli adds a nice cheeky snippet of Stevie Wonder’s ‘Superstition’.
The title-track from 2004’s ‘Start from the Dark’ begins in near darkness, with delicate sounds from Michaeli and Norum. The tempo and atmosphere builds, eased along by Leven.
The sound gets dirty and heavy, John Norum is lit by overhead spotlights for his solo, the band perform this with passion.
‘Walk the Earth’ is a relative newbie, from the album of the same name, released in 2017. Leven’s bass is sending out seismic shockwaves. It has a hard marching beat that carries Tempest’s vocal high above. The crowd are swaying in time. Tempest sounds great, as do the band.
Joey Tempest thanks the crowd, and tells us it feels good to be performing in Leicester, he continues to tell us the lyrics in Europe’s songs often reference the togetherness of the band and the fans, which is very obvious in De Montfort Hall. Now we have a real newbie, only released last month, ‘Hold Your Head Up’ is the new single. Strobe lights are flashing, punchy riffs and a hard beat.
Norum is now playing a ‘Flying V’ to great effect. The Leicester crowd already familiar with the track are singing along.
Only Tempest and Michaeli are left on the stage, the pace slows as we’re treated to ‘Dreamer’ from 1984’s ‘Wings of Tomorrow’. Michaeli’s considerate keys perfectly entwined with Tempest’s controlled vocal. De Montfort Hall is silent, soaking it up. They’re encouraged by Tempest to join in for the chorus, it’s not silent any longer.
2015’s album title-track ‘War of Kings’. It’s a clever contrast to the previous song, a Black Sabbath doom undercurrent, on which Norum’s solo cruises. Tempest is up behind the drum-riser, mic stand above his head as he sings. Leven’s studded jacket and guitar strap are sparkling under the lights.
The stage is bathed in green and blue lights, smoke gives an eerie feel. We stay with the ‘War of Kings’ album for the instrumental ‘Vasastan’, which rightly sees John Norum illuminated by a spot-light. It’s an amazing heartfelt piece of music, with parts reminding me of the late Gary Moore.
Joey Tempest returns to the stage sporting another velvet ensemble for ‘Girl From Lebanon’ from ‘Prisoners in Paradise’ released in 1991. This has an anthemic sound, stop/start beats and big keyboard sounds fill the room, Norum’s solo is perfect and effortless.
Mic Michaeli has the red and white spotlights pointing down on him, he ‘tickles the ivories’ in a ‘Cocktail Party’ style as he reminisces with the crowd, he tells us this is one of the first tracks written together, before starting the intro to ‘Carrie’ from ‘The Final Countdown’. Tempest has the crowd singing the words before taking over, cupping the mic as he sings with emotion. Norum’s solo leads the track to a close.
Flashing lights, hard hitting drums from Haugland unleashes ‘Stormwind’ from the ‘Wings of Tomorrow’ album. It’s quick, Tempest is twirling his mic stand, Norum’s fingers are down at the naughty end of the fretboard. The crowd are bouncing as the band rock out. The track builds to a big finish. The band leave the stage, Haugland tells us we have a 20-minute interval. I sit waiting for the lady to come round selling ice-cream.
We have another small segment of the ‘Rock-umentary’. The stage goes into darkness. Then explodes into life as ‘Always the Pretenders’ from 2006’s ‘Secret Society’ begins. It’s fast and frantic injected with slow moments allowing all to gather their breath. Haugland is hitting the skins hard.
‘The Final Countdown’ provides ‘Ninja’, Haugland’s cymbals count the track in, a chugging riff with a full sound provided by the band. Tempest is rocking back and forth as he blasts out the lyrics. Michaeli flexes his fingers over the keys. Tempest is up on the riser playing guitar, the track has an early UFO sound to it.
The title-track from 1991’s ‘Prisoners in Paradise’ starts with Tempest singing to Michaeli’s piano, it’s bluesy, slower and calming, the arms are swaying in De Montfort Hall. A track that demonstrates the bands great musical abilities. An emotional ballad, considerately performed.
Tempest has handed his guitar back; the spotlight is on Michaeli. 1988’s ‘Out of This World’ gives us ‘Sign of the Times’, the power-riffs return, Tempest is stomping around the stage as he sings. The track mellows and Tempest calls for the crowd to clap along. He bends down at the stage edge and starts to serenade one very happy lady.
A couple of stools are brought out onto the stage, John Norum and Joey Tempest both with acoustic guitars take their seats. Norum starts to strum the intro to Deep Purple’s ‘Smoke on the Water’, the crowd seize the opportunity and start singing, a smiling Tempest then joins in. Once order is restored, Tempest tells us that back in their school days, he and Norum would meet up and jam, this is one of the songs they would play. ‘Space Oddity’ from David Bowie’s 1969 second album. John and Joey share vocals, Michaeli and Haugland provide gentle support. De Montfort Hall is enthralled.
The cinematic beginning to 2009’s title-track ‘Last Look at Eden’ powers through the PA, the band start in darkness, John Leven’s bass is shaking the old hall, Tempest is marching on the spot. The red glowing stage matches the energy coming from the band, this is a powerful rock track. De Montfort Hall is a sea of bobbing heads.
Tempest has his acoustic guitar slung over his shoulder; he thanks the road crew for their work on tour, then he starts strumming the intro to ‘Open Your Heart’ from ‘Wings of Tomorrow’. The crowd are listening intently, most are mouthing the words. The tempo builds, Norum cuts in with a brief solo before the pace slows, a sea of arms is ebbing and flowing above the De Montfort crowd. They enjoyed that.
From the debut album, next it’s ‘Memories’, it starts with Michaeli and Tempest, the peaceful tune is shattered as the rest of the band join in. Tempest is spinning as he sings the words to the racing beats. The band with the exception of Haugland and Leven leave the stage, Leven slaps and bends his strings as he gives us a bass solo. The others return as they play the track out to a big finish.
Without pausing, ‘Out of This World’ gives us ‘More Than Meets the Eye’, Tempest is dancing around the stage, up on the riser, then on his monitor. Norum delivers a solo, as Michaeli’s key produce sci-fi sounding notes.
The band leave the stage to the spot-lighted Ian Haugland standing behind his kit chatting to the crowd. He asks if we want something completely different, and after a snippet of the Monty Python sketch by the same name, he bursts into a version of Gioachino Rossini’s ‘William Tell Overture’, he pounds his kit and has his two bass drums jumping, it’s brilliant.
The band return, Tempest has an electric guitar primed, and we’re into ‘Ready or Not’. It’s quick, the De Montfort heads are nodding in time. Norum has his ‘V’ squealing in delight as he “shoots” the front row. It’s straight into ‘Superstitious’ from the same ‘Out of This World’ album. It’s slower with heavy hooks. The swaggering Tempest encourages the crowd to join in. We get a cleverly worked snippet of Whitesnake’s ‘Here I Go Again’.
They play to a crescendo strobe light finish, which sees Tempest standing on his monitors, mic stand above his head. He thanks the audience, then along with the rest of the band leaves the stage smiling, waving and clapping. The stage goes into darkness.
De Montfort Hall wants Europe back on stage. The cheering and whistling continues, Haugland is the first to reappear, standing behind his kit, stomping on his bass drum, the crowd clap in time. A drum volley introduces the other band members and they start ‘Cherokee’ from ‘The Final Countdown’. The crowd are singing every word with Tempest, before he gets them clapping again. Then the track plays out into darkness again
We all know what the final track of the evening will be, the final track can only be ‘The Final Countdown’. The fanfare intro starts, De Montfort Hall lifts off, the band like the crowd are jumping up and down, the crowd are screaming the words, Tempest calls on John Norum for the solo, they play to a big finish with Tempest twirling his mic stand up on the riser. The crowd show their appreciation as the band toss picks and sticks into the crowd before lining up and taking a bow.
It has been a superb performance by Europe, this maybe their 40th Anniversary, but they are still at the top of their game and very much worth going to see, as Manny’s grinning face and a cheering De Montfort Hall confirms.
Setlist: On Broken Wings; Seven Doors Hotel; Rock the Night; Start from the Dark; Walk the Earth; Hold Your Head Up; Dreamer; War of Kings; Vasastan; Girl From Lebanon; Carrie; Stormwind; Always the Pretenders; Ninja; Prisoners in Paradise; Sign of the Times; Space Oddity; Last Look at Eden; Open Your Heart; Memories; More Than Meets the Eye; Ready or Not; Superstitious; Cherokee; The Final Countdown.
Photography by Manny Manson for MPM