I meant to write this ages ago, I can’t believe that over a week’s gone by, but real life has a very annoying habit of getting in the way sometimes. Anyway, on Thursday 29th November I went to see Europe at the O2 Academy in Bristol. It’s the third time I’ve seen them live, always at the same venue, and I really associate the two now. I quite like the O2 Academy, it’s a bit of an unusual layout with various levels and I always think it’s pretty funny to see people lined up all along the stairs watching the stage below.
Anyway, last time I saw Europe (in February 2011 I think), this happened:
I got to meet hot bassist John Leven! It was terribly exciting! I know I don’t look that excited, but that’s partly because I was a bit starstruck, and mainly because I was absolutely bloody freezing. Sadly I wasn’t able to hang around and try my luck meeting band members this time round, but nonetheless I still think it was their best gig of the three that I’ve seen.
The support this time round was StoneRider, who looked like they could all have done with a good wash and perhaps a haircut, but I’m sure they were lovely chaps. The singer was a bit too nasal for my liking, but the music sounded alright although they didn’t really leave much breathing space between songs for the audience to show their appreciation, which made it a bit hard to tell whether they were playing a few long songs or had actually merged some shorter songs together.
Europe’s entrance was slightly anti-climatic in a way, they arrived on stage and then hung around for a minute or two fiddling with various knobs on amplifiers and things, before kicking off into new song Riches to Rags, which was quite a good opener actually. I was a bit worried after their entrance that it might be a bit of a lacklustre gig, but I was definitely wrong. As soon as they started playing it was clear they were on top form, full of energy and definitely the best I’ve seen them. They followed Riches to Rags with Not Supposed to Sing the Blues, which is so, so good live and went down like an old fan favourite. This was followed by Firebox, which also worked really well, but I was quite glad that they then moved on to an old classic, Superstitious. I know the point of the tour is to promote the new album, but I like that they opened with the new stuff before moving on to the really well known songs (by fans, obviously. There’s more to them than just The Final Countdown you know!). I thought the balance worked really well.
Supersititious was followed by the ever feisty Scream of Anger, and then it was the crowd’s turn to belt out a number in the form of power ballad Carrie. This is always one of the most popular songs, and I just love hearing thousands of people singing along at the top of their lungs. If you’re unfamiliar with the song (where have you been?!), take a peek at the video in all of its 80s glory and imagine how amazing the chorus sounds when sung by 1,600 people.
The pace was picked up again with Demon Head, another new track, before the band went into a mini acoustic set. Keyboardist Mic Michaeli produced some weird synth noises while the rest of the band left the stage so stools and acoustic instruments could be brought in and set up, and then guitarist John Norum kept us entertained with a snippet of Fleetwood Mac’s The World Keep On Turning. The acoustic set consisted of new song Drink and a Smile, which worked really well and sounded pretty funky, and Open Your Heart, which was just so beautiful and was probably one of my highlights. But the best thing about the acoustic set was the fact that they all sat still for a few minutes, which gave me a chance to grab a few cheeky snaps. I am rather shallow though, and so I mostly took pictures of Joey Tempest and John Leven, because they’re the most attractive and coincidentally my favourites.
Once all the stools and things had been removed, Joey was again back to full stage-jumping-mic-thrusting tempo with Girl From Lebanon, followed by Sign of the Times, which has possibly one of my favourite song intros ever. Then everything went a bit strange and slightly demonic. Joey was lit up by a red spotlight while slowly chanting and staring unblinkingly (which was a little unnerving!), before they kicked full force into The Beast, which is one of the most popular songs from previous album Last Look at Eden and is always quite the powerhouse live. I later realised that Joey’s strange chanting was actually the chorus of the song spoken slowly with various echoey vocal effects, a suitably dramatic intro for a suitably dramatic song.
And then, highlight of all highlights, it was time for the one song which I get SO EXCITED to hear live because it’s just bloody brilliant with the crowd and the whoahs and the stomping feel good factor, it could only be Rock the Night. You can tell by watching the video just how amazing this can be live, it’s such a party anthem and I absolutely love it. If anything I think it even gets a better reaction than The Final Countdown, the crowd ALWAYS go wild for it and the enthusiasm was caught by Joey on his video camera, hopefully to surface on the internet some time soon. Unless you were there, I really can’t explain how amazing it is to join in with this song live, and I know this all sounds ridiculous and gushy but it was SO DAMN GOOD that you’ll just have to take my word for it. (Unless you were there of course, in which case you know). The video is also worth watching, not just for the cheesy fun and makes-you-want-to-dance-feeling, but also because it provides the rather funny sight of seeing Joey Tempest rocking out in a diner while using a bottle of ketchup as a microphone.
Unsurprisingly, this marked the end to the main part of the show, and what a way to end! The energy levels were so high and the crowd so hyped up that I really, genuinely thought that the roof might actually physically depart the building during the encore. The Prelude from Last Look at Eden gave us a hint what was coming and pumped the atmosphere even higher, and everyone was rocking out once the title track kicked in. But of course we all knew what was coming, the only song they could ever end such an amazing, brilliant night on.
And what a way to end. The video’s not mine by the way, I was too busy leaping around like a maniac and found this on youtube, I know it’s not of the best quality so if anyone could point me in the direction of any videos from the Bristol gig, I would be so very grateful because I’m dying to relive it.
There’s no doubt that Europe are absolutely one of my favourite bands to see live, and I genuinely think that this was one of the best gigs I’ve been to, ever. The atmosphere was so incredible and the crowd were ripping the roof off, especially during Rock the Night and of course The Final Countdown. I would have liked them to play Cherokee because they played it the first time I saw them and it was so great live, but I haven’t heard them play it since. I really do think Europe are one of the most underrated bands, they’re so good live that, even if you didn’t know any of the songs, you couldn’t help but have an amazing time. Joey’s a brilliant frontman, he has so much energy and is always leaping around, tossing microphones about and performing gravity-defying back bends. The whole band have so much energy and are so captivating to watch, I really can’t recommend them enough. The best thing about seeing them in a smaller venue is that it feels quite special as well, it’s not exactly intimate but it feels a bit more personal when you’re stood so close and realise you’re only sharing the experience with a couple of thousand people, all of whom are having the most amazing time. Seriously, I don’t care if you think they’re cheesy (let’s face it, they are a bit) or one-hit wonders (which is really not the case), they’re so feel good and such fun live, at only around £17 a ticket you’d be totally foolish to not grab every opportunity to see them. I promise you won’t regret it! Plus Joey’s still pretty damn hot. You literally have no excuse.
Set list: Riches to Rags, Not Supposed to Sing the Blues, Firebox, Superstitious, Scream of Anger, Carrie, Demon Head, The World Keep on Turning (John Norum acoustic, Fleetwood Mac cover), Drink and a Smile (acoustic), Open Your Heart (acoustic), Girl From Lebanon, Sign of the Times, The Beast, Rock the Night. Encore: Prelude, Last Look at Eden, The Final Countdown.