So how do you go about successfully squeezing thirty years of arse-kicking hard rock into one live show that fully represents everything you’re about? By headlining a major European festival in front of 30,000 fans and repeatedly hitting them over the head with the best tracks from all of your albums in an electrifying 28-song performance that, in a just world, would elevate you to a level where mainstream audiences would stop saying things like
“They’ve only had one song”
“Are they still going?”
and give you the credit you deserve. Because Swedish rockers Europe have done that very thing and captured it for prosperity for all to hear and see on this new live album/DVD/Blu-ray.
The band open the show with three songs from their current album – last year’s bluesy “Bag of Bones” – which could be considered a brave move when there’s a considerable back-catalogue of familiar bangers to rely on, but such is the strength of their latest material and the band’s belief in it that when they fly into a furious ‘Scream of Anger’ and the double whammy of ‘Superstitious’ and a sublime ‘No Stone Unturned’ you already feel like you’ve had a greatest hits set.
But they carry on, knocking out track after track of hard rock gold, covering all of their albums until the inevitable show closer of the immortal ‘The Final Countdown’, but before then we get treated to brilliant performances of ‘Start From the Dark’, ‘Seven Doors Hotel’, ‘The Beast’, the power ballad perfection of ‘Carrie’ and a rollicking rendition of the Led Zeppelin-esque ‘Last Look at Eden’. Musically the band are as tight as Joey Tempest’s leather strides (see the video for ‘The Final Countdown’) and somebody remembered to turn up the microphones so we can hear the backing vocals, unlike on the “Live! at Shepherd’s Bush, London” album from a couple of years back. It’s a minor thing but those harmonised vocals really add depth to songs like ‘Superstitious’, during which guitarist John Norum really nails former guitarist Kee Marcello’s emotive solo but with his own flair on top. Keyboardist Mic Michaeli and bassist John Levén are as rock solid as always but special kudos goes to drummer Ian Haugland who holds the whole thing together with a performance that can only be described as bang on the money, his timing perfect but his inventive fills adding a sense of excitement that doesn’t always come across in a studio recording.
But the audio can only give you so much, whereas when you’re seeing the band doing their thing then it all adds to the experience and what comes across on the DVD is what a true rock star Joey Tempest is, strutting along the catwalk and mugging the camera at every opportunity. Credit to the cameramen as well, for following the athletic frontman around the stage and pirouetting around – like during ‘Rock the Night’ – can’t be easy.
As with any “Greatest Hits” set there are always going to be songs that get left off or fan favourites that don’t quite make it, but whilst there is a notable lack of any album tracks from “The Final Countdown” (What? No ‘Cherokee’?) what does get played is most welcome, and the inclusion of covers of Thin Lizzy’s ‘Jailbreak’ and UFO’s ‘Lights Out’ (featuring guest appearances from Scott Gorham and Michael Schenker respectively) serve to remind where the band’s roots lie.
Live albums can be hit or miss affairs, depending on whether you’re capturing a band at their peak or merely hearing them run through the established set-list for the umpteenth time until you’ve got a version as slick as the studio counterpart, which defeats the point of a live album, really. Luckily, at thirty years in, Europe have hit a peak again and clearly give everything they can to their live show, resulting in an energetic and joyous celebration of their extensive career. See – they have got more than one song…