Live Review: Europe - Civic Hall, Wolverhampton
21st October 2023
Words & Photos: Scott Clarke
Sometimes in this line of work, you get an evening that your younger self would never believe could happen, something that seems very surreal and kind of puts into perspective that hard work and perseverance is the key to many paths, even those that seem unobtainable. Tonight was one of those nights. It was a chilly evening but it was not going to put off the crowds, myself included, who have been eagerly anticipating Europe bringing their 40 impressive years in the business to grace our local venue.
Europe is a band that has been around for decades, selling millions of albums and performing all over the world. They are considered one of the most influential rock bands of the 80s and still remain popular today, this was a special show to celebrate their longevity with the fans.
At first I was a little surprised. As I entered the venue I found it to be a seated show. A seated show for a rock concert is a new one to me but I guess with the extent and length of the show to come, it kind of made sense.
The stage is covered with a large curtain reaching from floor to ceiling with Europe’s logo proudly displayed across it. What follows is a retrospective look at the bands history and where they came from in a video package that introduces new audiences to the band but is a good reminder to the fans who have been there since the beginning. As each member of the band describes their experiences in the video package, it’s a very humbling journey as we get to experience what the music scene was like when these musicians were trying to make a name for themselves and how they met and developed into the band that was to conquer the world, we also get a glimpse of Joey Tempest’s song writing methods in which he describes finding what sounds good through trial as he plays a few notes of their most famous hit on a piano.
After the 8 minute video package faded out, drums pounded away and the curtain was lit up and the silhouettes of the band members appeared causing a roar from the crowd, when the curtain dropped, Europe launched straight into On Broken Wings, a fantastic high tempo start to set the mood for the evening and needless to say, the seated show didn’t remain seated for long as the crowd rose to their feet to rock along.
From the outset, the band was tight and in sync, as expected from a group that has been performing together for over 40 years. Each member showcased their musical abilities, from the soaring lead guitar of John Norum who’s guitar solos were nothing short of breathtaking and as impressive today as they have ever been, Mic Michaeli’s haunting melodic keys, to the hard-hitting drums of Ian Haugland, Bassist John Leven’s playing was precise and solid, providing pounding rhythm and the whole ensemble was topped off by the vocals of Joey Tempest, sounding as good as ever, with his powerful voice cutting through the thick wall of sound created by the band.
One thing to note, the energy of Joey Tempest is astounding, making his way across the stage gracefully, dancing and jumping, carrying the microphone stand wherever he went and never missing a beat, he was feeding off the excitement of the crowd and vice versa the crowd gave even more, the man never stopped all night, truly a magnificent frontman.
As Joey continued to swing the microphone stand around like it was an extension of his body and welcomed the Wolverhampton crowd, the band went straight into track two for the evening, Seven Doors Hotel, the first song that the band released from their self titled debut album. It’s hard to believe listening, that this was one of the earliest tracks written by these Swedish kids back in the early 80’s, it’s so good, catchy and solid with more complicated changes in tone throughout that it shows they were destined for greatness from the very beginning.
Claps lead by Joey ring out in time to the beating drum, after a few moments to catch our breath, yet another absolute classic plays out and one of my personal favourite Europe tracks, Rock The Night fills the place and gets the crowd jumping. As the music fades slightly, Joey gets the crowd involved with a little sing and repeat before the crescendo of the track, an envious guitar solo by John Norum and a final chorus. As a huge round of applause and cheers come from the crowd, the lights fade, a breather from a high octane, cracking opening to the set.
Ironically as the lights were still dim and the music began, the next track on the list was Start from the Dark, a leap forward in time to 2004 and a slightly different tone to the 80’s glam rock origins, a much slower, deliberate and somewhat darker sound. Following another dimming of the lights, the band bring us closer to modern day with Walk the Earth, the title track of their 2017 album, flawlessly performed, the lights come up so that Joey can address the crowd as he explains the formation of the show and picking the songs from their 40 year career based on the lyrics and how they describe the events of the world but also how they connect with the audience.
A treat for the audience now as the band perform a new track in the midst of all these legendary classics, Hold Your Head Up, which was only released at the tail end of September of this year. It’s a high tempo number that is much more reminiscent of classic Europe tracks than their more recent releases and fits in very nicely in the setlist. It’s also an encouraging sound for the fans that the band are not just resting on their big hits but are actively making solid, good new music, as we look back reminiscently tonight, its a reminder that there is much to look forward to in the bands future as well.
The sole piano notes ring out from Mic Michaeli as he and Joey Tempest perform the beautiful, haunting ballad, Dreamer along with accompanying vocals from the swaying audience who join Joey on the chorus. In a total shift we go straight into one of my favourite of Europe’s more recent releases, War of Kings, a hard hitting, gritty song that packs a punch, it also serves to showcase the versatility of the group and how they have not been afraid to mix things up and change and evolve their styles over time. This leads us nicely into Vasastan, another from the War of Kings album and an emotional guitar instrumental as John Norum gets to stretch his fingers and showcase his talents as the central focus of attention and a well deserving spotlight on a stage in a room full of people where you could hear a pin drop, the audience was so enthralled.
As the rest of the band returned to stage, we go straight into Girl from Lebanon. Following which Mic takes time to talk to the crowd, discussing the passage of time, it truly does fly by in the blink of an eye, but its all about the memories that we make along the way, as he remembers one of the first songs that he and Joey wrote together, the unmistakable opening notes of Carrie ring out and the crowd cheers for one of the band’s most popular ballads before joining in singing along. The band soak in the applause as cheers fill the venue. A dynamic shift in pace next as we go back to 1984’s Wings of Tomorrow album with the high energy Stormwind, hard hitting riffs, powerful bass lines and melodic keys, signatures of Europe and the glam rock genre so synonymous with the era, a superb way to round out the first half of the show as we hit a brief intermission.
As the night progressed, the crowd got louder and more energetic, and the band responded in kind. They seemed to be genuinely enjoying themselves, and it was clear that they were having as much fun as the audience. The energy in the room was superb all night. The crowd demanded more and the band were happy to oblige as the second half of the show kicked off with another video montage followed by Always the Pretenders, another of the more “modern” tracks where Europe left the glam behind and opted for a heavier and grittier sound and still Joey was full of energy, jumping around the stage like a man a quarter of his years, watching the show, it’s very easy to forget that these men have been around for 40 years, their stage presence is amazing, be it feeding off the crowd or just their natural energy. Ninja is up next, another of my favourite tracks (did I say that already?) How many favourites can a guy have?! Well when it comes to Europe it turns out, quite a few. Hit after hit graces the sound system and I have to say from a personal point of view, I am loving every second, it feels like the band reached into my personal mix tape and just played it out for me.
Prisoners in Paradise title track from the 1991 album, “...but I got just one question, did we have to say goodbye?” Joey sings and the fans are hoping not as this evening is one that could just keep going. Back to 1988 we go for Sign of the Times, before Joey and John rewind time for themselves by performing an acoustic cover of the David Bowie classic, Space Oddity which sees John as main singer as both men share vocal duties. It’s a very nice take on the track that the two reminisce that they used to do when they met up in their teens, as a track they both enjoyed, it’s an emotive piece that goes down a storm and its also a great mix up from the rest of the set.
Last Look at Eden the hard hitting, heavy number from the 2009 album of the same name is next on the bill, I have to say, it’s one of Europe’s heavier tracks but here it seems to feel even more impactful, you can really feel the driving bass and power from the drums, that’s live music for you. Joey thanks the road crew and everyone that helped to make the show. This is followed by another of my favourites (yes another) as Joey starts with an acoustic guitar and pours out another power ballad as he asks everyone to Open Your Heart. The crowd cheers and sways before the chorus kicks in with that killer rock riff.
Memories, a key component of tonights set, but here a track to itself, sees the hard rock number with galloping rhythm akin to an Iron Maiden song. After which John Leven, left to take the stage, gives a bass masterclass, taking us back to the 70’s featuring traits of Geezer Butler no less with the wah on the bass reminiscent of the intro to N.I.B, a nice touch, thanks John. The rest of the band return to the stage to close out the track. Followed by More than Meets the Eye, a track that definitely has a heavy emphasis on 80’s style synths.
The lights dim and spot lights shine on the drum kit of Ian Haugland who asks the crowd to howl like the Wolves they are before he provides us with a drum solo alongside the William Tell Overture, this was simply outstanding and a clever way of demonstrating musical prowess and takes us straight into Ready or Not (Did I mention this was one of my favourite tracks) as the rest of the band rejoin the stage to rock us just a little more. Without missing a beat, one classic leads into another as next up is Superstitious, a fan favourite (mine included) that gets the crowd singing along, to be honest I don’t think they’ve stopped singing all night, the love they’ve shown for the show they are being treated to has been evident since the beginning. Part way through, after another blistering John Norum solo, the band slip into a little of No Woman, No Cry, the Bob Marley classic with the lighting playing its part giving us reds and greens and accentuating the reggae themes. Keep it coming, Joey shouts as he runs from the stage to great cheers.
The band depart and the lights go down, was this the end of the show? Not if the chants and cheers of the adoring crowd had anything to say about it. It worked. The unmistakable drum beat kicks in with breaks and cheers from the crowd, before the full song, the absolutely fantastic Cherokee. Joey sings Cherokee, the crowd shout Whoa! But theres no trail of tears in this building tonight, unless they’re tears of joy, so many of my favourite Europe tracks have been played here and I am just so glad I was able to be a part of it.
There can be only one song left as the biggest cheer of the night so far erupts to the legendary synth intro that means it’s almost time for the show to close and we are on The Final Countdown. Phones shoot up into the air with the first synth notes and I think everyone gets goosebumps, as the song begins the room is literally jumping along with Joey on stage who continues to belt out the classic and swing the microphone like its conducting proceedings, what an epic way to end a show. I think that is the word to best describe the evening, simply epic.
Europe has been a favourite of mine for as long as I can remember, I grew up with their music, dare I say that some of their tracks are even the reason for my love of rock music to this day, singing along (badly) and trying to emulate and play (even more badly) so I was absolutely thrilled to be able to see them performing live at The Halls in Wolverhampton tonight. From the moment they stepped on stage, I knew I was in for an evening of pure musical bliss and it didn’t disappoint, it was truly an unforgettable experience. The band sounded amazing and the energy in the room was electric. The setlist was full of all their classic hits and the crowd was singing along to every song.
Europe played with incredible passion and skill, their 40 years together evident as it was really a show of masters practicing their craft and every member of the band had their moment to shine. The light show and visuals were also really impressive in a venue I’m not too familiar with photographing at, but it made a great impression and is part of making the entire atmosphere even more exciting. It was an amazing night.
The music that Europe performed was outstanding. The crowd was also very impressive. Immersed in the show, they were loud and enthusiastic throughout the night, singing along and clapping along to every song. It was clear that they were thrilled to be there and were having the time of their lives. The band felt the energy of the crowd and fed off it, playing an even better show because of it. I think its a testament to the band’s ability to captivate an audience and the quality of the songs to have endured so well for the 40 years we have been here tonight to celebrate.
Europe is a band that has been around for decades and it is clear why they remain one of the most popular rock bands in the world. The tour is labeled as Time Capsule and it most certainly was that, I generally like to try and remain impartial when I’m reviewing because I feel its important to share what we see more so than what we feel, but this time I found it impossible, the nostalgia hits hard. After such a fantastic and very well crafted show bringing together classics in celebration while adding a peppering of newer material, this Swedish 5 piece certainly rocked the night. Thank you Europe for an evening of memories I shall never forget.