at Baderock Festival, Sandefjord, Norway, July 31, 2004

Over the last five years or so, there have been so many reunions that it’s been hard to keep track of them all. Some are useless ones by one original member who refuses to do what he does best instead; flipping burgers, while others are so satisfying that they call for the title “reunion of the year”. Some people, musicians in particular, are fed up with the word “reunion” – I couldn’t care less, it’s in that bloody dictionary – and Europe deserves this year’s “reunion of the year” award indeed (though I doubt they can match Tesla’s 2004 release when their new CD is out in September. Tesla’s reunion happened a few years ago though). After their demonstration of Viking power (not really, it’s mostly a Swedish band) at the Sweden Rock Festival in June, they have been playing the occasional gig here and there, mostly festivals and other outdoor events where local heroes will put their Poco Loco clothing back on and get shitfaced beyond recognition. And last night in Sandefjord, Norway, was not really any different. The setting with aging Pat Sharpers didn’t prevent the band from doing another great gig, though.

The set opener surprised a few, none other than the band’s first hit in Japan, and still one of their best songs, “Seven Doors Hotel”. The same few probably wonder what the heck is going on when the band thereafter launches into “Wings Of Tomorrow”. The sound is perfect from the first John Norum six string strike, even in my rather bad spot sound-wise, in front of the right PA. Norum by the way. He looked extremely focused and didn’t move much, but he carried the band through the set and I really didn’t hear him miss a note. Seriously, I couldn’t hear any of these guys making any real blunders, or small blunders for that matter, as John Leven thunder picks so heavy that there’s for sure no need for a Kee Marcello to back Norum up, and Ian Haugland keeps the timing precise. Mic Michaeli adds the needed spice, nothing more nothing less, just the way a keyboarder in a rock band should, while the most impressive person up there is Joey Tempest himself. The 12 years that have gone by since the band decided to take a break (or whatever), have added a more soulful and deeper – more masculine – dimension to his voice, and although he sings in a slightly lower key live, it fits perfectly. Joey always had a recognizable voice, so he can allow himself to tune his throat down a little, and when it sounds just as good, in some cases even better, why complain?

Back to the show, “Superstitious” woke up those still scratching their head and looking at their ticket stubs to make sure they went to the right place, just like “Time Has Come” off The Final Countdown. “Superstitious” sounded indeed more vicious with Norum handling the axe, and he was joined by Tempest when the latter introduced perhaps the best moment off Out Of This World: “Ready Or Not”. Joey alone took center stage and sings the chorus before the whole band got into one of Europe’s heavier numbers, followed by “Heart Of Stone” and “Scream Of Anger”, which featured Norum’s guitar solo. Says Tempest: We have known each others since we were 15 years old (…). He (John Norum) was a guitar hero back then, and he still is a guitar hero today!”

The guys with the “Ball” long sleeves (yes, I saw that one for the very first time in almost 20 years yesterday!) sure get the hair gel blown away by “Scream Of Anger”, so I bet they appreciate Tempest when he pulls out the acoustic guitar and has the whole crowd singing “Carrie”. This festival takes place right in the city centre of Sandefjord, so by now I bet grandma on the balcony was singing along, too. She did good, that old lady, along with the rest of us, and made “Carrie” a highlight to remember. On the downside, the band did not follow up with “Open Your Heart”, like they usually do, but opted for “Sign Of The Times” before Ian got his short drum solo with samples from The Kinks and Motörhead to play to. Seriously, Motörhead has a Swedish drummer already – the best drummer in rock’n roll!!! (said in Lemmy’s hoarse voice) – so Motörhead is perhaps not the wisest choice… What the hell, it’s only rock’n roll, and Haugland “Let The Good Times Rock” before the main set ends with “Yesterday’s News”, the only song played off Prisoner’s In Paradise, an odd choice I would say … it’s far from the best pick from a brilliant and heavily underrated record. No “Stormwind” in the set this evening, a song where the guitar hero shines, and you may wonder why Out Of This World is better represented than Wings Of Tomorrow with Norum back in the band. Oh well…

After a few minutes of chanting, for those of us still sober enough to keep up with the event, the band tells the story of the “Cherokee”. This is really a killer live track, followed by “Rock The Night” – and that is just what grandma on the balcony does, like it or not, ready or not.

Another short break, and the band presented “Start From The Dark”, supposedly the title track from the upcoming release. The song has great double harmony vocals, while the riff indicates that Joey Tempest today writes his songs together with John Norum. It’s tuned down compared to the classic Europe material, but nevertheless, the songs give hope for the album coming soon.

And then, guess what – the Poco Loco legion goes loco when a keyboard part just as familiar as its guitar counterpart “Smoke On The Water” is played, and a massive earthquake is a fact when Sandefjord jumps to the rhythms of “The Final Countdown” – simply the moment everyone’s waiting for.

A few songs short of perfection, Europe delivers another great show. Fingers crossed that the Swedes (Norum is Norwegian by the way, I just had to mention that) have a great album out soon and don’t end up as another reunited Swedish band who took the festival stages by storm a few years ago, but failed to release anything new. Here at Metal Express Radio, we will be back with more Europe coverage in a few months. Stay tuned!


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