On the strength of this stunning live performance from Swedish veterans Europe, you'd never believe that 2013 will usher in the thirtieth anniversary of the band's self titled debut release. So what is their longevity down to? Well continually releasing albums better than those that have come before them certainly helps, as does writing music that visibly excites them as they play it. However putting in performances that hit the ridiculously high standards of those witnessed at the ABC in Glasgow, just 39 days before that anniversary year begins, leaves no doubt as to why Europe still retain such appeal. Fiery, ferocious, tender yet tenacious, this is a band that lives every note and thrives on every beat.
Support act StoneRider may have been wowing audiences in The States through support slots with the likes of Uriah Heep and Robin Trower, but it would be fair to suggest that the Atlanta, Georgia three-piece are a new name for the meagre audience who'd braved the torrential rain to drip their early way into the ABC. Initially the trio looked a little put out that only a handful of paying punters were giving them much attention, but by the time they were blasting out their third track "Trigger Happy", attitudes along with attentions were beginning to turn towards the stage with increasing frequency. With half of their set used to make a solid introduction, the second part hammered home the advantage they'd won for themselves, with set closer "When The Sun Goes Down" garnering a heroes response from a venue that had steadily filled to near capacity. New friends made, solid first impressions given, it's job done for StoneRider.
Since their reformation in 1998, after six long years away, Europe have conjured up an increasingly blues tinged rock that those who only know of the fanfaring tones of "The Final Countdown" would barely recognise. However for those in the know this style of music really began for the band with the 1988 Out Of This World album, but from 2004s Start From The Dark through to 09s Last Look Eden, the heavier more guitar oriented style has been ever more in evidence. However it is testament to the band's most recent outing, Bag Of Bones, which honed this approach to a startlingly lethal bright point, that tonight we are confidently treated to seven news songs. "Rags To Riches", "Not Supposed To Sing The Blues" and "Firebox" kick things off in fine style, with singer Joey Tempest careening round the stage with is herky-jerky stage moves getting the females in attendance all a-flutter, before the mighty Hammond-fest that is "Superstitious" sends fists into the air and shreds a couple of thousand vocal chords. Even the ever reserved guitarist John Norum can't resist a sly smile as he hammers his fret board through the vintage "Scream Of Anger", although that fret-burning continues for Last Look At Eden pair "No Stone Unturned" and "New Love In Town" - bassist John Levén prowling the stage while nailing the songs to the floor. "Demon Head" lived up to its name, ensuring the intensity remained hair raisingly high, but in truth it is just how tight the five musicians on stage truly are that makes the Europe experience just so irresistible.
Having donned a kilt for the Scottish occasion, Mic Michaeli gets a few moments to fill the room with atmospheric keyboard goodness, before Norum who is now sat on a stool grinds out an authentic slice of classic blues, showcasing not just his stunning guitar prowess, but also his shining voice. The rest of the band then stride to the front of the stage, Michaeli with a mandolin, Tempest and Levén joining Norum on guitar, to bash out acoustic versions of "Drink And A Smile" and "Open Your Heart", with Ian Haugland confidently straddling a cajón as he thumps out the beat, jangling a tambourine with his foot all the way.
"Bag Of Bones" and the mighty "Girl From Lebanon" put the foot back on the throttle, although the poised, elongated intro to the massive 80s hit "Carrie", made a big room into a beautifully intimate venue. In recent years this track has been one of the acoustic numbers Europe have performed, so it's a pleasure to hear it brought back to its full glory. From there it is a race to the line with a romping "The Beast", the Zeppelin turned up to eleven of "Doghouse" where Haugland beats his toms into submission, an ever building "Sign Of The Times" and a roof raising "Rock The Night". It is a triumphant way to close a set, with the joy on stage flowing out into the audience. However when the extended intro to first encore "Last Look At Eden" oozes out of the speakers the reaction becomes even more ecstatic, leaving Tempest visibly elated. However when the slow booooooing, booooooing that means only one thing - "The Final Countdown" - blares out, all hell breaks loose.
Grown women scream, men of a certain age break out air guitars and headbang in a way they're neck is sure to regret in the morning, while Europe go into overdrive, knowing they genuinely have one of those rare things - a drop-dead show stopper - up their sleeve.
Thirty years from their debut most bands wouldn't have the nerve to showcase their most recent album with a handfull of blisteringly delivered new songs. Europe however aren't "most bands" and performances like this one only confirm that fact in a confident, assured, shit-kicking manner.
1 RAGS TO RICHES
2 NOT SUPPOSED TO SING THE BLUES
5 SCREAM OF ANGER
6 NO STONE UNTURNED
7 NEW LOVE IN TOWN
8 DEMON HEAD
9 BLUES (acoustic)
10 DRINK AND A SMILE (acoustic)
11 OPEN YOUR HEART (acoustic)
12 BAG OF BONES
13 GIRL FROM LEBANON
15 THE BEAST
17 SIGN OF THE TIMES
18 ROCK THE NIGHT
19 LAST LOOK AT EDEN
20 THE FINAL COUNTDOWN