For those who haven’t been to the Palais Theatre lately, a huge visual surprise was the first treat of the night; all the lights on the face of the iconic St. Kilda venue had been changed to a neon blue. The main attraction of course was the phenomenal Swedish rock band Europe which we were all there to see. By the time the band had struck their first note, their presence and sound immediately established itself as so incredibly crisp that it swept the muskiness that permeates the theatre away.
Europe opened their set with the title track from their latest album ‘Walk the Earth.’ The hugeness and clarity of their sound rendered the song a near perfect replica of the studio track, but with the added magic of a live environment. The delay on singer Joey Tempest’s voice was perfectly applied. It was the icing on the cake. They quickly followed up with a solid rendition of ‘The Siege’ before addressing the audience for the first time.
‘Rock The Night’ came next and quickly became the first mass sing along of the evening, one of many. This was amplified further when before the final chorus there was an insertion of AC/DC’s ‘Whole Lotta Rosie.’ Up to this point however, the rhythms and textures remained sparse and open. This all changed when the more Metal ‘Scream of Anger’ began. The whole band was firing on all cylinders at this point and blitzed through the heavy track with amazing precision.
Three of the next four tracks really demonstrated the finesse of John Norum’s guitar work, with ‘Danger on the Track’ and ‘Firebox’ both introducing the Melbourne audience to his incredibly speedy and accurate chops. ‘Vasastan’ however, blew us all away. The beauty here lies in the nuance of his every articulation. If there was any doubt that Norum can be considered one of the greats, let this song put them to rest.
‘The Girl from Lebanon’ is where we really see the strength of bassist John Leven and drummer Ian Haugland. The rhythms of this track are fairly complex and to see these two lock in with each other so solidly really took the song to the next level. Even independently of each other there were some stand out moments in this performance.
Mic Michaeli’s beautiful keys playing had the crowd roaring for ‘Sign of the Times.’ The harmonious buildup into the heavy riffage and then the synth accents sprinkled through the rest of the song gave the rendition so much pleasant air. Tempest had the same effect on the audience when he picked up an acoustic guitar to play ‘Open Your Heart.’ There were some moments in his playing however where notes weren’t ringing quite as clearly as they should have been and were fretting out short. He can be forgiven for this however as he is a vocalist first. It also may have been a guitar action/intonation inconsistency due to our climate. Later songs where he picked up an electric can back this up.
To finish up the first act the band launched into a near perfect performance of ‘Superstitious’ from ‘Out of this World.’ Leven and Haugland are in the pocket and grooving again here and Tempest’s vocals are fantastic as they ring through the enormous theatre room, bouncing off the walls and acquiring that sweet natural reverb that no effects pedal is ever gonna be able to replicate.
After a surprisingly long intermission of 25 minutes, the band return refreshed and recharged like their audience to smash out ‘Ready or Not.’ It’s the second song of act two however that garnered even more cheers then the band’s return itself; ‘Last Look at Eden’ from the album of the same name. This sprawling epic had even the most rigid audience members moving and was absolutely anthemic.
‘Seven Doors Hotel’ continued this epic trend and stands out as arguably the most ambitious and progressive song in their setlist. One of the greatest moments of the entire show was when the band got to the bridge of this song where the incredible varied triplet section begins. Or in non-musical terms… The galloping bit that sounds like an Iron Maiden tune. From this there was a big Prog riff jam section before heading back into the final chorus. The whole affair was incredibly high octane.
Providing a pleasant contrast after that madness came one of the band’s biggest hits, ‘Carrie.’ This slow power ballad had everybody swaying their arms in the air and singing along. (or waving a phone torch through the air.) But the reverie of this slow number didn’t last long and it’s clear the band wanted keep the momentum up as high as they can when they began ‘Turn to Dust’ and catapulted the evening towards its conclusion. This incredibly well composed song was for me the standout performance of the entire evening. Perfectly executed by all five members of the band. Yes, it was even better than that song, which needs no introductions.
We’re then treated to a unique and surprisingly musical drum solo which really paints the spotlight on the incredible technique of Haugland. His sticks fly through the air at the pieces of his kit at such speeds they become a dizzying blur.
To wrap things up we are given strong ballad ‘Prisoners in Paradise’ and ‘GTO’ featuring some very goofy dancing from Tempest. Just before leaving the stage the band finishes their set with ‘Let the Good Times Rock’ which of course sounds like an urging for the audience.
Naturally, the cheers bring the band back out for an encore in which they deliver ‘Cherokee’ and at long last ‘The Final Countdown,’ which was performed with such accuracy and attention to detail you’d be forgiven for thinking you had ended up in 1986 and heard it for the first time through a (Super Hi-Fi) Jukebox.
A fantastic evening of incredible music from a superb band that has long been awaited in Melbourne.
Photos by PAUL TADDAY
GET TICKETS FOR THE REMAINING EUROPE SHOWS HERE!