Europe - LIVE: Shepherd's Bush Empire 2011

Balls 'N' Banners Tour
London - February 19
Capacity 2,000

After the UK dates of their 2010 touring were so successful supporting their latest album Last Look At Eden, Europe wasted no time immediately booking another full UK tour for 2011 as the first live shows of the year and, apart from a few festival appearances, their last proper tour for the album before recording a new one.

Openers for the tour were British rock outfit Voodoo Johnson, who have taken on a much tougher edge of late by replacing singer Kev Bayliss with Vallenbrosa front-man Nick Taylor-Stokes. Bayliss is a great singer, but Voodoo Johnson's material has benefited greatly from Taylor-Stokes' rougher vocals and some of the new material they have written with him is amongst their strongest to date. The selling point of their new songs is Black Skies Mist, which was written in collaboration with Diamond Head guitarist Brian Tatler, and this is not one of their best, but otherwise they appear to be a more vibrant, heavier band than they used to be, and they are more engaging for it.

Europe revealed shortly before the oddly named "Balls 'N' Banners" tour started that they would be recording the London date for a new live DVD, so expectation was high that their performance would be one of their best. In fact, the band rarely acknowledged the presence of the cameras in the manner most bands being recorded do (but asking the crowd to make extra noise, etc.), and instead went about their business in the same way they always do. With energy.

The core set hadn't changed a great deal since the one-off intimate London show in late 2009 after the release of Last Look At Eden, as it stands to reason that if the band wanted to document this tour then they would play most of the songs which have characterised it. This meant the usual evergreens like Rock The Night, Superstitious and Scream of Anger and most of the same tracks from the new disc, including both singles Last Look At Eden and New Love In Town.

The differences came in the shape of new songs The Beast and No Stone Unturned, the inclusions of which, along with the return of 2006's The Getaway Plan to the set, showed how disappointingly unfamiliar many Europe fans are with any of the band's post-reunion material. Later More Than Meets The Eye from 1988's Out of This World album provided a real surprise, but still didn't stop nostalgia fans from complaining there weren't enough old songs in the set after the show.

The biggest change of all came in the encore, before the obvious finalé of The Final Countdown, as singer Joey Tempest revealed that Europe will be recording a new album later in 2011, and they proceeded to play a brand new Queen-esque song called Doghouse, which also didn't receive much of a response from the crowd.

In the end, regardless of the efforts the band made to produce an interesting set that was still permeated by the hits fans have historically loved the most, the response to any songs besides those hits (More Than Meets The Eye and arguably Start From The Dark excepted) was undeservedly lacklustre. Europe are still a highly entertaining, energetic band and are producing some of the best new material of their career. They aren't a nostalgia band, and rightly don't feel like they should be, but it seems the recognition and praise they are getting for pursuing that path is coming more from newer fans and converts than from fans of old.

Nevertheless, a band as high-tempo in their live performances doesn't need to be rescued by a rapturous crowd, which isn't to say the crowd didn't show their appreciation, just that they only did it at certain times, and the resultant DVD of this excellent show should be a treat for fans when it's released towards the end of the year.

“ a highly entertaining, energetic band ”

Voodoo Johnson Setlist: Headstone / Feel Karma / SIN! / Nowhere Inbetween / Black Skies Mist / Seven Years

Europe Setlist: Last Look At Eden / The Beast / Rock The Night / Scream of Anger / No Stone Unturned / Carrie / The Getaway Plan / The Loner / Seventh Sign / New Love In Town / Love Is Not The Enemy / More Than Meets The Eye / Drum solo / Always The Pretenders / Start From The Dark / Superstitious // Doghouse / The Final Countdown

Photo(s): Justine Sutton | www.justine-louise.co.uk

Written by Andy Lye
More: Gigs, Hard/Heavy Rock,

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