Europe - LIVE: Shepherd's Bush Empire, London 2012

Bag of Bones Tour
December 1 (21:00-22:50)
Capacity 2000

The UK legs of Europe's tours in recent years have arguably been the most successful worldwide, which is probably why on the last two world tours the UK dates were the first to be confirmed. The strength of their performances on those tours led to more or less the whole UK leg selling out this time, culminating in a packed Shepherd's Bush Empire, the scene of their last live DVD.

Young Atlanta rockers StoneRider opened but weren't really the high-energy support act a Europe show needs. In their regular live sets the interesting hard rock songs from their debut album Three Legs of Trouble have now been diluted by their mundane Thin Lizzy-isms from second disc Fountains Left To Wake. For this run supporting Europe they played songs exclusively from the new album, which made for a boring set from start to finish.

They did however make Europe's job a lot easier. Appearing engaging and energetic after their set was simple for a band like Europe, who more often than not achieve just that of their own accord, and while Riches To Rags from new album Bag of Bones doesn't have anywhere near the impact of previous show opener Last Look At Eden (now the encore opener), it didn't appear that anything would dampen the band's lively performance, including the sound.

StoneRider had enjoyed a reasonably good mix for their set, but once Europe's engineer took over things took a turn for the worse and weren't rectified. Somehow the man behind the desk couldn't hear that the guitars were quiet and the vocals were buried in too much drums. How, only he can say. The mix in the band's monitors must have been to their liking because they barely ever asked for any adjustment, but out in the cavernous theatre things didn't sound so great.

The muddied, unbalanced sound continued while the band rolled out a set that was quite heavily weighted in favour of their celebrated "comeback" period. Of the 19 songs played, six came from the new album and a further five came from either 2009's Last Look At Eden or 2006's Secret Society, making over half the set "new" versus just eight from the '80s/early-'90s albums, and one cover.

In the middle of the set a period of sonic clarity was reached when the band settled into a trio of acoustic songs, playing ballads Drink And A Smile and Open Your Heart alongside a cover of Fleetwood Mac's The World Keep On Turning sung by guitarist John Norum, but as soon as they returned to their electric instruments and broke out Girl From Lebanon the same problems resumed.

Europe the band cannot be faulted. Their performance and effort is always first rate and they never disappoint their fans. It's just a shame that after so many decades of live music performance being an active industry, there are still sound engineers who pay more attention to what the levels on the mixing desk say than to how the band actually sound in the room.

“ muddied, unbalanced sound ”

StoneRider setlist: Show Me The Light / Red Moon / When The Sun Goes Down / Undercover / Say I Won't / El Dorado

Europe setlist: Riches To Rags / Not Supposed Sing The Blues / Firebox / Superstitious / Scream of Anger / No Stone Unturned / New Love In Town / Demon Head / The World Keep On Turning (Acoustic) / Drink And A Smile (Acoustic) / Open Your Heart (Acoustic) / Girl From Lebanon / Love Is Not The Enemy / Carrie / Sign of The Times / The Beast / Doghouse / Rock The Night/Won't Get Fooled Again // Last Look At Eden / The Final Countdown

Written by Andy Lye
More: 2012, Gigs, Hard/Heavy Rock, ,

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