Europe’s ‘Walk The Earth’ tour finally get to Birmingham and they bring with them Glasgow blues rockers King King as a special support.
King King have certainly come a long way in the last few years. Tonight they turn in a tight set which kicks off with ‘She Don’t Give Me No Lovin’ from last year’s excellent Exile & Grace album. Whether it’s the soulful blues of ‘Waking Up’, the ballad of ‘A Long History Of Love’ or the all out rocker of ‘Lose Control’ they deliver on all levels. While there are plenty of bands out there playing this style of music few do it with such ease and there are considerably less who feature a vocalist as good as Alan Nimmo. Without doubt he possesses one of the best soulful blues rock voices since Paul Rodgers and Steve Winwood.
‘No Stranger To Love’ concludes their all too short set, but does provide a taster for their recently announced headline tour which sees them stopping off at both Birmingham Town Hall and Nottingham Rock City.
Europe’s latest album, Walk The Earth, is already almost a year old, and it seems it has been nearly as long since this tour was first announced so there’s been a fair amount for fans to become familiar with the material. Their sixth since reforming with the ‘Final Countdown’ lineup in 2003, it’s another strong album that re-affirms Europe‘s relevance as a contemporary rock band. It’s fairly easy, then, to anticipate that they will play a fair amount of the new material tonight. Indeed, they waste no time in doing so and open with the title track itself, and without pausing for breath, they follow it up with another newbie, and latest single, ‘The Siege’. Both songs go down well, but when they continue with ‘Rock The Night’ the crowd lift their voices further. Paying tribute to the city in which they are playing, they even slot in a snippet of ‘Iron Man’ between the choruses.
Norum switches to a Flying V for ‘Hole In My Pocket’ while the brooding epic ‘Last Look At Eden’ comes across almost orchestral and very atmospheric with the band being complemented by swathes of red and white back lighting. The ever youthful Joey Tempest plays to the crowd and still twirls the mic stand and pulls all the shapes and poses. In fact the whole band are in good shape especially when you consider that next year is their 40th anniversary.
‘New Love In Town’ has Tempest adding variety by playing acoustic guitar before there’s a change in style to a very proggy ‘Firebox’. But the old classics are never far away. ‘Ready Or Not’ and ‘Sign Of The Times’ turn up mid set. In fact, it’s probably one of the best paced sets with a choice of songs from their whole career that I’ve seen from them in years. Everything just seems to slot into place seamlessly.
At times you wonder why Europe haven’t retained the same kind of following that say Bon Jovi or Def Leppard have. After all, during the late eighties these bands all ruled the rock airwaves. The heaviness of ‘GTO’ may go some way in explaining this as Europe have always been a much heavier band and their multi platinum hits are not necessarily their defining work. So while they may be playing the Institute rather than the Arena, Europe arguably have more integrity for retaining their diversity that allows them to play a set that covers ballads, bombastic anthems, prog rock and riff-led metal songs. They are in a good place currently and are clearly relaxed and having fun. At one point, Joey retorts to a request for ‘Days Of Rock N Roll’ from a fan by repeating the request in a mock Brummie accent before playing a comedy snippet of the song.
The variety of the gig continues with the monstrous ‘Scream Of Anger’ with its UFO and Lizzy influences, ‘War Of Kings’, a classy ‘Superstitious’, which segues nicely in and out of a short section of ‘Here I Go Again’. There’s even a drum solo from Ian Haughland to the William Tell Overture which is both bafflingly ridiculous and impressive in equal measure.
For the encore they pull the stops out on a rip roaring ‘Cherokee’ before Mic Micheali’s keyboards swell to introduce the obvious set closer of ‘The Final Countdown’ which has everyone singing along and rounds off a superb evening.