My very first live review for NHC opened with a wee moan about the Hydro. This time, there is no need as glam metal heroes Europe have the good sense to play the world famous Barras instead. A venue in which you get your wallet searched for tiny tiny chibs on the way in. So join me, as I escort you through time and space to a place they call Glasgow, in a time they call the 15th of September.
The crowd seemed excitable from the start, racing me up the stairs to the barrier. Only upon reaching the empty barrier did I realise they were headed for the bar. Either way there was a respectable size of crowd gathered for the support act. On stage before Europe on this tour were Bluesy Balladeers King King. And how did I know they were King King? They didn't have Shit Shit all over them. (There you go Monty Python fans, reviews and jokes for you lot). The band themselves got a good reaction walking on stage as the frontman Allan Nimmo showed off his kilt. He's a local boy you see, and was welcomed as such. I was very happy to see the crowd keep up their level of enthusiasm during the set. I suspect a small number of people in the crowd knew Nimmo the singer/axeman, but I'm sure most of us were just caught up in the groove.
They didn't have too much time to hang around and soak up the applause though so they launched themselves into "(She Don't) Gimme Me No Lovin'". A song featuring tight guitar chords and a great interplay between the rhythm section and the organist. Not that this was limited to this song, it was a part of the full set. King King are a very tight and well rehearsed band. Considering they are a four piece the sound was always very full, even during guitar and organ solos the tunes were very dynamic. As a drummer Wayne Proctor wasn't going down the show off route. Not a criticism at all, as it didn't feel like the kind of band where Kieth Moon or Neil Peart would slot themselves in unnoticed. That being said he drums like a metronome, and I feel the importance of that can't be understated. Lindsay Coulson wears the four string for the band. He himself plays a bit like he's the opposite of Dee Dee Ramone. Not in the sense that what he was playing was more complicated. In the sense that if they were both playing the same part, Dee Dee's would play like he was swinging a cleaver into your ribs. Whereas Lindsay would play it with a surgeons scalpel. Cutting precise even notes out of you exactly where he needs to. It was Jonny Dyke who was the star of the show for me though. As impressive as it is that Nimmo can play and sing like he does at the same time, there's something to be said about a good organist. And that something is "I like them". It wasn't just that he had his vintage Hammond set up, or that he was swapping between that and an electric piano seamlessly. It's that he seemed to have such a great feel for the music. One hand was up the top jamming over the songs melodies while the other was slapping seven shades out of the bass end of the keyboard. Very rhythmically, mirroring the snare at parts.
If I had heard King King on a CD before I saw them live I may have called them a bit cheesey. I wouldn't have dismissed them because of it, it's just the style of the music they make. It's in the song titles as well. "You Stopped The Rain" and "Stranger To Love" stick out as culprits. Live on stage however, you do get the connection between the four of them, the magic that transcends the cheese. I did buy their fourth studio album "Exile & Grace" at the gig. It was a fiver more than it should have been considering its length but you do what you can to support the boyses.
It wasn't long after that headliners Europe announced their arrival. Lights down. Epic electronic-string piece playing. Lights up. Straight into "Walk the Earth". A tune off their most recent album of the same name. Let me tell you I like the new material, it's heavy. Only as heavy as you would expect from Europe but compared to any of their power ballads it's a boot up the hoop with its distortion and serious riffage.
I was very happy to see that singer Joey Tempest still has it. On recordings he's always appeared to be a powerful vocalist, and someone who can portray emotion in his voice. I was very happy to find out that this wasn't studio magic, like so many vocalists resort to. On stage he has all the same power and feel in his voice. As a frontman from a glam metal band he has a certain duty. A duty to break the songs back to just drums and bass and to get the crowd repeating "whooah" and "yeah" back to him. He only did this a couple of times throughout the night however, it didn't get old. And it seemed to make him happy, and isn't that whats important?
Guitarist John Norum took a while to get himself warmed up compared to Joey. Not in terms of his playing. From the first note he was shredding away. Chopping his chords up, whammying his bar to hell, playing all the right bits in the right order...all those sorts of rock star things. I mean in terms of moving the rest of body. When Joey was bouncing off monitors, windmilling his microphone stand and headbanging with the bassist, Norum would occasionally walk to his amp and back. Maybe these sorts of exuberant outbursts are best left to Joey anyway. Even though they were hardly bouncing off the walls the band were superb as musicians. Not a dropped note all night from anyone that I heard. It's easy to understand why though. Europe aren't one of those classic groups with two original members and a power of session artists forming the backing band. This line up of Europe first played together in 1984. And have played together since their 2003 reformation. There's a lot of respect to be given to a global band who can keep a line-up going. It must not be as easy as it sounds. Ask Iron Maiden or Anthrax if you don't believe me.
I thought to myself during the show that it must be difficult for Europe to draft setlists for gigs. They've been releasing music since the 80's and they now have more albums released in this century than the last. They did manage to squeeze the classics in there along side the post 2003 material. The crowd didn't always give a roof raising reaction when Tempest announced what the next song of the set would be. I did feel like this was a bit of a shame as like I said the new and more unknown material is good. Just as good as anything off of the "Final Countdown" album. If I may be so bold some of it's better. (looking at you "Love Chaser" you're ok I suppose but when you're sitting next to "Cherokee" and "Ninja" you should have put more effort in). I'd recommend "Last Look At Eden" and "Firebox" to anyone not familiar with Europe's newer material. You might be pleasantly surprised, you might not dig it but it's a decent representation of their style recently.
Maybe the poor reactions to unfamiliar tunes explains why the band didn't look as happy to be there as King King did. I mean, it must get old playing in a band since 1979 and consistently releasing top drawer stuff ...only for people to go to gigs and wait for the final countdown.
For me the biggest surprise of the set was Ian Haugland's drum solo. Or more accurately drum concerto. Rather than just smashing pans and thumping tubs for five minutes, the resident Norwegian solos over the William Tell overture. To me it made the whole solo much more enjoyable. Having something for the crowd to sing along to and get into while Huagland displayed his mighty fine chops really made it more memorable then any other drum solo I've seen in a live set. However I cant allow myself to sit here and tell you how great he is without pointing out that he's a lefted handed drummer. And that's weird. Don't blame me for that lefties of the audience, blame the backwards drum kits.
The night drew to an end with a very uplifting encore consisting of "Cherokee" and another tune. Guess what tune Europe finish their set with? Did you guess "The Final Countdown"? Well you would be wrong if you did. But also you wouldn't be because that's exactly what happened. And aye, I can sit here and type about how the new material is just grand, and that maybe they don't get recognised as a modern serious metal outfit. But truth is they play those two songs in a row and you lose it. You jump around, you sing when Joey tells you to, you clap when the bass drum says it's time and you sing it like it's 1986 and your hair is tarred with volume mousse. And no one in the house or on the stage should have anything negative to say about that. The new songs being good definitely doesn't mean the classics are bad.
I count the gig as a damn fine show. One drum concerto, two bands, plenty of good times had.
With that I bid you, cheerio.