There was once a time, way back in 1987, when Sweden’s Europe were battling it out with Bon Jovi for most popular rock act in the Australian mainstream music charts. Europe had their mega-hit album The Final Countdown while Bon Jovi were competing with their album Slippery When Wet. Bon Jovi would eventually go on to become a mainstay in the Aussie (and world) charts with hit songs and albums spanning decades, while Europe seemed to disappear right after the huge success of The Final Countdown album.
Chart-wise, Europe essentially became a one-hit-wonder act, remembered only by the general public for the mega-smash single (and album title track) The Final Countdown. Thankfully, rock fans are loyal so, more than thirty years after their mainstream success here in Australia, Europe finally made their way down to Australia, incredibly, for the first time ever. Not only did they bring their Walk the Earth Tour here, but they managed to draw great crowds to see them without even including a co-headliner or even a support act to bolster the numbers.
I arrived at Adelaide’s iconic venue Thebarton Theatre just before ushers called out to the punters gathered at the bar that there was no support and Europe were about to hit the stage. It was only 8pm, unusually early for a headline set to start. As I entered the main room, the lights dimmed, the crowd roared, and I couldn’t help but think that I could well be home by 10pm at this rate.
The band made their way onstage with a backdrop of shadowy light and smoke. Frontman Joey Tempest made his entrance in theatrical style, a silhouette, momentarily frozen in a side-on rock pose with microphone stand held high, before bursting into action as the opening song kicked in. Rather than his giant mane of long 80s hair-metal hair, Joey now reminds me of a cross between 70s teen idol David Cassidy and Tom Cruise’s portrayal of Rock of Ages character Stacee Jaxx. This is not at all a criticism. After all of these years, Adelaide finally was given the classic 1980s rock performance that it missed back in 1987. Joey was the epitome of a classic rock star throughout this performance. There was microphone swinging, mic-stand twirling and plenty of encouragement for the crowd to clap along with hands in the air, all while delivering the vocals powerfully and sounding as great as I’d hoped he would. The rest of the band was made up of the classic Final Countdown line-up of John Leven on bass guitar, Ian Haugland on drums, Mic Micheali on keys, and John Norum on guitar. With Joey working the crowd from the front of the stage, the band delivered perfectly behind him. The guitar solos from John Norum sounded spot-on and the tunes sounded just like they do on the albums, played to perfection and with a fantastic mix through the P.A, which isn’t always achieved in this grand old venue.
After an hour of songs, a nice mix spanning the band’s career, Joey announced that they’d be back and the house lights suddenly came on. After the initial shock of thinking that the gig had come to an incredibly early end, it was soon apparent to everyone that this was an intermission, a rare feature at a rock gig.
Half an hour later, it was time for the second half of the show as Europe returned to the stage with the same energy as they had left it with. Although the band continued on with the same enthusiasm, it felt as though the crowd had lost a little momentum after their break at the bar. It didn’t take long for the room to get back up to speed though, as the second half of the set contained a lot of Final Countdown album tracks which went down the best with the crowd, including Cherokee, power-ballad Carrie and of course, the set closer and encore The Final Countdown.
By the time the house lights did come on to end the show, it was clear that there didn’t need to be a support act or co-headliner tonight. Europe delivered a performance well worth the price of admission and from the look on the faces of the punters and they filed out of the theatre, it had been worth the 30-year wait to finally see the band here in Australia. Hopefully this isn’t the last time we see Europe performing here as I’m sure there will be so much positive feedback after this tour that it will create even more demand for future tours from the band.
Review Contributed by Kym Robey