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Monday, August 14, 2017

1020. Europe / The Final Countdown 30th Anniversary Show - Live at the Roundhouse [Live]. 2017. 3.5/5

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A live album can only ever be as good as the band who plays on it, and the material they play. There are lots of good reasons why you would record a live album. Generally it is to celebrate a particularly successful tour by having it recorded for posterity, and allowing fans all over the world the opportunity to be a part of it if they haven’t been able to attend, or remember it fondly if they were able to see it. There is also the opportunity to make more money from something that hasn’t required a lot of creative effort. It is quite possible that this album was produced with both of these mindsets in place.

For many people who grew up in the 1980’s, Europe started and finished with the album The Final Countdown. To be honest, those that moved beyond it to the next release, Out of This World sometimes wished they’d stopped at the previous album. It was a perfect moment in time, with not only the title track of the album charting worldwide, but also a couple of the other singles managed to work their way into the psyche. The band of course had released albums before it, and has done so since they reformed after a long break back in 2003. For many though, they only know the one album, and not all of that album either. So when the 30th anniversary of the release of that album came around, no doubt it was in everyone’s best interests to go down that track of bringing it back to the present and performing it in its entirety in a live setting. I get that. And when you perform a concert, you need to have other songs in around this so that it lasts for more than an hour. So what does the band do? Well, as well as performing The Final Countdown in its entirety from start to finish, Europe decide to play their current album, War of Kings also in its entirety. Not quite in order, but the whole album nonetheless.
Is this a good move? That comes back to the original premise behind alive album. Do the punters want to see that whole album played? In reality, do they love that album enough to want to see it all done live? I can’t speak for those that went to the gig itself, but I would have had a few problems with it. First, I’d like to day that War of Kings is a terrific, entertaining album. I’d like to say that, but I’d be lying. There are some fair moments on this album, but overall it is quite drab. For a band that was so outrageous in 80’s fashion and music in their heyday, it just doesn’t feel right that most of the music on that album feels so washed out and lacking in energy. Having said that, you would like to think that this would be different in a live setting. Unfortunately, no. You only have to notice the lack of crowd involvement throughout the live set to understand that there just isn’t the same emotion in the new album as there could be. They band sounds great, of that there is no doubt. But the material just isn’t there.
The mood changes significantly once they move into The Final Countdown. The response from the crowd is immediate, and the music automatically livens up as well. That’s where the change is, and perhaps something Europe should be looking at. That also could be seen to be unfair, as I can freely admit that at this time I haven’t listened to anything they have recorded beyond 1988 apart from their latest album, so perhaps there is more there than I know. But once you hear the band and the crowd in songs such as “The Final Countdown”, ‘Rock the Night”, “Carrie”, “Danger on the Track”, “Ninja” and “On the Loose”, you know where the gold lies. Sure, Joey Tempest doesn’t hit those freakish higher notes anymore, and John Norum doesn’t quite rip it up the same way as he used to, but you can still hear the band circa 1986 trying to rip its way out of its 2016 bodies.

In the end we are left with that age old question, love of material over love of performance. This doesn’t provide you with anything new. It’s a nostalgia trip, one you can probably go on without the live album. It also probably won’t take you long to only play the second disc of the album. And then it probably won’t take you long to put this back in the rack and go back to the studio album itself.

Rating:  “Tell me the story, tell me the legend, tell me the tales of war”.  3.5/5
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