With only one support act and the early curfew of 10pm, even before the show it’s safe to say this will be a short affair. But sweet? For a band many consider to be a one-hit-wonder, even without 'that' song, Europe have an impressive enough back catalogue to put on a good show nonetheless. Witnessing the queue of mostly middle-aged rockers wrapped around the outside of the academy it would appear that the headline act aren’t the only ones who have stuck to the music after all these years. Once the crowd comfortably fill out the 2,700 capacity venue Voodoo Johnson take to the stage in what can only be described as an awkward atmosphere. It’s no fault of theirs; more a result of a sudden killing of the music, no noticeable stage lighting and no intro music. In the face of this they confidently break into ‘Headstone’ from their album ‘10,000 Horses’. By the time they’ve got to the chorus the uncomfortable start is already nudging itself to the back of everyone’s minds. It doesn’t take long before Voodoo Johnson have grasped everyone’s attention and, as they progress through the set, their grip only tightens. My only criticism would be vocalist Nik Taylor-Stoakes consistently causing the momentum to stumble between each song with dragged-out, clichéd banter. That said, it doesn’t exactly ruin the set as their groovy Hard Rock style stands out well on its own merits. My particular favourite of the night comes in the form of their latest single ‘Black Skies Mist’, a rolling, barrage of a song that ends in a crazy, thunderous wall of noise that is definitely improved upon by being live. Ending on ‘Seven Years’ is a fine choice, managing to show off the heavier and more melodic sides to both the instrumental parts and Taylor-Stoakes’ voice. While their set has only been six songs long it hasn’t hindered them in any way; in fact, between sets, a fair amount of people can be seen walking away from the merch stand holding Voodoo Johnson CDs.
Saturday 26th February 2011
Academy in Leeds, UK
Reviews & Photography by Nicholas Dishington
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As the lights go down and the epic orchestral intro track to Europe’s latest album ‘Last Look At Eden’ blasts through the Academy, you could easily forget that you’re not listening to the beginnings of a Symphonic Black Metal gig and that the night will, in actual fact, inevitably end with one of the camper songs of Rock history. As they burst onto the stage in a dazzling flash of red, white and blue light, they crack out the title track from the aforementioned album with incredibly infectious aplomb. Another track later and they quickly quash any notion I had that their older material would feel dated tonight with the inclusion of ‘Rock The Night’ and ‘Scream Of Anger’, both clearly from a time gone by but by no means less enjoyable for it. One highlight of the gig is the surprising clarity of vocalist Joey Tempest throughout the performance, which is beautifully displayed in their 1986 ballad ‘Carrie’ until the whole band, without warning, falls abruptly silent for the second chorus to let the crowd sing which turns Tempest’s great emotional cry into a wall of belated shrieks. This moment is lightened as it draws attention to the guy (with his girlfriend) who it seems has been loudly replacing the chorus’ ‘Carrie’ with ‘Kelly’. Guitarist John Norum shines during his tribute to the late Gary Moore by playing the calm instrumental ‘The Loner’ but this quieter mood doesn’t last long as they pick up the pace again with ‘Seventh Sign’, ‘New Love in Town’ and, my personal favourite, ‘Love is not the Enemy’. With a blisteringly fast drum solo modelled around the 'William Tell Overture' thrown into the mixture of powerful ballads and rousing anthems, the stage is alive with energy. While the whole band play their part it becomes obvious that Tempest is the driving force behind their dynamic show when he takes to the guitar, restricting his movements but also slowing him down. Between songs Tempest often engages the crowd in some way and this interaction feels genuine and mostly unrehearsed. Perhaps the oddest one was him singing repeatedly “I gotta fill my needs in Leeds,” not just for the groansome rhyme but it makes you wonder, if he does a similar thing for every show, what on Earth did he get the rhyme with Manchester on the previous night of the tour?! By the time they exit the stage, you know they’re coming back… not only because this band are true showmen but you just know what’s coming. An uncomfortably long wait later and, sure enough, they’re back for two more songs. The first of these is new track ‘Doghouse’- a high-energy, groovy song. It doesn’t add anything new to the Europe sound but you can’t deny that it’s entertaining enough. The lights fade to black for the last time tonight and a faint sound of rumbling draws closer, accompanied by the recognisable synth intro of ‘The Final Countdown’. The crowd have been enthusiastic enough throughout the show, but understandably everyone goes wild. People you could have earlier mistaken for statues are now jumping around as though rats are trying to gnaw at their ankles. It’s a great song and with the faultless sound quality, an emphatic front man and a party atmosphere it really does have to be heard live. This high-spirited finale couldn’t have ended the show any better. With a steady mix of old and new, not only in the acts but with Europe’s choice of songs, it’s been a varied night. A couple of hiccups here and there are easily ignored in the face of some truly entertaining music.
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