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Blu-ray Music Review: Europe – Live at Shepherd’s Bush, London

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It’s hard to believe that I am actually reviewing another Europe concert video, which could only mean that these veteran Swedish rockers have risen from the ashes of the ’80s hair-metal heap and are once again giving their devoted fans the melodic hard-rock that they still crave. Europe has actually been back together for some time now, officially reuniting in 2003 after an 11-year hiatus that started in 1992 when the ’80’s metal scene began dying its slow, agonizing death.

In 2004, Europe released their sixth studio album, and first in about 13 years, Start from the Dark, which saw the band going for a much heavier and more modern sound than the lighter, keyboard dominated stuff that most casual fans will remember them by when The Final Countdown was dominating the charts in the mid-’80s. This album would mark the return of their classic lineup of Joey Tempest (vocals), John Norum (guitar), John Leven (bass), Mic Michaeli (keyboards), and Ian Haughland (drums); and they would also be responsible for two more albums to follow, 2006’s Secret Society, and 2009’s Last Look At Eden.

Earlier this year, Europe finished up their two-year Last Look At Eden world tour with a second leg in the U.K. that was dubbed the “Balls ‘N’ Banners Tour 2011.” The band filmed their sold-out show at London’s Shepherds Bush Empire on February 19, 2011, for this excellent new concert DVD/BD.

The band kicks off the concert with a couple cuts from their latest album, Last Look At Eden, with the title track and the heavy-as-it-sounds “The Beast.” “Last Look at Eden,” with its soaring chorus of the gods, is slowly becoming one of my favorite Europe songs, and it most certainly lets you know that these boys are back and sounding better than ever. Joey Tempest was one of the better singers from the ’80’s metal scene and his vocals are also as strong as they have ever been.

They then jump back farther back than when most of you kids were alive to revisit their sophomore LP, Wings Of Tomorrow, with “Scream of Anger” as well as The Final Countdown‘s super-anthem “Rock the Night.” I still cringe when I hear songs like this. (I mean, I know “Rock and Roll All Nite” was already taken, but come on! Granted, it is a world class fist-pumper.) The setlist features a great mix of old and new material, featuring eight songs from their three most recent albums of the last decade, and seven from their pre-hiatus releases. There’s also a new song, “The Doghouse,” and John Norum also pays tribute to the recently departed Gary Moore with a smoking performance of his 1987 instrumental classic, “The Loner.”

Highlights of the show include the Middle Eastern flavored “No Stone Unturned,” from Last Look At Eden, and “Superstitious” and “Seventh Sign” have likewise never sounded better. Look up “sappy power-ballad” in the dictionary and you will probably find Europe’s latest one, “New Love In Town,” listed as a friggin’ synonym. These guys can sell it like no other, though. And can you guess what they closed the show with? That’s right, “The Final F’ing Countdown,” and it still sounds as gloriously bombastic as ever.

The production quality of this Blu-ray is all over the place. Strangely, the only audio option offered is DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1, which is fine for me, but for those of you without a DTS decoder, you might be shit out of luck. The DTS audio mix sounds damn near perfect to my ears, and the hi-def picture looks extremely sharp and vibrant, but the camera editing leaves much to be desired. The combination of constant, rapid-fire camera-angle changes mixed with an abundance of strobe lights on the stage is enough to induce a seizure. Watch with caution.

The bonus features on this disk are worth the price alone. Included is a professionally shot 13-song performance (with four songs that are not in the main feature) from a December 28, 2009 concert at Stockholm’s Hovet Ice Stadium, and three more from the band’s performance at the Grona Lund amusement park in September 2010. Both shows were filmed much better than the main feature, and the Grona Lund footage looks particularly amazing with all of the amusement park lights in the background and an abundance of pyrotechnics. The band seems genuinely jazzed by the enthusiastic crowd and the unique atmosphere of the venue, and their performance is a knockout.

Also included is a picture gallery, music videos for “Last Look At Eden” and “New Love In Town,” and some behind-the-scenes footage. None of the video for this material would display at all for me, however. I could hear the audio fine, but the picture was blank. I have only confirmed this problem with only one other Blu-ray owner so far, so I do not know how widespread this problem is yet.

Even with its flaws, though, Live At Shepherd’s Bush, London provides a wealth of great new live material for Europe fans to sink their teeth into, and it has certainly piqued my interest in the band again.

Track List:
01. Last Look at Eden
02. The Beast
03. Rock the Night
04. Scream of Anger
05. No Stone Unturned
06. Carrie
07. The Getaway Plan
08. Guitar Feature: The Loner (tribute to Gary Moore)
09. Seventh Sign
10. New Love in Town
11. Love Is Not the Enemy
12. More Than Meets the Eye
13. Drum Feature
14. Always the Pretenders
15. Start from the Dark
16. Superstitious
17. Doghouse (new song)
18. The Final Countdown

Ratings:
Performance – 7/10
Production – 7/10

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