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Music DVD Review: Europe – The Final Countdown Tour 1986: Live in Sweden (20th Anniversary Edition)

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I remember the early days of my initiation into the world of music. The world was full of hairspray, spandex, and easy to digest pop-rock and pop-metal and the multitude of variations. Remember, this was back in the mid to late 1980s. At the time there was a band who was climbing the charts and had entered my heart with their recently released album.

That album was none other than The Final Countdown by Europe, a band that was as easy to digest as any. They were not hard to understand. They were not making the deepest of music, but it was fun. For a young kid, such as I was all those years ago, that was among the requirements of anything I listened to. The album was catchy, had some nice guitar playing, a good lead singer, and I could sing along. Times were good. Now, twenty years later, this DVD is bringing it all back.

This concert was recorded in Solnahallen in Stockholm, Sweden twenty years ago. It captures Europe at the height of their success, playing the songs for which they have been remembered to this very day. Well, at least one song for which they have been remembered for all of these years. This is a group that came together and created some catchy pop hooks that will have you signing along and tapping your toes in no time.

Watching the concert takes me back to those simpler days of my youth. It was much easier to listen to music then, the more you listen to it, the more discerning you become, and this is a musical style that was all about the fun. Am I repeating myself? If I am, so be it, this music is, and always will be, fun.

The show starts with the instantly familiar keyboard notes of “The Final Countdown,” a riff that should be familiar to everyone, even if you don’t know the artist. Before you know it, the band is onstage, hair flying, guitars swinging, and a crowd roaring. The concert is great. Twelve songs that just take me back to my youth. I wish I could have seen them live in this era.

All of the big songs from that classic album are covered, including the lighter raising ballad “Carrie,” the Native American tale of “Cherokee,” and the party anthem “Rock the Night.” Not to be left behind are favorites from the earlier album like “Wings of Tomorrow” and “Stormwind.” All of the bases are covered.

The band sounds good. I always liked John Norum’s guitar playing with Europe and his work later with Don Dokken. His performance here isn’t perfect, but it sounds very good. The eye opening performance for me was Ian Haugland on the drums, his mid-concert solo is pretty impressive, and he also does a good job of getting the crowd involved. But above all else there is front man Joey Tempest, owner of a great voice and big hair prancing around the stage and singing his heart out.

This is a concert that any fan of Europe, or that 1980’s sound, needs to check out. There was a time when I left this era behind, but it has slowly crept back into my musical repertoire. There was a time when I tried to deny this period of musical education. Why? I don’t know – it wasn’t cool anymore. I have moved past that and can enjoy this for what it is. This DVD exemplifies a musical era, one that helped kickstart my musical interests.

Audio/Video. The audio has two flavors Dolby Digital 2.0 and 5.1, both sound quite good. The video is presented in 1.78:1 widescreen, but I have to wonder if that is how it was originally intended. The framing doesn’t seem wrong, but it looks like it was shot on video, and I believe it was most likely shot for full frame and modified for this DVD release. Still, it looks fine to me.

Extras. Extras include a lengthy hour long set of interviews with the current day band members as they look back on the band’s rise to fame. It is an interesting hour offering insight into the band’s history, the development of the sound, how Ian joined, and how John left. Everything is touched upon. There is also a featurette that has the band returning to the studio they recorded the album in. Lastly, there is a nice collection of photos from that tour.

Bottomline. Great disk. The concert is a blast, the extra material is more than fluff, and it is fun. There’s that word again. Definitely give this a spin and ride the nostalgia train back twenty years.

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