Europe - Live From The Dark Review
"Ladies and gentlemen, the biggest rock band ever...to come out of Scandanavia! Please welcome Europe!" And yes, that is how this live DVD begins, showing such a lack of humility that even diehard fans, who probably still sport denim jackets with the metal-fonted Europe embroidered between the shoulder blades, must have sniggered a little. Even in making such a statement, I can imagine that there are certain rules that one must accept before finding any truth in it. Such as accepting that a-ha, The Cardigans, Röyksopp, Ace of Base, Roxette, ABBA, The Hives, The Raveonettes and Hanoi Rocks are neither rock bands nor that they enjoyed a success able to compare to the mighty Europe.
Final Countdown that was their theme tune. "We're heading for Venus and still we stand tall / 'Cause maybe they've seen us..." Chances are that they, being the Venusians, have, somehow picking out the vast expanse of eighties hair in the night sky that bears down on them like Shoemaker-Levy with hairspray vapours in its trail. Cometh the age, goeth the hair, though, and Joey Tempest, lead singer and a man who once sported a fine head of blond curls, now models a cut similar to that modelled by Jon Bon Jovi around the time of Keep The Faith. And with mention of that name, the Bon Jovi similarities are hard to ignore. Where New Jersey's Bon Jovi bounced along to Livin' On A Prayer and You Give Love A Bad Name, Sweden's Europe had Final Countdown and actually quite brilliant Rock The Night. But where one went on to even greater success, the other sort of just kept on playing Final Countdown, probably at all manner of space-themed events, from the launch of a shuttle to the buying of a telescope in a remote Swedish town.
But where Def Leppard where the band for people for whom the innuendo of AC/DC was much too complicated, so Europe was for those baffled by the social and political commentary of Bon Jovi. What both bands, Def Leppard and Europe, have in common is a tendency towards heavy use of the work 'rock'. For Def Leppard it's a more radio-friendly alternative of 'fuck' - Let's Get Rocked, "I suppose a rock's out of the question?", Rock This and, though probably not, Rock Me In The Ass - but for Europe it's the English-as-a-second-language need to communicate in the most basic of terms. In this case, it's the need to bond with an audience of teenage boys - and it is mostly boys - with the urge to rock. Or fuck. Or perhaps even both.
And with that in mind, Europe - Live From The Dark features a set of songs sometimes so un-rocking-believable that you can't quite believe they've based an entire career on them. With all the stage presence of a gang of plumbers who've accidently found themselves onstage instead of seated at the Ballcocks And Their Applications conference next door, they work through most of what fans might recognise as the big songs although, not being one of them, I almost had to be prodded between tracks to realise they were playing a different one. Still, Carrie is here and sounding pretty good, Final Countdown is, as you might expect, the last song in the set and Cherokee and Hero pop up in second-from-last and eighth place respectively. But Milano/Girl From Lebanon? Let The Good Times Rock? Sign Of The Times? Lost of me I afraid...but Rock The Night is actually really good and probably their best moment even with its use of 'rock' in the title. Fuck The Night? Might be...but in this case it's more likely that Europe really do mean to rock.
Good job then that in Joey Tempest Europe have a good front man, one capable, much as it galls me to say it, of bringing the rock to Hammersmith. A little thicker around the waist he may be compared to Europe's heyday and he's no late-sixties/early-seventies Roger Daltrey but he's still got a decent voice and lobs a microphone, not to mention himself, about the stage with gusto. Granted, he is let down by the rest of the band, who don't quite enter into the spirit of things quite as much - although it is worth mentioning that guitarist Mic Michaeli does put his Les Paul between his legs in the manner of a giant rosewood-and-guitar-shaped erection - but in working as hard as he does, who needs them. And for those 100 minutes that Europe are onstage, he might well believe that they're the biggest rock band ever...to come out of Scandanavia. He could be wrong but he's not showing it.
Presented in 4:3, this looks pretty much as you'd expect a concert DVD to, with a few cameras dotted about the Hammersmith venue to pick out members of the audience as well as a bunch on stage for the band, this is uneventfully shot but looks fine on DVD. There are some, but not many, examples of noise in the picture but no damage to the source material, something, I grant you, that one might expect given the age of the material. Thankfully, though, there's a good selection of audio options, making up for the lack of a PCM Stereo track with a DD2.0, a DD5.1 and a DTS5.1. Despite my personal fondness for stereo when listening to music, it's hard not to be impressed with the DTS track as it sounds so much more immediate and loud than either of the others with good dynamic range, a clarity to the recording and, impressively for a rock release, very little distortion at higher volumes.
Behind The Tour (23m00s): Rock'n'fuckin'roll! No...not getting carried away with the guitar assault, or perhaps the mild rubbing, of Europe but actually the first words uttered by Ian Haugland as he leaves the stage. With that, I was expecting a dressing room full of nude sixteen-year-olds, their already mountainous breasts buried under second peaks of cocaine but was somewhat disappointed to see a rather bare backstage room with nothing more intoxicating than bottled water. Even Sir Cliff Richard might manage a post-show glass of wine or two. Still, this feature follows Europe from the first moments backstage after a gig through their journey across the English Channel and on to London where this gig was filmed. It's actually not a bad feature and uses subtitles to explain the kind of touring, stage equipment and soundcheck details to those who have an interest in such things.
Taxi Diaries (75m01s): As one who's often had to travel about London in a black taxi, I was preparing myself to hear Joey Tempest, Mic Michaeli, John Norum and the rest spout forth on the ills of the current government, how they dislike 'darkies', what big tits Jordan has and the failings of the current England team manager. Actually, this is exactly what is promised by the title with the various members of the band sitting in the back of a London cab talking about touring, the band and recording. It's not a very exciting feature and given where these interviews were recorded, the subtle details in what Ian Haugland has to say can get lost behind the clicking of the automatic locks on the doors of the taxi.
Onstage Interviews (14m06s): Chances are if you love musical instruments then you'll already have one or two but few things are quite as dull as anyone talking about the things. Think about it...a drummer...talking about drums? Civilisations would have to topple and the written word burned on vast pyres of burning books before that could be considered worthy of listening to. Although Mic Michaeli, the guitarist, isn't as bad as it could have been as he shows off some beautiful Les Pauls but, even then, he does look a little challenged at having to describe why he drops the bottom E-string to a D. And as for Ian Haugland, the drummer, his tom toms sound, "like a motherfucker!"
Finally, there are a couple of Bonus Tracks as well as some material broadly described as Extras, which includes the music videos for Got To Have Faith and Hero, a Biography, a Discography and a Videography.
Alright, it's not actually a badly produced DVD and in some respects, particularly the obvious value that you'll get from the fairly decent bonus features, it's a pretty good one but I just have something of a problem with the hair metal of the eighties, which might well be clear given the tone of this review. But I'm probably being overly harsh on it as it certainly sounds good, the big hits are definitely hear and it presents the band in a very good light, even to their leaving to greet the fans after their gigs. For fans of the band, it's a good set but it has nothing, or at least very little, to appeal to anyone else.