Gig Reviews

Europe rocked the night in Tokyo

Europe delivered a career-spanning knock-out show in Tokyo.

Europe at Tokyo Dome City Hall, Bunkyo, Tokyo, Japan on 1st February 2024

Since they first made a name for themselves in Sweden in 1982, Europe stood apart from the rest. Some of the other local bands had the same musical skills, but Europe had something the others lacked. The band had attitude, dedication and ambition. They were determined to become a major rock band on the world stage.

I first saw them in Sweden in the 80s and knew they were a great live band. Since the classic line-up of the band reunited in 2004, I have seen them deliver the goods live in Japan, again and again. They have never disappointed me with their live shows in Japan. My expectations of this band are always high. But this time, they took a different approach and I wasn’t sure what to expect. With no new album since 2017’s “Walk the Earth”, the band came to Japan with what was called a “Time Capsule” show. It took the form of two sets with an intermission in the middle. This was an evening with Europe dedicated to the band’s four decades of creating fantastic music. Touring with the band’s classic line-up from the mid-80s – Joey Tempest on vocals, John Norum on guitar, John Levén on bass, Mic Michaeli on keyboards and Ian Haugland on drums – this is a well-oiled machine that remains at the top of its game.

They opened strong with “On Broken Wings”, a B-side from the 80s brought into the set for this tour. A major strength that was obvious during the show, was that this is a band that still creates terrific new music. As much as old favourites such as “Superstitious”, “Cherokee”, “Seven Doors Hotel”, “Stormwind”, “Rock the Night”, “Carrie”, “Ready or Not”, “Prisoners in Paradise” and “Open Your Heart” remain excellent, it is the band’s post-reunion songs that stand out for me in the setlist. Songs such as “Start from the Dark”, “Always the Pretenders”, “Last Look at Eden” and “Walk the Earth” are among the band’s best. They also performed “Hold Your Head Up”, a single that came out a few months ago and the band’s only new material released in recent years.

The show was filled with Europe’s high-energy melodic hard rock. However, we did get the odd breather, such as a wonderful rendition of David Bowie’s “Space Oddity” with Tempest and Norum on acoustic guitars.

The two parts of the show both started with the screening of a mini-documentary about the band which featured interviews with the band members and archive footage from the band’s career.

The evening came to a close with, yes, “The Final Countdown”. Europe is so much more than this song. But it remains a terrific song and they still deliver a killer live version. What a treat for the fans this evening was. A well-balanced setlist combining the big hits, the early favourites, a few deep cuts and the best of the current era. Smashingly excellent, I’d say. The Haugland-Levén rhythm section is rock steady, Tempest a world-class frontman, Norum a guitar wizard that lets his guitars do most of the talking and Michaeli a maestro on the keyboards that is perhaps less celebrated than he should be.

In my interview with the drummer Ian Haugland before the show, he said that they are working on a new album which he thinks will be released next year. Thus, let’s hope that the band will have many new songs to perform for us next time they tour Japan. Because to top this exquisite retrospective of the back catalogue, Europe will need to have some fab new songs to perform for us.