Cast your minds back to the mid 80’s, 1986 to be precise, what were you doing? I was a 14 year old lad, desperately trying to find myself and trying even harder to agree which musical path that I should be following. At the time, there were 2 songs that stick in my memory, one was a song called ‘Livin’ on a Prayer’ by some American hair metal act called Bon Jovi, the other were a similar looking bunch but hailing from Sweden, they were called Europe and if you were lucky enough to own satellite TV (cable in the USA) and you tuned to MTV, you were pretty much guaranteed to see either of their groundbreaking videos airing at least once an hour, every hour, Yes folks, there was no getting away from them! For me, it was a toss up between the two, America vs Sweden and even now, it’s still a tough call to make.
Fast forward 29 years and we are invited to Exeter to see Europe play to a large Sunday night audience made up of mature rockers and their significant others, would Joey Tempest still have what it takes to make the grade, will he be high kicking about the stage and swinging his microphone stand around the place, well read on to find out!
As with any gig at the Exeter University, especially on a Sunday night, there is a curfew, a strict curfew that MUST be adhered to, we arrived at around 7:30pm and you could hear the roar of music coming from the main hall, we asked a member of the security team and they told us that the opening act had not long started their set. We ventured up to the main hall and from what we saw of the band (female bass and guitar player) they sounded tight and were doing a great job of warming the audience up for Black Star Riders, we would have got some pictures of them but sadly, we had missed our slot owing to the good old ‘first 3 songs rule’ that is often in place at larger gigs, unperturbed, we watched and waited for them to finish and headed off to the bar to get ready for the main events.
I’m unsure if B.S.R. were ‘supporting’ Europe or whether it was a double header, ask Mr Tempest from Europe and I’m sure he will have said that they were their ‘support act’, either way, we were excited at the prospect of seeing so much talent in one room on the same bill, we waited a few more minutes, roadies came and went, gear was carted off the stage and before long, the lights were killed, the dry ice pumped and the background intro music piped up….
Black Star Riders formed in December 2012, when members of the most recent line-up of Thin Lizzy decided to record new material, but chose not to release it under the Thin Lizzy name. While Thin Lizzy will continue on an occasional basis, Black Star Riders is a full-time band, they released their debut offering ‘All Hell Breaks Loose’ in May 2013 with their follow up album ‘The Killer Instinct’ being unleashed on the world in February 2015.
They bounded on the stage and launched straight into their opening track ‘Bound for Glory’ which did a great job of getting the audience up and pumping their fists in no time at all. It was great to see the legend that is Scott Goreham on such good form, initially providing the rhythm guitar duties on stage but later, stealing the thunder on a couple of tracks. He is such a good guitarist, solid, tight and has the ability to dazzle with his no nonsense playing style.
Ricky Warwick did a grand job of providing the role of ‘frontman’, he was the life and soul of the party and it was clear from the outset that he meant business, occasionally donning a guitar, more often parading around the stage, working with the other band members to provide some solid newer material as well as some classic Thin Lizzy numbers.
Peppered amongst their ‘all killer, no filler’ set were some gems such as ‘Jail Break’, ‘The Boys are Back in Town’ and even a cover version of Pete Seger’s ‘Rosalie’. They ended with ‘Whiskey in the Jar’, which did a great job of setting the audience up for Europe who would be with us shortly after they retired from the stage.
Bound for Glory
Jailbreak (Thin Lizzy cover)
Kingdom of the Lost
Charlie I Gotta Go
Are You Ready (Thin Lizzy cover)
The Boys Are Back in Town (Thin Lizzy cover)
Through the Motions
All Hell Breaks Loose
Emerald (Thin Lizzy cover)
Rosalie (Bob Seger cover)
The Killer Instinct
Whiskey in the Jar
After another short break, the stage was set for the arrival of Europe, I was treated to a bit of Yngwie Malmsteen over the PA system, I think it was a song called ‘Rising Force’ which is a ludicrously complicated track played at breakneck speed by one Sweden’s finest guitarists…
The lights dipped, synths kicked in and the drums started pounding for Joey Tempest to lead his band out onto the stage, Tempest was dressed in a fetching black shirt, it might have been leather, maybe ‘pleather’ (PVC) either way, he looked every inch the classic rock god with his studded shoulders and free flowing mane, which, despite not being as back combed as it would have been in the 80’s, still managed to look really good up there on stage. They launched into ‘War of Kings’, which got the place rocking along nicely, followed straight afterwards by ‘Hole in My Pocket’. Having not really been a keen follower of the band from their ‘peak’ in the mid 80’s, I wasn’t able to identify a lot of the tracks, this wasn’t a problem for the die hard crowd who were singing along to each track, word for word! (I did say at the start of the write up that I was struggling to find a musical direction…) Joey was the ultimate performer, a real showman who leapt around the stage, mouthing the squealing output provided by the guitarist John Norum who was producing some real ear-bending material throughout the set.
All the rock n’ roll clichés were there to be seen, multiple fist pumps/pulls, one foot up on the stage monitor speakers, microphone twirling and the ultimate, spinning the microphone stand in the air, whilst very nearly taking out a fellow band member, I nearly had a full house but at the time when I was expecting Joey to pluck a cute girl from the audience and slow dance with her, he jumped down into the pit to high five the front row!
They did a great job of engaging the audience in a couple of tracks with a great sing-off, which pleased Joey no end. He asked the local crowd what ‘Proper Job’ meant and after a few attempts, got the message, going on to use it after most songs, very amusing!
They played ‘Rock the Night’ which saw my photographer singing along word for word, I knew under his gruff, Scottish exterior lay a hair metal fan, just wishing that he could grow his hair and wear leather or denim all day long, drink JD and bang hookers….okay, maybe a step too far but you get what I mean!
Joey later strapped a guitar over his neck for ‘Days of Rock n’ Roll’, which limited his showboating opportunities somewhat, though he still managed to take part in some classic guitar dancing (the sort you see a lot on 1980’s Van Halen videos), which enthused the crowd in readiness for the next track….
It was 10:50pm, I knew there was a strict 11pm curfew and when the opening bars of ‘The Final Countdown’ kicked in on the synth, we all knew it was time, time to pretend just for 5 minutes that you were a rock god, put all thoughts of your mundane daytime jobs on hold and just revel in the moment….Yes folks, the time had come to sing like you had never sung before and sing we did, my voice was starting to suffer midway through the second chorus so I thought it best to give it a rest as I had some meetings to get through the next day!
Europe really carved their name in stone in the 80’s, letting the rest of the world know that a solid, tight Swedish rock band really could mix it with the best that the USA had to offer, maybe they didn’t have the career that other stalwarts of the 80’s ‘hair metal’ brigade may have enjoyed into the 90’s, but one things for sure, Joey Tempest is as much on fire as he ever used to be, there’s still that sparkle in his eyes and for a moment, during that final track, I was transported back to 1986, as most of the audience probably were too!
I enjoyed the night, it was great to see two killer bands on the same bill and a good healthy dose of rock n’ roll can do you a world of good when all you've had shovelled down your neck for so long is a bunch of folk, singer songwriters who all want to be the next Ed Sheeran!
Long live Rawk n’ Roll!
War of Kings
Hole in My Pocket
Last Look at Eden
Girl From Lebanon
The Second Day
Scream of Anger
Sign of the Times
Riches to Rags
Rock the Night
Days of Rock 'n' Roll
The Final Countdown
Review by Steve Muscutt
Photography by Julian Baird www.julianbaird.com