May 21, 2015 Europe & Black Star Riders take over Irving Plaza NYC 4-30-15
After the release of The Final Countdown back in 1986, Stockholm, Sweden’s Europe became a household name in the world of Rock-n-Roll. No one could deny this mutli-platinum selling band was one of the most influential Rock acts of the 1980s. With sales of over twenty millions albums worldwide, Europe has attained two Top Twenty albums on the Billboard 200 chart, The Final Countdown and 1988’s Out Of This World, and two Top Ten singles on the Billboard Hot 100 chart. While some may associate the band with the Glam Metal scene, the fact is Europe are more of a Classic Hard Rock act than anything else.
Currently made up of original members Joey Tempest on vocals and lead/rhythm guitarist John Norum along with John Levin on bass, Mic Michaeli on keys and Ian Haugland on drums, Europe broke up for a few years from 1992 to 2003 with a one night reunion show on New Year’s Eve in 1999 in Stockholm. Since getting back together, they have recorded five new studio albums, with their most recent record being War of Kings released March 10th. In support of the new material, Europe joined up with supergroup Black Star Riders to kick off their first US tour in ten years. When asked about the tour, Tempest says, “This is going to be amazing – to be playing with Black Star Riders is going to make for THE tour of the Spring – just can’t wait to get back on the road!” With that said, fans have been sharing the same enthusiasm nationwide as large crowd have been piling into venues to check out the band, and on Thursday April 30th, they stopped at New York City’s Irving Plaza to rock the Big Apple in a way it had not seen in almost a decade.
Opening the night was the Hard Rock/Blues band The Blackfires. These heavy-hitters bring back the sounds of Classic Rock artists such as Deep Purple, Guns N’ Roses, and Led Zeppelin. While spanning the globe with members from the UK, Russia, Spain, Uruguay, and the US, they were formed right in New York City by vocalist Muscovite Andrey “Cheggi” Chegodaev, guitarists Anthony Mullen and Hector Marin, bassist Grasebo Doe as well as drummer Joe Mitch. That night at Irving Plaza, The Blackfires played with an electric fervor as Mullen and Marin bounced Bluesy Rock chords off of each other like ping pong balls. Channeling Robert Plant, Cheggi wailed away at the mic stand during the set and made a strong impression during new song “Woman Walks.” Look for the Blackfires when they hook up with Linkin Park, Rob Zombie, Weezer, and others for the first-ever Loudwire Festival at Jam Ranch in Colorado from June 26-28, 2015.
Next up was the Los Angeles, California based Hard Rock Supergroup Black Star Riders. Made up of members of Thin Lizzy, Black Star Riders are the next evolutional step in the Rock-n-Blues Irish band. Although they only started recording under the name Black Star Riders in December of 2012, when they began working on their debut All Hell Breaks Loose, the experience of vocalist Ricky Warwick, lead guitarists Scott Gorham and Damon Johnson, bassist Robbie Crane along with drummer Jimmy DeGrasso showed through at Irving Plaza. Marking the band’s return to New York City for the first time since June 2014, when they headlined at B.B. Kings Club, they now support their sophomore studio, The Killer Instinct. Released on February 20, 2015 via Nuclear Blast, the album gave fans a new reason to come and check out the no BS rockers.
Bathed in flashing red and blue lights, their set was made up of several Thin Lizzy songs, including “Jailbreak,” “Emerald,” and “The Boys Are Back in Town,” but there were also Black Star Rider originals like the Bluesy “Bound for Glory,” “Kingdom of the Lost,” “Through the Motions” and “Killer Instinct.” Filled with energetic riffs, Black Star Riders’ latest tunes are some of the best they have recorded to date, and it was a pleasure to see them performed live. Amidst all the excitement, a highlight of the night was when they played the Bob Seger cover of “Rosalie” where Warwick belted out a powerful array of vocals. Overall, Black Star Riders are one hell of a Rock band to see live. The keyword here is Rock band, because they know exactly how to craft good old guitar Rock and will remind fans of how special the classic style is. Black Star Riders will be making their way across Europe and the UK over the Summer and Winter of 2015, stopping off at a few festivals in between shows. Anyone who calls themselves a Rock-n-Roll fan should be sure to grab a ticket and check them out.
Finally it was time for Europe to shine, and anticipation was high both on the floor and behind closed doors as the band was making their return to New York City. Vocalist Tempest hit the stage with gusto, a born entertainer that rocked the crowd from the first note to the last. With the buzzing electric guitars of Norum and rat-a-tat high hat tricks so familiar to those lovers of Glam Rock, Europe rocked the house. As they played songs both old and new in front of an icy white War of Kings banner, fists beat the air with peace signs and devil horns. The band played fan favorites such as mega ballad “Carrie,” “Last Look At Eden,” “Cherokee,” “The Second Day” and “Rock the Night” with a little snippet of Stevie Wonder’s “Superstition” thrown in for good measure. Tempest did not keep to the stage, and stole the show when he climbed up into the balcony on a hidden ladder to sing from the VIP fan’s point of view without even missing a note.
Keeping the power of the music to the forefront, the Swedish band also played “Sign of the Times,” brand new song “Days of Rock ‘n Roll” and “Ready or Not” as fans whipped themselves up into a frenzy of excitement. As they got ready to bid farewell to New York, the packed venue screamed for an encore. Powered by clean, powerful, unique lyrics, the nostalgic chords of “The Final Countdown” filled the venue to the joy of the crowd for a storybook ending to an epic return.
With a killer set of tunes that covered their history, as well as the impressive new songs off War of Kings, Europe proved to fans the long wait was well worth it. They not only played the songs everyone wanted to hear, but they did so with ample enthusiasm from start to finish. As Europe refuses to let life pass them by, they have filled the entirety of 2015 with shows and festivals throughout the European continent. One can only hope that these Swedes do not wait another ten years before returning to North America again.