Live Review and Picture Credit: Adrian Hextall \ MindHex Media
With Europe riding high on the 30th anniversary of The Final Countdown, it’s refreshing to see the guitarist that replaced John Norum through some of the band’s glory days is well, performing and writing some blistering new material. It’s also refreshing to hear Kee perform the new material alongside the Europe classics with them fitting together perfectly like long lost family members.
With a UK tour now in full swing, the gig at The Cavern Freehouse (no… the other one, check out this great little venue HERE), just outside of Wimbledon in South West London, served as an intimate warm up for a man used to playing venues several times lager and to much bigger crowds. As such, this was the hot ticket of the night and The Cavern manged, not surprisingly, to sell out well in advance of Kee and his band taking to the stage.
When the band do take to the stage, at the later than hoped for 9:30pm (causing a few logistics headaches for those needing to use public transport to get home later in the evening) they hit it running rather than walking and open the set with Black Hole Star, the 1st track from new album Scaling Up. For most people, including those that looked like regulars, who seemed surprised to be hit with such a wall of intense guitar work whilst they sat nursing their pints, conversation stalled, people looked up and from the off there was universal recognition that this was going to be rather special, not your average pub band at all.
Having never seen Kee play a live solo show before, the first question was “who handles lead vocals then?” Known of course for his guitar work rather than his voice, it was a surprising yet welcome moment to see him step up to the mic and handle everything. Excellent backing vocals from guitarist Harry Scott Elliott and bassist Ken Sandin beef up the sound and the melody and harmonies you expect from the man who spent many years in Europe came once more to the fore. It also showcases the quality of the sound system in The Cavern. Pubs are not supposed to sound this good !!
To bring the point home, Kee quickly launched into Halfway to Heaven from 1991’s Prisoners in Paradise album and it felt like we were in the company of old friends. His older solo material also gets a good airing with tracks from 2013’s excellent Judas Kiss taking up a chunk of the first half of the set. The K2 album Melon Demon Divine also features with E.M.D all of which sounds great.
Marcello and Elliott trade solos in equal measure and Elliott comfortably holds his own whilst at the same time catching the eye of the ladies in the crowd who were as equally impressed with his vest covered torso as they were with his proficiency on the guitar.
Naturally the big crowd pleasers are those tracks that have firmly embedded themselves into the minds of the public over the years and as Rock The Night from Europe’s Out of This World album kicks in, the crowd went for it and really joined in. Air punching, singing along as loud as possible with the widest of grins (and that was just me) it’s great to hear the track played time and time again. A timeless anthem!
Ken Sandin and Darby Todd formed a very tight rhythm section and the opportunity for Todd to pull off a drum solo as Rock The Night drew to a close would normally see the crowd turn their backs and look to the (admittedly very close) bar for a top up. Todd however pulls one to remember out of the hat and as such, a rather enthralled crowd provided noisy applause at what was a ferocious assault on the drum kit, making the Cavern’s windows rattle in their frames for several minutes.
As the set progressed, with another track Soldier Down, from the latest release, it led finally to the sort of threesome we can only dream of. Superstitious, The Girl From Lebanon and of course, The Final Countdown providing the ending that everyone was hoping for.
Superstitious has, of course, that solo. Kee’s signature sound and one of the most memorable rock solos of the last 40 years. It’s a track that again feels ageless and was a great way to end the main set.
The latter two tracks, for those that had the nerve to gamble with Southern Trains and try to get back home after the show before the last train had left (or was cancelled) were a pay off that made the event tick the box marked “I was there and it was special!)
Quite how this great little venue with a fantastic sound system and tiny stage no more than 2 feet off the ground can attract acts like Kee is a mystery but you get the sense it wasn’t the first time nor will it be the last.