Words and Pictures: Adrian Hextall \ MindHex Media
With a new album, Walk The Earth, receiving warm reviews and a style that sees Europe continuing to build upon their blues infused classic rock sound, what was once an arena based hard rock band that were at home playing alongside Bon Jovi now seem perfectly at home on the same bill as Deep Purple. Their combined sounds coming across like a mix of master and star pupil, one exploring a new path and the other coming to the end of theirs. It felt like an opportunity to pass on the baton with Europe stepping up to the graduation plate to deliver their key address to the assembled crowd.
Before the main acts took to the stage however, A welcome addition to the bill came in the shape of Cats in Space.
Cats in Space
For a band who are only on their second album, Cats in Space ooze class, style and a level of musicianship that suggests years of experience. It’s only when you look at the history of the musicians involved that it becomes apparent that a wealth of musical knowledge is present on stage.
Paul Manzi, lead vocalist and guitarist has played with ‘The Sweet’, ‘Arena’ and the ‘Oliver Wakeman Band’. Greg Hart, guitarist, songwriter and founder of the band has played with ‘Moritz’, ‘Asia’, Mike Oldfield’ and more. Dean Howard is a guitarist who has travelled the world with stellar acts like ‘T’Pau’, ‘Ian Gillan’, ‘Airrace’, ‘Toby Jepson’ & ‘Bad Company’. Bassist Jeff Brown was also lead vocalist for 15 years with legendary band ‘The Sweet’. Steevi Bacon a whirlwind of a drummer played with Robin Trower and keyboard maestro Andy Stewart has been the musical director of theatre shows and also played with ‘Moritz’.
The end result when all of the above is thrown into the mix is the perfect blend of 70s infused power pop. The band are as much at home on the stage of the prestigious O2 Arena in front of thousands as they are playing a sold our show of their own to hundreds in one of London’s smaller venues. Having trodden the boards with some big names in music, Cats in Space owned the stage at The O2 and more importantly, won over the crowd, many of whom probably weren’t aware of their music before they came on stage to a half full venue. A venue, it is worth noting, that would have had many more on seats if the lines had moved quicker. The queues to get past security stretched outside of the venue and were still noticeable long into Europe’s set meaning a lot of people not only missed the openers but a significant amount of the second act’s set as well.
For those that did manage to watch Cats, they heard a band that brought to mind everything that was good about ELO and 10cc with dashes of Queen, Supertramp and John Miles thrown in. The harder rock elements of T.Rex, Sweet and Slade add some grit to the sounds when necessary but overall this band thrive on one thing. Multi layered harmonies abound burrowing deep into the brain making the band one of the best opening acts I’ve seen at a show in years. If ever there was a band it’s impossible to dislike then Cats in Space win that award hands down. 2018 will be their year.
Intro (The Sweeney Opening Theme ( The Harry South Orchestra))
Too Many Gods
Mad Hatter’s Tea Party
Greatest Story Never Told
Five Minute Celebrity
Outro (The Aristocats: Everybody Wants to Be a Cat)
Before the night’s headliners go on stage, Europe get to deliver a show and a half to the O2. Fresh from playing their 30th Anniversary of The Final Countdown show at The Roundhouse in London, Europe are back in the UK with a new album, Walk the Earth. Continuing hot on the heels of War of Kings and in a similar musical vein, Europe’s career midpoint sees them in fine form and well received by an arena full of Deep Purple fans.
The band’s sound from the newer material that began back in 2004 with Start from the Dark shows a maturing act and one, more importantly, that is enjoying a real resurgence in popularity. One has to wonder where the band would be now if they’d managed to hold it all together after Prisoners in Paradise and not had a break that lasted well over a decade.
Unsurprisingly the hits get the loudest reactions from the crowd and of course there’s no way that the band cannot finish a set with ‘that song’ but the new material holds its head high against the older late 80s \ early 90s stuff. Last Look At Eden feels as much a part of the set these days as Rock the Night, the song that preceded it on the night. War of Kings is an epic rock song that Deep Purple themselves would have been proud to write, Hole In My Pocket and Days of Rock n Roll also proving that the band haven’t lost their knack of writing catchy tunes.
One of the highlights of the night however comes in the form of Scream of Anger. I can’t remember the last time I heard the band play the song first heard in 1984 on the Wings of Tomorrow album.
Perfect sound, great lighting a a stage owned, as expected, by Joey, a man who moves and looks twenty years younger than he is. All the time Europe can deliver the goods like this, they will continue to perform to packed houses around the world. Brilliant.
Walk the Earth
Rock the Night
Last Look at Eden
Scream of Anger
War of Kings
Hole in My Pocket
Days of Rock ‘n’ Roll
The Final Countdown