There are two groups of people (some of whom intersect) that are familiar with the work of the Swedish rock band Europe: those who are familiar with their work when it reached North American notoriety in the mid 1980s, and those who know their big hit "The Final Countdown," played either at a variety of arenas during sporting events or when Gob Bluth played it as a song he became known for when Arrested Development would air/stream from your provider of choice. But the fact of the matter is the band was recording albums and performing shows long before and after those groups of people lost the memory of Europe the band, and in Live in Sweden Rock, they mark a milestone of sorts.
The band was formed in 1979 and comprised of singer Joey Tempest. Guitarist John Norum, bassist Peter Olsson, drummer Tony Reno. Olsson was replaced by John Leven and Mic Michaeli, who also played the keyboards and helped add a layer to their sound, were added to the lineup. The first two Europe albums ("Europe" and "Wings of Tomorrow") sold decently in their home Sweden, but when 1986's "The Final Countdown" came out, the end result (Gold certified in four countries, multiple platinum in two others) was a huge success. Their follow-up album in 1988 ("Out of This World") met decent praise and produced another hit single in the ballad "Carrie," though the single and album did not match the sales of their last album. When grunge arrived, whatever impact Europe had was quickly washed off the shores and they went back to, well, Europe. And after 1991's "Prisoners in Paradise," the group took more than a decade off, returning to release the first of four Top 5 selling albums in their homeland with 2004's "Start From The Dark."
In June 2013, the group found themselves at Sweden Rock on the heels of their 30th year of existence and decided to treat their fans with a massive, two and a half hour show featuring hits, , covers, new material and surprises. The set list is as follows:
"Riches to Rags"
"Not Supposed To Sing The Blues"
"Scream of Anger"
"No Stone Unturned"
"New Love In Town"
"In the Future To Come"
"Girl From Lebanon"
"Prisoners In Paradise"
"Always The Pretenders"
"Drink And A Smile"
"Open Your Heart"
"Love is Not The Enemy"
"Sign of The Times"
"Start From The Dark"
"Wings of Tomorrow"
"Seven Doors Hotel/Drum Solo"
"Let the Good Times Rock"
"Rock The Night"
"Last Look At Eden"
"The Final Countdown"
The concert has a little bit of everything. Aside from the drum solo (which was strangely performed against the theme song from The Lone Ranger), the show has a sit down acoustic component in it. Along with that, Thin Lizzy guitarist Scott Gorham appears almost as a surprise when the band launched into their take on "Jailbreak." Additionally, guitarist Michael Schenker comes out and performs his song "Lights Out" with the band. But there is enough for any degree of fan to enjoy through the show and it is clear it is a love letter to the fans.
I think there is a semantic bone I need to pick. Look, I like when a band comes back and performs, and especially seeing Tempest do some of these songs with a more evolved voice these days is pleasant. But let's not mince words, the band is celebrating this as a 30th anniversary when they did nothing other than release compilation albums from 1992-2004. Can releasing essentially "Best Of" albums count as still being active? Should it?
I do not hold any sort of ill will to Europe performing this show by any means. The crowd seems to enjoy it and responds in the appropriate moments, even when it is occasionally (and excessively) prompted by the band. But it seems like this 30th Anniversary of Europe is a tad dishonest as part of selling this to the audience. If you do not have a problem with that, then maybe it is slightly more enjoyable. On its own, the concert is decent.
Europe is "Live At Sweden Rock" and the show comes to Blu-ray in an AVC-encoded 1.78:1 widescreen presentation that was pretty much what I expected. There is not a lot of image detail to speak of on these shows, but the colors of the evening show look natural and are not enhanced or have moments of DNR to deter. It does have occasional moments of image noise as similar discs tend to possess some of the familiar video maladies, and overall the disc is fairly straightforward, pleasant viewing.
You have a choice of a two-channel LPCM track and a Dolby Digital 5.1 one. In doing a little on the fly switching between the two, while the rear channel involvement in the latter was encouraging, I quite liked the two-channel option a little more, sounding cleaner and tighter, and despite being in the front of the soundstage the crowd involvement as such that you do not really miss it. There may be some disagreement with me, but chalk it up more to preference than anything else.
There is a behind the scenes look at the concert which includes rehearsals, sound checks and press conferences with the press (5:45). It is virtually nothing but music but its inclusion is nice. There is also a post-show interview with the band (18:09) where they talk about the gig, the venue, the set list and various other aspects of the film. A stills gallery is the other extra to speak of.
Despite some (I think) convenient revisionism by Europe as a band, they certainly do what they can to pull out the stops for this show, and they certainly accomplish this with Live in Sweden Rock. Technically the disc is decent, and includes some bonus material worth checking out, albeit briefly. If you are a fan of the band, someone who likes Will Arnett's TV character or someone who wishes to reclaim their youth by watching the quintet, this is the disc for you.