Final Countdown rockers Europe Walk The Earth all the way to Portsmouth

The rock band Europe play The Pyramids in Southsea on September 22
The rock band Europe play The Pyramids in Southsea on September 22

From that distinctive opening keyboard riff, there’s no mistaking Europe’s 1986 mega-hit The Final Countdown.

The song went to number one in 25 countries and its parent album of the same name, which also included other hits in Rock The Night and Carrie, sold 15m copies worldwide.

It’s no understatement to say the Swedish band’s anthem has become one of the defining hard rock songs of the era.

By 1992 though, like many other bands of their time, they were hit by changing tastes, and decided to take what, bar a millennium eve concert, turned out to be an 11 year break.

But since reconvening in 2003, they’ve been firing on all cylinders. And last year they released Walk The Earth, their sixth album since coming back together – and 11th overall.

Frontman Joey Tempest now lives in London, but when he spoke with The Guide he had recently returned from Sweden, where he’d been in rehearsal with his bandmates for their forthcoming tour. 

While there, the band were honoured by their hometown of Upplands Väsby, a suburb of Stockholm.

‘That was kind of out of the blue,’ laughs Joey. ‘They think we’ve been great ambassadors which is why they wanted to give us some kind of honorary awards.

‘It must be because we’ve been saying nice things about Upplands Väsby, we’ve never really dissed it, we’ve always been proud and positive about it and our youth there. There were a lot of bands there, [heavy metal legends] Candlemass were from there, Europe was there and a lot of other bands who never made it  but we’d all go and see – it was really a music Mecca in the Stockholm region.’

Aside from founding guitarist John Norum’s departure in the late ’80s – he came back into the fold for the reunion, the band’s line-up has remained consistent since its hey day, which Joey believes is part of their enduring appeal.

Joey Tempest of Europe at Abbey Road Studios. Picture by Patric Ullaeus

Joey Tempest of Europe at Abbey Road Studios. Picture by Patric Ullaeus

‘It seems to mean a lot to fans, there’s something “real” about it. We met in the suburbs of Stockholm going to see these bands when we were 15, 16, 17, and we’re still here. It gives a bit of depth to it, I think.

‘There’s not many bands at all who’ve managed it, maybe Aerosmith, and it is difficult. There’s so many outside factors, there’s family involved and things like that.

‘You need to be passionate about it and all five guys in Europe are musicians, we come from the same suburb and grew up together. I think we have that bond there, and we always want to improve as musicians, so there’s that side of it too.’

The post-reunion period has proved to be a pleasingly creative one – their sound is updated but still recognisably the same band.

‘When we started again, the one decision we made was to move away from the ’80s, let’s try to find something else and have some fun in the studio.

‘The other thing was that we realised we’d have to do a few albums to reestablish us again. We knew we’d have to do this for a while, but now we’ve done more albums in this period than before, I don’t know if we ever expected to do that. But it’s been going well and we’ve been having fun with the producers and studios and experimenting with the writing. It kind of makes it exciting to do that.’

On the last two albums they’ve worked with multi-award-winning producer Dave Cobb, who is better known for his work with country artists.

Joey explains how they hooked up: ‘He does a few rock albums - we heard this album by Rival Sons called Pressure and Time, John Levén, our bass player, played it to me, and I was just stunned by it, like what is this?

‘Dave Cobb created this sound, recording bass and drums the way we like it. We thought let’s call this guy, he said he’d love to do it. We ended up doing the last album with him, War Of Kings, and also the new one in Abbey Road. He’s a musician too – he writes with us, and he’s just a cool guy. He’s done a lot of things like Jason Isbell, Chris Stapleton... His love is for a different kind of country, more “real country” he calls it, but he has the love for old hard rock as well. When he does rock albums, he’s amazing.’

The recent albums have also received praise from the critics.

‘That comes sort of by accident – follow your hearts and do it with passion and try to dig deeper and do interesting stuff and not just do what you’ve done before.

‘It’s been amazing, it’s kind of a miracle. We won a Grammy in Sweden for Walk The Earth – we’d never won a Grammy before! And we’ve had some great reviews for the last few albums. That was unexpected, but it really helps us, it fuels the energy of the band, which is really cool.’

And as for the song that broke them big – do they ever get sick of playing it and their other hits from back then?

‘No, They’ve always had a place in our set - Superstitious, Rock The Night, Final Countdown, we actually really enjoy playing them. I don’t think we ever even need to rehearse them! They were written for live performance and to bring people together and they still work really well for that.

‘It’s great to have them in the setlist, even though we and the fans have other favourites now. There are other songs that we have to play as well so it becomes a good mixture of old and new.’

The Pyramids Centre, Southsea

Saturday, September 22

pyramids-live.co.uk