It's been 15 years [fifteen!! – unbelievable!] since Europe last played in Budapest. The Europe reunion was one of the most anticipated reunions of the genre; in my book it clearly beats the ridiculous Van Halen reunion, especially that it finally happened with Sammy Hagar. Even though I personally prefer Kee Marcello to John Norum my expectations were very high as Europe is still one of my favorite bands ever. Having read the setlists of the previous shows I was aware that the band prefers old stuff but with Norum on board it was no surprise after all.
Pretty much like everywhere else on the tour they opened with "Seven Doors Hotel" followed by "Wings of Tomorrow". The sound was surprisingly good especially if we take into account that the acoustics of the venue are rather strange and had fooled quite a few bands before. Joey was in a much better form that one could have hoped for; his voice was in perfect condition, and was as energetic as in 1989. The rest of the band also delivered what was expected of them – knowing that Norum is usually screwed to the floor of the stage – you couldn't have expected that much of running around anyway. Yet he earned my appreciation for not changing anything in the solo of "Superstitious", delivering it note by note as Kee laid it down. Personally I was a little afraid of him altering Kee's solos and it would have been pretty uncalled for to change one of the (if not THE) greatest guitar solos ever. He did change the solo of "Sign of the Times" though, coming up with an enjoyable and interesting one instead of the original.
There were a few welcome changes in songs as well - such as a slow, melodic intro to "Ready or Not" with Joey taking up a guitar and playing along the bridge and the refrains that were modified a bit to help him save with his voice. As a result of the well-planned setlist and a few transposed vocal lines he managed to keep it in shape all through the lengthy setlist, sounding as good in the end as in the beginning. "Heart of Stone" was the first highlight of the show, sounding much better live than on the album. I could have done without "Scream of Anger" though I have to admit it sounded tight and professional but I'm just a sucker for melodies. I got my share of that from a beautiful version of "Carrie" with Joey playing the song with a bare acoustic guitar, sharing the refrains with the audience. A magic moment it was for sure, memorable for everybody there singing along. Ian's drum solo was also very clever; it wasn't about technicalities but rather about entertaining the crowd. It started out to the opening riff of "You Really Got Me" then speeding up with "Ace of Spades" and finishing with Ian coming to the front of the stage with a snare drum only to make the crowd shout along with his playing. The solo lead to the next highlight of the show "Let The Good Times Rock", another altered intro here, and fantastic response from the crowd. Much to my pleasant surprise the band included "Yesterday's News", personally I never thought I'd have the chance to hear that song live.
Of course one could start whining about the total disregard of the "Prisoners in Paradise" album, or about personal favorites missing from the setlist but circumstances given I'd say it is (almost) impossible to put on a better show than Europe did. When on our way back home from the gig, I tried to remember the last time I went to such a great show, and quite frankly I couldn't. I guess that is the best praise Europe can get in 2004.
Endre "Bandi" Hübner,