Europe Invades Orlando

By on February 8, 2016



Joey Tempest ( Photo Will Ogburn RSEN 2016 )

Europe is a classic example of what it means to be a rock band in America. They came on strong during the hair metal era in the late 80s, but experienced a second life thanks to modern pop culture. There’s something epic about their song “The Final Countdown”, and recently it has been used for comedic effect – making many remember why they loved the gang of Swedes in the first place.


Joey Tempest ( Photo Will Ogburn RSEN 2016 )

First it was the theme song of Will Arnett’s character on Arrested Development, a cult-followed show that was revived by Neflix in 2013. But the real push came from a GEICO commercial in 2015 where the band counts down a microwave timer. It may seem silly, but this has translated to major success for Europe, who saw the top of the Billboard charts for the first time ever…in the year 2015. Their previous record was #3 in 1987, thanks to “Carrie”. Spurred by this new wave of success in the digital age, they released War of Kings and went on tour – stopping by Orlando’s House of Blues near the tail end of the journey.

The crowd was about what you’d expect from a late-80s rock band revisited – mostly older couples with tickets to nostalgia. There were several younger fans, but by and large these tickets came with a story. Fans told me about having the Final Countdown album when they were my age, and seeing Europe live back in the glory days.

After seeing the show, I would tend to argue that the glory days are still going strong for Europe.


Gabbie Rae ( Photo Will Ogburn RSEN 2016 )

Gabbie Rae

 This short lineup would only feature one opener – an intriguing act called Gabbie Rae. Upon further research it occurred to be that Gabbie is 17, but based on her performance I assumed she was much older.

Dressed in a Dio shirt and leathers, she knew how to woo the old school rock demographic that came out for Europe. Her mix of classic covers and original songs kept the crowd guessing.


( Photo Will Ogburn RSEN 2016 )

She opened by paying homage to David Bowie, playing “Rebel Rebel” to a round of cheers. Over the course of her set she would cover Heart, Motorhead, Black Sabbath and Dio. Despite her age, Gabbie was a natural on stage – effortlessly transitioning from one motion to another while getting both the crowd and her bandmates involved. Will she be just another new female voice in the rock genre that has seen a lot of entries recently? By her performance tonight, she gained a lot of new fans including myself and by already having been featured on MTV and VH1, the sky is the limit for the budding star.



( Photo Will Ogburn RSEN 2016 )


Joey Tempest ( Photo Will Ogburn RSEN 2016 )


Europe was everything I hoped that shooting a classic rock band would be, even down to their entrance. Stagehands closed the seldom-used curtain at the House of Blues for some added mystery as the clock began to count down to show time.

In a flash of lights and sounds the veil flew open to reveal frontman Joey Tempest. He was bathed in spotlights and brandishing the mic stand over his lead like some kind of alien conqueror. Joey was a constant ball of energy – showing the crowd what a rock star should look like through his larger-than-life stage presence.

They opened with the title track from War of Kings, a heavy track with a trance-like melody that got the crowd in sync. Tempest marched from side to side, goose-stepping with every drumbeat.


Joey Tempest ( Photo Will Ogburn RSEN 2016 )

Their first throwback track came with “Rock the Night”, a good-spirited track for throwing back a couple and hanging with your friends. This song perfectly encapsulates the glam rock style that was made popular by bands like Whitesnake, Twisted Sister, and the Scorpions: fun, catchy, great live.

Just as every 80s band must have a pumped up party track, they must have a rock and roll love ballad. For Europe, it would be arguably their biggest hit of all time, “Carrie”. The song came up early in the set, and the audience absolutely loved it. Couples held each other and swayed back and forth. I saw one woman legitimately break out into tears – maybe her name was Carrie. This was clearly a high point in the night, as Tempest serenaded the audience into nostalgic delight.

Continuing in the vein of paying tribute to great rock stars, Europe’s next song was a cover. This time it was the late Glenn Frey, as Tempest drew an acoustic guitar and began strumming the intro to “Desperado”. It’s cool to see that despite their stylistic differences, Europe felt compassion and respect towards their brothers in the Eagles. There was also a huge overlap in fandom, as many in the crowd sang along. Tempest himself said he is a big Eagles fan before the song.


Ian Haugland ( Photo Will Ogburn RSEN 2016 )

As they moved through the setlist, Tempest stepped aside to let drummer Ian Haugland go to work. He played around for a bit, then transitioned into a metal cover of William Tell Overture. First the pace was slow, but it became faster and faster with each repetition – to the crowd’s delight. By the end, his hands flew back and forth and the crowd was roaring.

Next up was a pretty cool little medley, mixing Europe’s “Superstitious” with Whitesnake’s “Here I Go Again”. The biggest thing I’ve taken away from this whole experience is that music videos from this era are just truly amazing. “Superstitious” is a great example, as the video features black and white versions of the bandmates levitating through a haunted castle…with explosions. This song also features a pretty nifty guitar solo by John Norum.


John Norum ( Photo Will Ogburn RSEN 2016 )

At the end of the regulation set, they turned to one of the most epic and slightly confusing songs in the playbook. “Cherokee”, a reflective and very glam rock look at the Trail of Tears. Usually I don’t take my social issues with a side of keytar, but somehow this song kicks all kinds of ass. It’s almost like they took the content from one of those rock ballads and turned it into a stadium rock song – definitely not something you see very often.

When the lights came went down, everyone knew what was coming next. The iconic synthesizer intro echoed throughout the venue and the crowd absolutely lost it. Screams, cell phone lights, and outstretched hands permeated from the crowd as “The Final Countdown” started. They bobbed their heads like Wayne and Garth ad the steady drums gave way to the chorus and everyone yelled in unison “IT’S THE FINAL COUNTDOWWWWN”. Most bands end with their most popular song, but this one was made even better because it capped off a night of fun by counting it down.


Joey Tempest ( Photo Will Ogburn RSEN 2016 )

There is a certain style of the 80’s glam bands that began and ended with the genre. They were entertainers as much as musicians, true showmen who were as fun to watch as to listen to. For my money, I would rather see the “old guys rule” version of these once chart topping acts than most of the bands currently on Warped Tour. It’s a style, and you just can’t teach it.


For more info on Europe and to purchase their great new release War of Kings, check out

For more info on Gabbie Rae


Gabbie Rae:

  • Rebel Rebel

    (David Bowie cover)

  • Ace of Spades

    Motörhead cover)

  • Can’t Stop Us Now

  • Deadly

  • Shinedown

  • Barracuda (Heart cover)

  • Original Sin

  •  My Undoing

  •  The Last in Line (Dio cover)

  • Scream


  • War of Kings

  • Hole in My Pocket

  • Rock the Night

  • Scream of Anger

  • Prelude

  • Last Look at Eden

  • Carrie

  • The Second Day

  • Firebox

  • Desperado

  • Sign of the Times

  • Vasastan

  • Girl From Lebanon

  • Ready or Not

  • Nothin’ to Ya

  • Drum Solo

  • Superstitious

    (verse of Here I Go Again in the middle)

  • Cherokee

  • Days of Rock ‘n’ Roll


  • The Final Countdown

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