Europe brought their War Of Kings tour to Dallas with newcomer Gabbie Rae as a strong opening act.

Breakout singer Gabbie Rae, a 17-year-old with a powerful voice and a demeanor well beyond her age, thoroughly entertained the late-arriving crowd at the House of Blues. Dressed in black leather, she displayed a stage presence and provided an energy that kept the audience involved from the David Bowie opening of her 11-song set. The singer/songwriter belted out six original songs and five covers, including a tribute to Ronnie James Dio and a spectacular rendition of Heart’s “Barracuda.” She has the pipes to make it big, so it will be fun to see if her songwriting skills can propel her to the next level.

After a quick changeover, Europe came back to Dallas for the first time since 1988 and picked up right where they left off almost 30 years ago. Coming from the cover of a dark stage, vocalist Joey Tempest struck his familiar microphone-above-his-tilted-back-head pose and launched into “War Of Kings” from their new album. Wearing a black leather shirt and always the showman, he explored every inch of the stage, as he continued to do all night.

It was evident they’ve been playing together for so many years as they sounded tight on “Hole In My Pocket” and their first hit of the evening, “Rock The Night.” The lower level was full of dedicated and knowledgeable fans who have kept current with the band and the last five albums since their reformation in 2003. The audience sang the refrain and the musicians gave us the repeat-after-me song phrases that can turn even the worst singer into a karaoke king.

Lead guitarist John Norum played several solos as did bassist John Leven and keyboardist Mic Michaeli before the music for “Carrie” started and the female fans went wild for the slow love ballad. They again showed what a complete band they’ve become as everyone played their role perfectly to put together a true concert and not just a random collection of songs.

“The Second Day” and “Firebox” preceded a touching tribute to the recently passed Glenn Frey with a spot-on version of “Desperado.” Mic shined on keys, and Joey’s heartfelt voice turned this into a special moment to share with the crowd.

The band left the stage and filtered back one by one for solos before “Sign Of The Times,” a rebellious march that engaged the packed House of Blues crowd. An outstanding English blues song, “Vassatan,” contained a four-minute guitar solo that was reminiscent of Gary Moore’s “I’ve Still Got The Blues For You.”

They showed their playful side with synchronous guitar movements and head bobs after Joey grabbed a guitar and joined the highly-underrated John Norum. Ian Haugland kicked it into another gear with his drum solo of “The William Tell Overture,” not often heard on drums but a real crowd pleaser. The drum solo always signifies there’s only a few songs left and Europe saved some of their best for last. “Superstitious,” “Cherokee,” a new song with an 80’s vibe, and another big hit, “Days Of Rock And Roll,” finished off the set.

Nobody thought for a second that the concert was over, though, as the cameras and video recorders came out after a short break. The crowd erupted as “The Final Countdown,” became their fantastic finale. Band introductions, an extended jam, more solos, and more crowd-pleasing antics preceded the thank yous, bows and mingling with the crowd.

The stars were as appreciative as the crowd for a great night of music. They played about half of the 19-song setlist from the five albums before their hiatus and the rest from their five albums after reforming. They’re still putting out new music and not resting on their laurels. With more of a metal sound now than the progressive rock of their early days, Europe is still huge in their native Sweden and all over the continent.

They also know the art of putting together a show, something overlooked by so many younger bands. They bring their own energy as they obviously enjoy playing together and entertaining. They pull in the crowd, connect with them and ensure the audience has an investment in making the concert a success.

Europe continues to tour constantly and write and record new music. With over 23 million albums sold, they have a solid fan base, including this reporter who can’t wait to see them again in concert

Special thanks to Lindsey and all the staff at the House of Blues for taking such good care of us.

Joe Guzman of National Rock Review was on hand to capture the event.

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