EUROPE / THE SIGN
Lokerse Feesten, Belgium; 08/07/04


Reviewed by Edwin Van Hoof

    Lokerse Feesten is a ten day fair that is packed with music and remarkable acts of art and culture. The last few years the organization of the festival has managed to put together a program for Saturday, based on melodic rock. This year it marks the return of the magnificent all star project The Sign and the return of Sweden's finest: Europe! 

    The Sign's return is celebrated by the band as well as a crowd of way over 12.500 melodic rock fans. Their performance on the 2002 edition was one of the best gigs of the last few years. This year however, the band - around Mark Mangold and Terry Brock - had to leave behind Randy Jackson due to touring commitments, and Al Fritsch because of family matters. The Sign's empty slots were filled by shredder extraordinaire Jon Bivona (Trans Siberian Orchestra) and none other than Danny Vaughn of Tyketto! And it is Vaughn that truly makes a difference tonight!

    The Sign takes the opportunity to showcase their brand new (unreleased) second CD "The Second Coming." An album that is again packed front to back with the high class ingredients that makes this band stand out. "Aryon Overture," "Stained," "The Morning After," "Time to Run," and the powerful "Motorcycle Messiah" are fired upon the crowd with tons of enthusiasm and energy. The songs are powerful and mega melodic, again packed with ear-mingling, massive choirs and awesome vocals from Brock and Vaughn. 

    Vaughn still is dynamite when he is performing and the interaction between him and Terry is excellent. Bivona spits his riffs and solos and shows his remarkable abilities, where Mangold stays behind his stacks and piano to pump up the bombastic sound by filling every tiny gap with his swirling keys. After the introduction of the new material the band takes time to overview the best of melodic rock, lauded with some of the already classic Sign songs. A powerful performance of the Tyketto hymn "Forever Young," a magic moment with Strangeways' finest; "Love Lies Dying" and an intimate version Mark's fave "Rise." 

    But without any doubt, the most magic moment of tonight is an inspiring "Forever Again," in which the sky cracks open and rain starts pouring down. Tonight's surprise is the solo spot of Mark's newest protégé Lyza Wilson, with a blend of melodic rock and pop. Not only is she gifted with a great voice, she definitely knows how to perform. When she and Danny duet in "Feel the Power," the audience feels there is magic in the making. Breathtaking is the new ballad "Keep on Breathin" and the awesome "Cross the Line." Drive She Said's "Driving Wheel/Highway Star" wrap up a show that was overwhelming. Although the band was suffering technical problems on stage, the audience was handed a professional and enthusiastic show. The new album is available through www.indigorecords.com. Grab your copy now!

    The reunion of the classic Europe lineup is one of the big surprises in rock history. Reviving the glory days seems almost impossible, but all criticism aside, Europe managed to surprise the world. The band is inspired like in the old days and leaves no question about it. They are back to finish some business! By now the festival ground is filled with at least 15.000 fans ready to enjoy a journey through the best this band has to offer. Opening with hard hitters like "Scream of Anger," "Seven Doors Hotel," a bluesy "Yesterdays' News" and "Ready or Not," Europe leaves no chance for misunderstanding. The most heavy songs are mixed with classic tunes from their million seller "The Final Countdown." "Cherokee," "Rock The Night," and the semi acoustic version of "Carrie" are a must for fans of the genre. They still stand strong. And even though Tempest has cut his hair and traded in his lip gloss, he still knows how to entertain a large audience. He still stands out as an entertainer and a great vocalist. John Norum is fully focused on his awesome playing, and Leven and Haugland lay down a solid base for the finest melodic metal blend from Europe. Mic is enjoying himself as always and puts up his walls of keys. Unfortunately, the 75 minute show is slowed down by some solo spots from Ian and John which are unnecessary since the band has so many high quality songs which now remained unplayed. 

    With "Start From the Dark" they also give the band a preview of what to expect in the near future. A track which has all the traditional ingredients: heavy rocking and very recognizable without falling into the typical clichés. "Sign of the Times," "Time has Come" and "Superstitious" are played with tons of enthusiasm and are sung along to by the massive crowd. 

    The band's finest moment comes with a powerful version of "The Final Countdown" where the crowd really goes wild. "Let the Good Times Rock" superbly closes this roller coaster ride through melodic rock's history and summing up the overall feeling.

    Europe is back to make the good times rock!


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