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Eastern Promise: Europe's Turkish venture

Exploring lesser-played territories and taking the noise to rock-starved audiences is keeping the countdown going for Europe, as we discover on their Turkish festival stop-off.

Pulling into a roadside store just beyond Istanbul around midnight, Europe get a sharp reminder of Turkey’s ‘no alcohol sold after 10pm’ law. For a band who partied their way through the 80s, the Middle East circa 2015 is a rather different prospect.

The cultural hit since we landed a couple of hours ago has been varied. The neon lights and Coca-Cola billboards we drove past said one thing. The ornate minarets and booze-free night say another.

“No beer, Allah does not approve,” declares drummer Ian Haugland, returning to the bus with popcorn. His bandmates look surprised, but shrug it off cheerily enough – regaling us with touring war stories instead. 

The Swedish band is accustomed to foreign surprises. Previous tours have brought them from the EU to America and South-East Asia. Now, as restrictions break down and audiences emerge, Europe are taking their show to Eastern Europe and beyond. Turkey, their current stop, is where passionate, largely uncatered-for rock fans await. 

Our destination is almost 100 miles from Istanbul, in Bursa – a visibly Westernised city, albeit still rooted in orthodox culture. Tomorrow Europe will play a show there as part of the 54th International Bursa Festival. They’re the only rock act on the bill.

“It’s different now because we can tour in Eastern Europe,” says frontman Joey Tempest. “We didn’t tour in Turkey in the 80s or 90s. Some markets have opened up to rock bands in a way they hadn’t done before.”

Indeed, Turkey might have missed out on Europe the first time around, but now they’re hungry for the second wave.

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