On Friday May 12th we were invaded by a trio of amazing power metal bands from Scandinavia. The concert started with Battle Beast and then Leaves’ Eyes. Finally Sabaton completed the evening with an outstanding performance. We were at the Marquee Theatre in Tempe Arizona which holds about 2500 people and tonight’s show was packed with metal heads. There is both good and bad about venues this size. The good is that everyone is really close to the performers. Also the performers can get a good feel of the crowd and can interact with them easier. The bad part is the limited size of the stage. The audience does not get the full effect of the light and stage show that is possible. Also, since it is an indoor venue, pyrotechnics are not allowed. But on the good side, the audience gets to see the bands and see just how good they are without all of the theatrics.
For me, this was the first time I had seen Sabaton as the headliner. I had seen Sabaton twice before. The first time was when they were a filler between Delain and Nightwish, two other Scandinavian metal bands. At the time I had no idea who Sabaton was, but a friend of mine was at the show and told me they were very good and that I would like them. When they first entered the stage I thought they were a little gimmicky in their white camouflage pants. But boy was I shocked and amazed at just how good they were. Last year I saw them and they were one of the opening acts for Trivium. At that time I thought Sabaton stole that show and in my review I even commented that I thought Sabaton should be headlining the next tour they did in the US. Well it has been 1 year and I got my wish.
Before I get into the guts of tonight’s performance, let me introduce you to the members of Sabaton. First are two of the founders of the band, Pär Sundström and Joakim Brodén. Pär is the energetic bass player that is constantly running all over the stage. He even has a mic on both sides of the stage so he can run between them and sing backup vocals and interact with both guitarists. Joakim originally was their keyboardist, but is now the dynamic front man and lead singer for the band. He comes out in his Batman-style vest that shows off his muscular frame. But immediately you are stuck by his amazing and powerful voice. They are joined by Hannes Van Dahl, Chris Rörland and Tommy Johansson. Hannes is hidden back with his drum kit and provides the driving rhythm for the music. Last but not least are the 2 great guitar players, Chris and Tommy. As in all great European power metal bands, these 2 guitarist trade off lead and rhythm duties and provide the great guitar riffs.
It was really nice to see Sabaton as the headliner. The other times I saw them, they got to play about 8 songs, so you only got a small sample of their musical prowess. Tonight’s show they did 17 of their greatest songs. The crowd sang along and fist bumped to every song. The show started with background music of “In The Army Now” and “The March To War”. As you look at the stage you see all of this military hardware and boxes everywhere. There are even M16 mic stands and a Spartan shield in front of the drums. The band ran out on stage and started with 2 of the great songs from their The Art of War album, “Ghost Division” and the title track, “The Art of War”. By this time the crowd was going crazy. People were body surfing and a large mosh pit had formed in the middle of the audience. This tour is called The Last Tour in support of their latest album, The Last Stand. So a large majority of the songs tonight were from that album. If you haven’t figure it out yet, the majority of Sabaton’s song are all military based. They take a lot of historical battles and convert them into songs. These included “Sparta” (the stand of the 300 Spartans at the battle of Thermopylae), “Screaming Eagles” (the US 101st Airborne Division in WW2), “The Lost Battalion” (about nine companies of the United States 77:th Division during the battle of the Argonne in 1918), “Winged Hussars” (the siege of Vienna in 1683) and “Night Witches” (Russian female pilots of the 588:th bomber regiment during WW2). They dedicated “Primo Victoria” to the memory of the brave men that stormed the beaches of Normandy during WW2 and saved Europe from Nazi control. They ended the show with “To Hell And Back” a song about Audie Murphy, the most decorated US soldier in WW2. If you want more details about Sabaton’s historical references for their music, go to their website. Every album and song is shown with lyrics and story.
During the show, Joakim asked the crowd to pick the next song, “Karolinens Bon” or “En Livstid I Krig”. The crowd overwhelmingly picked “Karolinens Bon”. Joakim then asked the crowd if they wanted to hear it in English or Swedish. I believe much to Joakim’s and the band’s surprise, the audience wanted to hear it in Swedish. It looked like this was an “OH Shit” moment for Joakim. Outside of Sweden, they almost always sing in English, so now they had to revert back to their native language for this song. With only a couple of pauses, Joakim and the band did an outstanding and surprisingly good job. I even heard a number of people in the crowd singing along in Swedish.
The entire band actually look like they are having fun on stage and interacting with the audience. They were constantly smiling and even playing practical jokes on each other. At one point in the show, Tommy tackled Joakim and sat on him, much to the amusement of the band and audience. At the end of the show, Joakim had 2 kids, an 8-year-old boy and 10-year-old girl from the crowd come up on stage. He kneeled down by them and asked their names and if this was their first metal show. This is a personal touch that endears these kids to the band and makes them lifelong fans. I was told by Pär that this is not done at all shows, so this is a very special treat for these kids.
The kids were then put on a riser just to the side of the drums as the band played their last song. During the song, Tommy sat down next to them and played and talked to them. At the end of the show, they even had the kids take a bow with them. These personal touches are one of the things that make Sabaton a really outstanding band.
I am a great fan of the classic metal bands, Black Sabbath, Iron Maiden, and Judas Priest. There are many flavors of metal music, and tonight’s bands fall into the Power Metal category. The one feature you find with almost every good European Power Metal band is dual guitarists and a dynamic front person. The other great feature of power metal is that the bands actually wants the audience to sing along. Probably the greatest of these bands touring today is Iron Maiden. But of the younger bands, I believe that Sabaton has the potential to someday become as great as Iron Maiden. Both bands share a lot in common. Both have a very charismatic front man with amazing vocal range. Both Bruce and Joakim present a powerful and dynamic stage presence and have amazing voices. Both bands tour with at least 2 guitarists. Chris and Tommy have the potential to be world class metal guitarists just like Dave Murray, Adrian Smith and Janick Gers. Then we must make the comparison of bass players. Both Steve Harris and Pär Sundström are founding members of their bands and the glue that holds the bands together. As for the drummer, what can you say about Nicko McBrain of Iron Maiden other than amazing. Hannes has a ways to go, but he shows the potential to be just as good as Nicko. Only time will tell, but I can’t wait to see just how good Sabaton can become. I believe that if Sabaton wants to become a world class band like Iron Maiden, it needs to do what Iron Maiden did and promote their live shows. Make videos of their live events and get them broadcast on MTV Live (the old Palladia channel) just like Iron Maiden and Rush did. I believe that when Rush and Iron Maiden did this, it moved those bands from great bands to truly international stars. Both of those bands are so much better live than on studio album and so is Sabaton.
I wish I could have seen some of the other shows this North American tour and seen their full stage production. I had heard that at one show they actually brought a tank out on the stage. Because of the small venue we have at the Marquee, they had a very limited stage show. I really envy all of my fellow metal heads in Europe that will be able to see them in their full glory. For the last 9 years, Sabaton has put on a 3-day metal festival called “Sabaton Open Air” in Falun, Sweden. This is the 10th anniversary of the festival and will be August 16th through 19th. From what I have heard, Sabaton headlines the last night and they plan on pulling out all of the stops. It should give their fans and all of the metal heads, one of the most amazing shows possible, with a full light show, pyrotechnics, fireworks and stage setup. I have heard they might even bring out the tank. One of my bucket list items is to someday be able to photograph and review one of these big European metal festivals and Open Air would be on the top of that list.
For information about the upcoming Sabaton Open Air festival, please go to the official website:
Review and photos by Fred Kuhlman
Promoter: Lucky Man
Venue: Marquee Theatre
Date: May 12, 2017
Photos © Fred Kuhlman 2017
The concert started with Battle Beast, a Finnish heavy metal / power metal band established in Helsinki in 2008. The band currently consists of Noora Louhimo (Lead Vocals), Eero Sipilä (Bass), Pyry Vikki (Drums), Juuso Soinio (Guitar), Janne Björkroth (Keyboards) and Joona Björkroth (Guitar). Noora came out in this black leather outfit with black leather coat and stomped around the stage belting out the lyrics with fists pumping. Her voice was very strong. This tour is in support of their latest album Bringer of Pain just release this last February. As with all opening acts, their job is to get the fans fired up, and Battle Beast did a great job.
Photos © Fred Kuhlman 2017
Next up was Leaves’ Eyes, a German-Norwegian symphonic power metal band from Stavanger, Norway and Ludwigsburg, Germany. The band consists of 2 lead singers, Alexander Krull and newcomer Elina Siirala. Elina provides the higher tones as Alex does the lower tones. Both singers are extremely strong and complement each other wonderfully. Together they provide a very powerful voice to the band’s music. The band also has two guitars that trade lead and rhythm duties, Thorsten Bauer and Pete Streit. On drums is Joris Nijenhuis and Gijs Coolen on bass. This tour is called, King of Kings Tour in support of their latest album King of Kings. A lot of the songs the band does are Viking based. An example of this is the last song of their set.
For the last song, “Haraldskvæði”, Alex came out on stage dress as a Viking complete with sword. He swaggered around swing the sword around while singing. I have heard that they bring a Viking ship on stage at larger venues.
Photos © Fred Kuhlman 2017
Sabaton Setlist: (Album)
Pre Intro: In The Army Now
Intro: The March To War
Ghost Division (The Art of War)
The Art Of War (The Art of War)
Blood Of Bannockburn (The Last Stand)
Attero Dominatus (Attero Dominatus)
The Last Stand (The Last Stand)
Far From The Fame (Heroes)
Sparta (The Last Stand)
Screaming Eagles (Coat of Arms)
Carolus Rex (Carolus Rex)
Karolinens Bon (Carolus Rex)
Resist And Bite (Heroes)
The Lost Battalion (The Last Stand)
Winged Hussars (The Last Stand)
Night Witches (Heroes)
Primo Victoria (Primo Victoria)
Shiroyama (The Last Stand)
To Hell And Back (Heroes)
Battle Beast Setlist: (Album)
Straight To The Heart (Bringer of Pain)
Bringer Of Pain (Bringer of Pain)
Familiar Hell (Bringer of Pain)
Black Ninja (Battle Beast)
Lost In Wars (Bringer of Pain)
Bastard Son Of Odin (Bringer of Pain)
King For A Day (Bringer of Pain)
Beyond The Burning Skies (Bringer of Pain)
Leave’s Eyes Setlist: (Album)
Halvdan The Black (King of Kings)
Swords in Rock (King of Kings)
Edge of Steel (King of Kings)
Hell to the Heavens (Symphonies of the Night)
Fires In The North (Fires In The North EP)
Sacred Vow (King of Kings)
Blazing Waters (King of Kings)
Haraldskvæði (King of Kings)