w/ Battle Beast and Leaves’ Eyes
Sunday, May 21, 2017
The Fillmore Underground
While most metal bands these days are having a hard time even half filling clubs, Sabaton marched into Charlotte triumphantly to a sold out Fillmore Underground. When a band has a show on a Sunday night it can sometimes bring a bit of stress to the situation but not for Sabaton. For Sabaton, a stormy Sunday night in Charlotte felt like a Friday night as the room was abuzz with an infectious energy that immediately could be felt upon entry. As I stood taking in the crowd, I just had a feeling that this was going to be an exciting show but I would later realize that this was total understatement.
For this final/headlining leg of the “The Last Tour” tour of North America, Sabaton brought along support from Leaves’ Eyes (from all over Europe) and Finland’s Battle Beast. Leaves’ Eyes delivered a high-energy opening set that made a huge impression on me. Their music was epic in the truest sense of the word and my buddy compared their set to watching an episode of Game of Thrones (thanks, James). Lead vocalists Elina Siirala and Alexander Krull lead the band with a powerful set that had the audience energized and pumped up and had me wanting to hear more. I had never even heard word one of this band before this night but their performance was so confident, tight, and fun that it definitely piqued my interest. This is a band I will be watching out for without a doubt.
Battle Beast took the stage and right out of the gates I was unimpressed. I wasn’t quite sure where they were from but wherever it is, I wanted them to go back there very fast. The band plays this cheesy almost 80’s sounding kind of material which kind of sounds like Motley Crue trying to be a power metal band. I was less than impressed with the band’s material and the audience didn’t seem to react as strongly to them as they did to Leaves’ Eyes. Battle Beast’s popular song of the night, “Black Ninja” seemed to get a rise from the crowd but again, I just didn’t find any sort of connection to them. Where Leaves’ Eyes played with a lot of passion and integrity, Battle Beast just sounded contrived and forced. The crowd did seem to dig them but not quite as much as Leaves’ Eyes.
I have seen Sabaton five times and every time I see them they get better and bigger. As I surveyed the room and saw a packed room of people chanting “Sabaton!” I got a serious case of goose bumps. The house lights went down and as “In the Army Now” filled the room from the PA, the energy was through the roof. As usual, Sabaton stormed the stage with “Ghost Division” and the room was alive. Fists were flying, everyone sang along with the chorus, moshing, crowd surfing… was this really an American audience? I have never seen a crowd this nuts for a show in many years. It was almost as if they flew in the audience from Wacken or something.
The level of energy was kicked up a notch as the band went right into “The Art of War” and the crowd responded with a roar. After the song, the crowd began yet another “Sabaton!” chant which visibly choked up lead vocalist Joakim Broden. He held up his arm and said, “You see this Charlotte? Goose bumps already!” to which the crowd roared. “Carolus Rex” was a highlight for me to hear live as this is one of my favorite songs. “Got Mit Uns” was another highlight. When Broden asked who wanted to hear the song in English, a handful of people cheered which had lead guitarist Chris Rorland say, “What the fuck is wrong with you?” When asked if we wanted to hear it in Swedish, the place erupted as the band delivered a stellar version featuring some amazing lead vocals from Rorland and co-lead guitarist Tommy Johansson.
Throughout their nearly two-hour performance, Sabaton delivered a live performance of arena proportions. The band was playful as always and their interaction with the sold out crowd was magnetic. Before playing “Resist and Bite”, Joakim put on a guitar and began to playfully say that because of Chris making fun of his guitar playing, he was going to play a whole set of Michael Jackson covers and began playing “Beat It.” It’s so refreshing to see a band that is not afraid to have a good time and to show it as opposed to putting themselves above their audience.
“Primo Victoria” was where it all seemed to come to a head as the crowd pogo-jumped, threw fists into the air and sang at the top of their lungs along with the chorus. To see an audience giving Sabaton so much and having that love and energy reciprocated had me in awe. Again, I couldn’t believe this was, of all places, Charlotte, NC on a Sunday night.
After closing out this epic evening with “To Hell and Back”, Sabaton stood front stage and applauded the crowd as the now familiar “Sabaton!” chant filled the room. The band was all smiles as they tossed picks, drum sticks, and thanked Charlotte for an unforgettable night. Sabaton truly loves what they do, they love their fans, and they are not afraid to show it from the stage. As corny as it sounds, at a Sabaton show, the band is one with the crowd and it’s because of this that Sabaton is growing with every trip to North America.
Seeing Sabaton like this left me with a huge sense of pride and pretty much had me with chest out feeling like a proud papa. For the past six years that I have been a fan of Sabaton, I have seen them grow by leaps and bounds thanks to relentless touring, amazing live shows, and most of all great songs. It’s so great to see Sabaton growing here in North America and they will without a doubt be packing bigger rooms the next time they come around. Sabaton gives this old metal head a lot of hope and pride in knowing that they are out there keeping heavy metal music alive for what I hope will be many years to come.