I arrived in Sandviken just as the doors opened in tonight’s venue Göransson Arena but since they’d decided to lay a train track straight through the town I had to wander this ghost town for quite a while before I found a place to cross the tracks. So I arrived at the venue merely minutes before the first opening act Twilight Force were about to enter the stage. Twilight Force are from the same town as Sabaton and I guess that must be the main reason why they got to do this tour. As I watched them from the photo pit, I realized that they actually were not entirely as unbearable live as they are on record. However, guys playing fantasy metal dressed in some kind of elf ears is not my cup of tea. My mother always said that if you do not have anything nice to say, do not say anything at all. (No, she did not but it is times like these I wish she did). Therefore, I just leave it at that.
Up next was Accept, the German metal legends who Sabaton actually opened for in the US a couple of years back. Even if the tables had turned this time, Accept was not going to go down without a fight. They were roaring on all cylinders right out of the gate with the double punch of “Stampede” and “Stalingrad”. Then they moved into a set with pretty much all the classics you could ask for, the crowd was all for it singing along to hits like “Restless and wild”, “Fast as a shark”, and “Metal heart”. Mark Tornillo once again overturned many of the people who by the start of the night was asking where Udo was. (You would think they would know by now.)
It is nice to see that a Tornillo-era song like “Teutonic terror” has become such an instant classic in the Accept set. To no surprise they closed the set with “Balls to the wall” and Sandviken went ape shit crazy. It was a short but sweet set that most certainly left more people than me longing for a new album and a headline tour. Judging by sheer intensity and crowd response this could very well have been a headliner show. However, there was one band left.
Sabaton have steadily climbed the ranks to become an arena act. Every year there has been a little more fire and a little more spectacle. They have worked incredibly hard to be the arena band they have always wanted to be. It did not take very long this night to realize that they have arrived.
“Ghost Division” started the show as usual but then the stage was filled with Spartan soldiers and front man Jocke Brodén entered dressed like a Spartan as well. It was a very effective scene that lifted the song “Sparta” to new heights. The large screen behind the band was also used very purposefully throughout the night.
The new guitarist Tommy Johansson impressed me with a very vivid stage persona and great guitar skills, working very well with guitar partner Chris Rörland, the chemistry between them was obvious.
Jocke Brodén might be the front man but in many ways bass player Pär Sundström is the heart and soul of Sabaton always headbanging with one foot on the monitors like a Swedish Steve Harris.
Once again, I have to give huge credit to the Sandviken crowd that really lifted this night to another level; they were not surprisingly especially enthusiastic about the songs in Swedish from “Carolus Rex”.
I was happy to see that they had brought back “The Final Solution” back into the setlist but somehow I was not quite as moved as I expected. Perhaps because the last time I heard it live was outdoors in Falun and the sides was flanked by the fan club “Polish Panzer Battalion” with their flags flying in the light summer breeze.
Anyway, back to Sandviken, the on stage banter of Jocke Brodén is always fun to listen to. A personal favorite this night was when he put on a guitar and announced that contrary to what people might believe what was up wasn’t “Resist and bite”, but rather “The Jocke Brodén Michael Jackson tribute hour”. He then went on to play a few bars of “Beat it” before they did indeed go into “Resist and bite”.
The contact with the audience is something that Sabaton always has been good at and moving up in stage size thankfully have not changed that.
By now, no one should be surprised that Sabaton are comfortable on huge stages, they have opened for Iron Maiden at Ullevi Stadium in Gothenburg. The real question is when they take that stage as headliners with their own show. Judging from this tour, it might happen sooner than you think!