Silver Spring, MD – When you think power metal, history and sing-alongs are not things we typically link to that genre of music. Sure, there are some metal songs that inspire one to join in and many do tell stories, however, seldom do the lyrics consistently weave a historical tale depicting real life events and it is not common for the crowd to join in and sing complete songs with the band. Then there is Sabaton! Yes, their music is awesome and listening to their music gets the heart a-pumping, but live is the ONLY way to fully experience the power of the band and their music.
One of the first things you notice is the stage setup. A lot of bands have an iconic stage show with unique props, but barbed wire and a tank mounted drum kit, complete with dual Gatling style armaments pointed toward the audience? I was intrigued! In seeing the guns, conveniently pointed at crowd surfer level, I had to wonder if they would serve as a deterrent to would be surfers. As I would find out later, no they would not!
Sabaton, consisting of Joakim Brodén (lead vocals), Pär Sundström (bass), Chris Rörland (guitar), Hannes Van Dahl (drums), and Tommy Johansson (guitar) took the stage and immediately set the power tone with “Ghost Division“. The energy level immediately soared. As Joakim belted the lyrics the audience joined in… and they did not sound half bad!!
After “Stormtroopers” the sing-along really kicked in with “The Red Baron“. Between songs Joakim reminisced on how great it was to be back in Silver Spring, pointing out that he had ‘great memories of this venue… when you end a tour in a city crazy shit happens!’ (referencing the fact that Silver Spring was their last US stop, pre-COVID, in November 2019). Whatever happened those two nights, I wish I would have been there.
From naval images in “Bismark” to clapping and singing along, with Swedish flags on the video backdrop for “Soldier of Heaven“, the show was beyond compare and the homage paid to the heroes of the battlefield was very deep.
Just a short note here, remember I said the tank armaments could deter the surfing. I could not have been more wrong. A tsunami of surfers was keeping the Fillmore security team busy at the barricade. Now back to the story.
Up to this point, the performance had been powerful and serious. Before “Gott mit uns” they lightened it up a little. Donning various colored beanies (Santa hats in the US), reminiscent of the Jul Tomte at Christmas in the home of my Swedish immigrant grandparents. They jokingly asked if anyone was Swedish with a few applauding. Asking if anyone could speak Swedish, they pointed out that IKEA is not a Swedish word. That got a good laugh from the audience. After receiving permission to sing the song in Swedish (it was a German title), they proceeded to bring down the house in Swedish.
Winding down the main set, they performed “Night Witches“, “Dreadnought“, “Shiroyama“, and “The Last Stand“. I was floored by the fact that virtually everyone in the crowd knew the words, and sang along. As I walked throughout, there were people from all walks of life in this sold out crowd. Powerful music telling stories of heroism through powerful lyrics brought them all together.
The final piece of the set was “Christmas Truce“, which depicts one of the most epic battlefield stories ever, December 24, 1914. I loved the way they really used this song to seal the comradery in the audience. Requesting we all hold our illuminated phones above our heads, we did. A few thousand lights paying tribute to an epic historical song, swaying in unison. It was quite moving. To be honest, this was the song that put Sabaton on my radar in the first place, thanks to Elizabeth Zharoff of the Charismatic Voice YouTube Channel. Check out her analysis of this song!!
Of course, it could not end there! The encore included a very stoic “Primo Victoria“, commemorating the bravery of D-Day, June 6, 1944. The audience chanted a very loud “U S A” as they played!! Next up in the encore was probably the most intense fan song of the night, “Swedish Pagans“. Pit ‘rowing’ and loud “Oh Oh Oh” had the Fillmore jumping.
The last two songs of the night included a challenge to Tommy, who, based on requests from the audience, gave his rendition of AC/DC’s “Highway to Hell” which was followed up by their final piece, “To Hell and Back“. When all was said and done, I was exhausted, revived, and energized, all at the same time.
For the most part I did not talk about the history lessons in the songs. I really want the readers to listen to the lyrics to feel the power of the stories through music and words. This was one of the most memorable shows I have covered and they must be experienced live!! Just a word of advice before you go, if you want to fit in that is. Learn the lyrics, you will repeat them, learn some history, you need it to understand the show, and finally, be ready for one of the most metal nights of your life… you will not regret it!
Oh, do I speak any Swedish? The short of it is, no. But that which I did learn from my grandparents sums up my feelings for the night. Jul Tomte delivered an early Christmas present and for that I say, tusen tack! Thousand thank until next time!
Sabaton GalleryWebsite l Facebook l Instagram l Twitter l
The Red Baron
The Attack of the Dead Men
Soldier of Heaven
Gott mit uns
The Last Stand
Highway to Hell
To Hell and Back
Show Date: October 6, 2022
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