Once again, the city's promoters split metalhead allegiance, having BEHEMOTH headline across town (at least a portion of each crowd would have checked out the "other" show, rather than stay in on a Thursday night). This was a young crowd, even the over-21 bar area was dominated by under 30s. Lots of NIGHTWISH kids have definitely bought into (opening band) REVAMP too. Although festival kinds overseas, the Swedes are content to do the legwork, building up an equally massive fanbase in North America and that includes supporting the likes of ICED EARTH, or come this September, AMON AMARTH.
Afforded just 35 minutes to strut their stuff, SABATON wisely dispensed with the traditional 'Final Countdown' (EUROPE) pre-intro, but the short ' March to War' instrumental got the band into their places as the fans were electric, screaming and chanting the band's name. 'Ghost Division' sees the fury of activity, as the camo-pants warriors (a cargo net draped around the drum riser) scatter in multiple directions. The principle crazy is mirror sunglasses, Mohawk haired frontman Joakim Broden, zipping from side-to-side and adopting muscle man pose down maneuvers, all while belting out historically accurate odes to man's bravery/savagery. Tonight he is wearing black sneakers, not his high tech five toed footie running shoes. 'Gott Mit Uns' and 'Carolus Rex' follow, Broden briefly stopping to joke about his steel breastplate flack jacket and camouflaged trousers being akin to the VILLAGE PEOPLE. He even form a Y with his outstretched arm, as he gets the crowd to clap along to 'Swedish Pagans'
As discussed in a soon to be published interview, SABATON are attune to the situation every night and often change the setlist for fan interest or in certain cities/countries. Broden was well aware the NHL playoff were happening as they took the stage and asked the crowd for frequent updates on the Flyers' score. As the stage turned a tinge of blue, the singer explained who Audie Murphy was (most decorated American WW II soldier), the impetus for the lone new song air, 'To Hell & Back', which saw the audience again clapping overhead, to the infectious opening pipes. Bassist Par Sundström, when not offering backing vocals (all four non-drumming members add their voice to the mix, at some point), camped with his foot atop the monitors, swaying to and fro.
There's always an element of fun at a SABATON show, despite the serious lyrical context of their songs. Case in point, Broden asked the people if they knew the album Art Of War (massive response), "OK, then we won't play anything off that one (dramatic pause), except this one," cue '40:1'. The rousing anthem was lit in reddish pink as the boys onstage move about, feign karate kicking one another and grabbing rumps. General tomfoolery, or in their case, maybe it should be Gen. Tom Foolery? From the balcony, for 'Art Of War' the floor is a sea of skyward thrusting fists. Chris Rörland takes center stage during the guitar duel with fellow axeman Thobbe Englund, as the crowd shouts the titular chorus.
The upstairs patrons are kind of lost with Joakim's a cappella recitation of "Through the gates of Hell," but the kids downstairs are well aware of the 'Primo Victoria', not only finishing the opening line, but start pogoing up & down just like Euro veterans. By the end, even the oldtimers, while not as animated, are nodding heads and applauding each track. Another score! A final inquiry on the hockey game and Broden thanks the crowd, ditches the sunglasses and kicks off 'Metal Crue', a BON JOVI inspired pop metal tune that winds numerous metal bands into the lyrics. Par, Chris and Joakim are center stage. When it comes time for the signature piercing high note, the singer squeezes Rörland's nipple, to elicit the desired frequency (or so it would seem). And it's over, all to quickly for band and fans alike. They exit, people still chanting SABATON, as Sundström is the last to leave, blowing a kiss to the fans as he departs.
They will be back!
More Sabaton photos from Philadelphia can be seen here