SABATON – Opening(?) For TRIVIUM In NYC!

October 13, 2016, a year ago

Mark Gromen

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On the surface, it seems preposterous. Sabaton are easily the hottest act in metal these days, headlining festivals to tens of thousands throughout Europe (in addition to hosting their own annual open-air event in Falun Sweden, as well as a special, one-off Noch Ein Bier fest, in Germany), with a stage show inferno akin to a two-alarm fire. Come January, they'll start a Euro theater tour, with Sabaton over Accept on every marquee. Upon its release, their new The Last Stand CD was in the Top 5 government controlled sales charts, in five countries (with three #1), and began at #63 on Billboard, in the US, their highest opening position in Top 100 albums. Judging by the shirts and the response, the NYC audience seemed at least 60-40, pro-Sabaton. There were so many photo credentials granted, that the club deemed it unsafe to have nearly two-dozen photographers in the pit simultaneously, thus we were ALL banished to shoot from the crowd, side riser, balcony, etc. Prior to the show, bassist Pär Sundström had a Spinal Tap moment, running into me at the upstairs, back-of-the-venue bar, as he attempted to find his way to the front-of-the-house, backstage dressing room. "Hello Cleveland!"

Of course, a US tour means no pyro nor military tanks, just reliance on music (which it should be anyway), but thankfully frontman Joakim Brodén's self-deprecating sense of humor remains intact. Breaking in yet another new member, guitarist Tommy Johansson, who is already part of the shtick. When the singer announced that the hulking, mountain of a guitarist, to celebrate his first US tour, could pick any song in the band's repertoire, he chose "Swedish Pagans" (even though it’s been on the setlist every night), much to Brodén's chagrin. Protesting, "You know I hate that song" and giving him the finger, the singer carried on like this selection was a personal affront and warned that, "This might be his LAST US tour." When six-string partner Chris Rörland voiced his support, the singer teased, "It might be Chris' last tour too.” As usual, the rousing "Ghost Division" opens the dozen songs delivered at Irving Plaza. Four are from the new album, including the back-to-back pairing of "Sparta" and clap-along/bagpipe accompanied "Blood Of Bannockburn". For the usually active lot, there wasn't much room to move around and drummer Hannes van Dahl played from the floor. Plenty of strobes for "40:1", always one of the strongest tunes in the Sabaton arsenal.

Upon its completion, the stage goes black, empty apart from a pair of crisscrossing red spotlights. Four camouflaged figures stand across the front of the stage, hand clapping overhead, prior to "To Hell And Back, the singer pogoing up & down, in place. The proper set concluded with newbie "Winged Hussars", the mid-tempo number sees the crowd rhythmically thrusting arms skyward. Once again the stage empties and goes pitch black, but can hear the intro to the speedy "Night Witches" start up almost immediately. The greatest hits set is completed by "Primo Victoria", seemingly impossible to wipe the smiles from their faces, as they leave: both band and fans alike.

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ROBB FINLAYSON - "Winter's Apprentice" (Independent)

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