OK…after my JUDAS PRIEST extravaganza on Thursday night and being so amped up afterwards that I barely slept a wink I peeled myself from my recliner Friday night and made my way over to the bestest rock club in the land, Trees Dallas. Remember I’m not so young anymore (41), so I was kind of drag-assing, but my mind kept whispering, “SABATON…SABATON…headlining…Trees…get there”. And get there I did, arriving just after 10:30. As exhausted as I was I had zero patience for any opening acts and thanks to my metalhead friend Jose’s text updates of when the bands got on/off I didn’t have to sit through any. I got in, immediately picked up a Heroes tour shirt, grabbed a beer and settled in with Jose and my new friend Ernesto. I didn’t have long to wait, and it wasn’t long before the chants that would ring out all night started: “SA-BA-TON! SA-BA-TON! SA-BA-TON!”
Before we go any further let me just say this: You don’t know high-octane, high-energy live performing until you see SABATON right there in the flesh. I swear by the Gods if they plugged into battle-vested singer Joakim Brodén’s body they’d have enough power to light the city of Dallas for weeks! And just like that we were off and running with “Ghost Division” and then “To Hell and Back”, one of my top cuts from new album Heroes. Between everyone clapping along and jumping around, being tired was a distant memory. We were barely two songs in and I was feeding off of this incredible vibe of energy and goodwill.
And while Trees wasn’t filled to capacity, the crowd roar after EVERY SINGLE SONG made it sound like there were 2,000 in attendance. “Carolus Rex” and “40:1” followed, and then, casual as you please Joakim goes, “Have you heard of ‘Swedish Pagans’?” to which the crowd went nuts as they tore into it.
“Soldier of 3 Armies” was one of the biggest highlights for me, and the cool history lesson we got beforehand really made the song come alive even more. Just like with IRON MAIDEN you always learn a lot about the history of war from SABATON’S lyrics, but this song also seriously kicks ass. Guitarists Thobbe Englund and Chris Rörland riff it up like there’s no tomorrow, bassist Pär Sundström brings the four-string terror and drummer Hannes Van Dahl drives the locomotive through any and all obstacles.
I can’t say it enough, the ENERGY!! “Panzer Battalion” from 2005’s Primo Victoria sounded even sharper than on disc, and “Gott Mit Uns” showed both axe men taking a turn at the mic along with Brodén . At this point he remarked that they weren’t used to a full 90-minute set lately but they were having so much fun with us. You could see it on their faces as each number finished and they were showered with adoration from the SABATON maniacs there.
At this point I was a combination of shock, awe, and utter disbelief. I have been to Trees a bunch of times and other than Y&T I don’t recall such a rabid, rabid fanbase at a show there. But the thing is, if you were there, or have seen this band before, you totally get it. When “The Art of War” kicked in I could see people everywhere singing each line like it was the last SABATON show they’d ever see.
And when Brodén said, “Attero” the ensuing reply of “DOMINATUS!!” nearly knocked the guys off the stage before they launched into it! Next thing I know, Joakim comes out with a guitar and a little three-way battle ensued. He kept it on for my other new favorite “Resist and Bite”. That fucking MAIDEN-esque running guitar line is one I still can’t get enough of. Not surprisingly it’s Mini-Amps’ favorite on Heroes; truly his father’s son. And the solos were nothing short of majestic. “Night Witches” was in full metal gallop from start to finish before Joakim realized they were running ahead of schedule and had time for an extra song. Going off of crowd reaction “White Death” was the clear-cut winner and that’s what we got, much to my happiness.
Now it was time to jump with SABATON. “Primo Victoria” had the place rockin’ like nobody’s business and the ear-to-ear grins on the band’s faces showed how much they were feeling the love. Unfortunately the night had to come to an end soon and “Metal Crüe”, a tribute to the heavy metal and hard rock bands that have inspired them, and a testament to the fans closed out one hell of a set that I am STILL basking in the afterglow of two days later. Hell, I could have raged another two hours with those guys. SABATON put on a clinic this night, and I am so glad I was able to attend what will have to go down in A&GS history as one of the greatest shows I have EVER seen at Trees, or anywhere for that matter. HAILZ!!
LIVE PHOTOS: BRIAN MATUS PHOTOGRAPHY