Opening night of a tour is always interesting because you never know WHAT will happen. Such was the case when I trekked into Philly for the first show of SABATON’S The Last Tour with support from BATTLE BEAST and LEAVES’ EYES. Now before we go any further, the name of this tour in no way means that SABATON is hanging it up, okay? It’s a play on the title of their latest album The Last Stand. It saddens me that I’ve had to spend more time than I care to admit explaining this to some of our not-so-quick fellow metalheads, oy. But anyway, The Trocadero Theatre was to be the site for this opening kick-off, and I was pretty goddamn excited for it.
Unfortunately, due to the venue vastly underestimating the size of this rabid crowd it took much longer than expected to get inside, so I missed a few LEAVES’ EYES songs, only catching “Edge of Steel”, “Hell to the Heavens”, and “Fires In the North.” However, the place was already packed and getting more and more full, so the roar of appreciation for the band was massive, and with good reason. They do pack a pretty good punch live, and if you haven’t checked them out I recommend them highly. Never in my life have I seen The Troc fill up so quickly, nor have I heard the fans as rowdy as they were, and we were just getting started.
BATTLE BEAST was up next, and quite honestly they were my main motivation for wanting to catch this show as it was their first time ever playing on U.S. soil. Well, we the Philly phaithful gave them a big-time welcome, and let our voices be heard loud and proud before, during, and after each number! Opening with “Straight to the Heart” and “Familiar Hell” from new album Bringer of Pain they were off and running, singer Noora Louhimo owning the stage while the boys kicked ass alongside her. Next up was “Black Ninja” from the 2014 self-titled record, and it was obvious that everyone here was a fan because the noise from the crowd was deafening.
Talk about a warm welcome to America, eh? That warmth spread to everyone with the 80’s pop-infected “Touch In the Night” from 2015’s Unholy Savior. Seriously, how can you not love this one? The band looked like they were having so much fun doing it, and Noora sounded fucking amazing. Next up was a three-banger from the new disc with “Bastard Son of Odin”, “King For a Day” and album standout “Beyond the Burning Skies.” All three totally rocked, especially “Odin” as it’s my current favorite. All in all this was a perfect way for BATTLE BEAST to get acquainted with the rabid metalheads of the United States and I can’t wait for them to return!
So now it was time for SABATON and the place was absolutely bursting at the seams. You couldn’t get another person in there with a shoehorn. Even being up in the balcony we were all elbow to elbow, waiting for the mighty road warriors to take the stage. And as I have said before on multiple occasions, you don’t know high-octane, high-energy live performing until you see SABATON right there in the flesh. Opening with “Ghost Division” and then “The Art of War” singer Joakim Brodén was on fire (not literally, though if he bursts into flame some night I won’t be the least bit surprised!), bounding across the stage and almost never staying still. The crowd responded with roars of “SA-BA-TON!! SA-BA-TON!!” after each and every song, and the band, Joakim especially, was visually stunned and overwhelmed by our response.
Now it was time for my 100% favorite track from the new record “Blood of Bannockburn.” I may have been seated upstairs, but I was movin’ and groovin’ with foot-stompin’ authority for every second of this one. THIS is one of my favorites not just on this disc, but in the SABATON catalog, period. And live it was fucking INSANE!! And if that wasn’t enough they followed it with “Soldier of 3 Armies”, a tune that never fails to get me all riled up!! “The Last Stand” and “Sparta” sandwiched “Union (Slopes of St. Benedict)” from The Art of War. A nice surprise for me was “Screaming Eagles” because of its history and ties to this great city of Philadelphia, something Joakim made sure to acknowledge.
I could go on and on, but I’m sure you all get the idea. “Carolus Rex” and longtime favorite “Resist and Bite” made for a potent combo, and other highlights included “Night Witches”, “Swedish Pagans”, and of course “Primo Victoria” and eventual show closer “To Hell and Back.” Here’s one to pound your chest and hop up and down to all night, so to end things on such an anthemic note was priceless. It should also be noted that earlier in the show someone threw a bra up onstage, which Joakim promptly put on and had some fun with the whole thing. SABATON is one of the most amazing and hard-hitting bands you’ll ever see live,and I urge you to catch this tour ASAP!!
LIVE IMAGES: MIKE SIEVILA PHOTOGRAPHY
LIVE WORDS: THE MAESTRO