Sabaton - The Tour To End All Tours, 15.04.2023, London, UK
|Event:||Sabaton: The Tour To End All Tours - Europe 2023|
|Written by:||omne metallum|
Weebs, warriors and winners of Eurovision unite! For what has to be one of the more light-hearted and fun tours of the year finally rolls up into London. Yes, tonight promised to be so cheesy that lactose intolerant persons were evacuated from the immediate vicinity of Wembley Arena and relocated to Brentford as a safety precaution, for the grandiosely named The Tour To End All Tours took to the stage after a year's delay.
Originally, this was supposed to be my third gig of the year, but owing to the fallout from the tragedy that occurred at Brixton Academy back in December, I was unable to make the two re-arranged concerts prior to tonight. Still, this gave me even more reason to savour each and every note played, as tonight marked not only my first concert of 2023, but the last Covid casualty concert, that is, the last re-arranged concert owing to the pandemic. Alas, due to the delay, The Hu were no longer appearing, which was a huge blow for me, as they once more eluded me. The replacement was Babymetal, a band who, while I never understood the vitriol against them, I was never the biggest fan of either. Regardless, tonight looked to be a good night of cheesy power metal, and a good opportunity to let loose.
Wembley Arena was an ambitious, but astute, choice of venue, one that is well suited to large stage shows (more on that later) without sacrificing on sound quality. Managing to pack out the large arena was a feat in of itself, as the diverse line-up seemed to be a huge pull for a great number of people, myself included.
There’s a monster under my bed
Opening tonight's proceedings were Finland's answer to both Rob Zombie and glam rock; Lordi's claim to fame may lay in the rear view mirror, but it was one many (including myself) were eager to revel in, with the monsters pulling in a large crowd from the start. With an allotted forty minutes, Lordi managed to make the most of every precious minute, fitting in the hits, such as the dad dancing anthem "Would You Love A Monsterman?", alongside three tracks off of their new (just over a fortnight old) album Screem Writers Guild, that slotted in well alongside the rest of their set, with "Lucyfer Prime Evil" getting a fan favourite reception. Balancing the set list alongside stage banter was something the band did well, keeping things light-hearted and sounding genuinely grateful for the opportunity to play to such a large crowd.
With a tight set alongside a stripped down show (well, as stripped down as you can get from a group dressed as they are) and excellent sound, the band rolled around to that song far too early, marking the end of their set which flew by as a result of just enjoying the music. Yes, "Hard Rock Hallelujah" closed out the set to a rapturous reception, one that marked the crowd's eagerness to just enjoy some good music. A band I will certainly look into catching again in the future for some light-hearted, but good fun.
01. Dead Again Jayne
02. Would You Love A Monsterman?
03. Thing In The Cage
04. Blood Red Sandman
05. Lucyfer Prime Evil
06. Devil Is A Loser
07. Who's Your Daddy?
08. Hard Rock Hallelujah
Ten years ago, this would have been heresy
Remember when the seemingly biggest issue in the world was the debate over whether Babymetal were real metal or not? Well, thank God the world survived that drama and world peace was declared after that highly divisive debate had receded, for tonight marked my first time seeing the group. While some in the metal community clutched their loincloths and held their Manowar albums close as they railed against what they called a look and gimmick valued over the substance of music, the rest of the world shrugged their shoulders and thought Babymetal to be mildly fun.
Alas, while I was looking forward to the band, tonight's performance wasn't the storybook redemption arc it could have been, for the sound undermined the group's performance and exposed the show as more pantomime than performance. With the instruments far too high, the trio of metals, that is Su, Moa and Mono metal, were barely audible, leaving you watching the group dance around as if following a Mr Motivator (or Richard Simmons for non-UK readers) workout video, though one with a heavy backing track and bright-as-hell light show. When the vocals could be heard and all the pieces of the puzzle fell into place, such as on "Pa Pa Ya!!", the band's set picked up and glimpses of potential shined through, culminating with a rendition of "Gimme Chocolate!!" that saw Wembley spark to life.
The metal YMCA
Overall, I get to tick Babymetal off my list of bands I have wanted to see, but while occasionally they hit the spot, it is not something I'll be rushing back to watch either.
01. BABYMETAL DEATH
03. PA PA YA!!
04. Divine Attack -Shingeki-
06. Gimme Chocolate!!
07. Road Of Resistance
Kicking things off with a bang
Last up to battle, I mean, perform, were tour-hardened veterans Sabaton, a band who have defied the odds for a power metal group and won over large audiences in the UK despite the limited appeal of the genre in the country. Having long rolled their tanks onto some of the largest stages in the country, tonight marked the first time I had seen the band outside a festival, having previously caught them several times over the years playing anything from propping up a low spot on a bill, all the way through to headline act. Truth be told, I had long found the band to have been failing upwards, having gone from releasing great albums all the way through Heroes to releasing ok albums with a few great songs since. While I could count on a solid performance and stage show, it was the set list that would separate a good Sabaton show from a great one.
Can you tell the name of the tour?
Kicking off with all guns (and tank turrets) blazing was the explosive "Ghost Division"; the band clearly wanted to blow any doubts away as they roared into life and threw out hit after hit, from a powerful "The Last Stand" through to an old gem in "Into The Fire". Joakim was in bright spirits, pressing the audience to scream louder as the band rolled out a stellar opening pitch. The band were on fine form, taking advantage of a solid sound that managed to balance power and precision; the stage was set (figuratively and literally) for the band to blow the audience away.
You can’t park that tank here, it’s only residential parking around here
It was after "Carolus Rex" that the problems started to arise; while it was to be expected that the band would play tracks in support of their latest effort, The War To End All Wars, the decision to play a block of them together in the middle of the set saw the early momentum fail harder than the Persians at the Battle Of Marathon. "1916" marked the lowest ebb, with a rendition of the Motörhead classic that over-emoted the sombre and poignant original to the point of sounding like an atypical power ballad. It was around this point in the set that you began to notice the band's humour and joie de vivre, one that punctuated previous shows and reliably made you laugh, was missing; gone were the silly, light-hearted moments that put a smile on your face (though the part about the band's debut show in the Purple Turtle was a nice touch).
While the band were on fine form sonically, matching the solid live mix with on point precision by each member, it wasn't enough to elevate middling songs like "Father" from being listenable rather than enjoyable. Towards the end of their set, Sabaton alternated between good and bad songs, with "The Red Baron" (complete with triplane on stage) and "Attack Of The Dead Men" making for some bright spots in the lull.
Enemy spotted over there
After an abbreviated break, the band strode out for an encore that bookended a mixed set, picking up where they left off at the start of the set with a run through some undeniable classics, such as "Primo Victoria", "Swedish Pagans" and "To Hell And Back", that saw the crowd willingly march back into the palm of the band's hands, closing out the night with the crowd deafeningly loud while singing along.
It was thus that the band retreated off-stage and the battle was over. While Sabaton had come to conquer, they had mixed fortunes in doing so; a good show and musicianship was let down by a poor set list and a missing spark in the band's performance. Tonight was the weakest showing I had seen by the band in all the years I had seen them, though I would give the band another chance should they release a strong album in the future (or decide to play more past material; the omission of anything off of Coat Of Arms was glaring).
01. Ghost Division
03. The Last Stand
04. Into The Fire
05. Carolus Rex
06. Winged Hussars
10. Soldier Of Heaven
12. The Red Baron
14. The Attack Of The Dead Men
15. Christmas Truce
16. Primo Victoria
17. Swedish Pagans
18. To Hell And Back
Though tonight was overall mixed in terms of performances, I enjoyed myself and kicked off my 2023 in style. It had been far too long since I had been to a gig, though they will soon be coming in thick and fast.
||Written on 17.04.2023 by|
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