Heavy power-metal band Sabaton returned to Helsinki for the second time this year on November 23rd, 2012, as part of their Swedish Empire Tour. The Thursday-night show brought out close to a full house at The Circus, and the crowd was sizzling with anticipation as they waited for the band to come on stage.
I personally had never even heard of Sabaton prior to Tuska this year, and unfortunately I wasn’t able to catch the show at the time. After hearing several different accounts of how fantastic they are on and off stage, I made a point to listen to a few albums and was quite excited to check out this show. I was already wildly impressed by the quality of their lyrical content, as well as the general energy that seemed like it would translate well to a stage setting.
Despite a nearly 15 minute late start, when the lights dimmed and the instrumental track started to play, a chill of excitement washed over the crowd. The intro did seem strangely long though, with a few of the roadies making last minute deliveries across the stage. There was a bit of confusion when the song ended and the band wasn’t onstage yet, especially when what happened next was a complete play-through of “The Final Countdown” by Europe, still with no band.
When “Dominium Maris Baltici” began, it was evident that the show had really started, and we were greeted by an unfamiliar face with a mustache that went for miles – Snowy Shaw [ex-King Diamond], who was subbing in for Robban Bäck during his paternity leave. The band was soon to follow and they pounded out “Ghost Division” for their first song while the crowd went insane. Their reaction was so intense that Joakim Brodén, the band’s vocalist and frontman, couldn’t have kept the grin off his face if he had tried.
With so many songs about war, Brodén said he had to explain a few of them on their normal tour, but a couple of songs he didn’t need to explain to the Finns were “The White Death” (Finland’s legendary sniper), and “Talvisota” (The Winter War). He even took a Finnish flag out of the crowd for a couple of the songs to show his enthusiasm and respect. He also noted that the Finns had been asking about the lack of old songs played during Tuska this year, so they brought out a keyboard to play something to satisfy those complaints. When Brodén asked if they wanted to hear something Swedish, someone shouted out, “ABBA!” and they were kind enough to oblige, even if it was only for half a minute. Later in the night, they started playing the YMCA as well, and Brodén commented that there’s nothing quite like getting a thousand metalheads to do that dance at once.
As far as frontmen go, Brodén has proved himself to be top-notch. He exudes power and energy in everything he does, making him seem as “metal” as can be, yet without that unsmiling intensity that some bands have, which would’ve killed the show stone dead for any casual listeners. No, Brodén and the entire rest of the band were grinning and jumping up and down and running all over, looking enthusiastic, with an attitude that that let you know that they don’t take metal too seriously. Brodén made plenty of jokes, teasing the crowd (and at one point threatening to come down and put his cock on someone’s forehead if they were recording the “secret” he was about to share), and generally acted lighthearted. They were there to play music and have a good time.
The setlist was rock-solid in every possible way. The entire gig was powered up due to the lack of slow songs in their repertoire, and you couldn’t help but have your fist in the air for the whole show. The band had done a survey on Facebook for what language the Carolus Rex songs should be performed in, and even though English won, it wasn’t by much, so they performed “Karolinens bön” in Swedish. Along with “Ghost Division,” other essentials such as “Carolus Rex,” “The Art of War,” and “Primo Victoria” made for an unforgettable night. The crowd wouldn’t stop chanting “Sabaton, Sabaton” between songs, to the point that Brodén said he was getting chills. These were obviously men who were flabbergasted, not only that so many people showed up on a Thursday, but also that they couldn’t get enough. It was clear that they appreciate their fans – they even ended the show with “Metal Crüe,” the song their fan-song, and the one song that isn’t about war.
As for the stage itself, with the combination backdrop and fancy lighting set-up, they were able to make some really cool effects, even writing some words in the lights. This created a stadium-like feel to a venue that only holds fifteen hundred. Along with this, Brodén claimed that he was trying to lift Sabaton up to the level of a “stadium band,” and had a few theories on the subject. One of these involved the band asking a question, getting a mediocre response, and then screaming the same question a second time, at which point the crowd goes crazy. He tested this theory out on this particular crowd to great success. Even without an encore at the end, it was still a solid and satisfying show!
It would have been nice to have seen the complete band together, and if there were any complaints, they were hardly worth mentioning. Snowy Shaw was as energetic as the rest of them, and a fitting replacement for Bäck, but he focused a little bit too much on the show of it when he could have been focusing on playing the songs true to their form. Still, it was a point hardly worth mentioning since the crowd didn’t seem to mind.
If there is any animosity between Finland and Sweden, it gets swept under the carpet for a Sabaton show. The crowd was on fire for the band and the band was fueled to the brim by it, making a better show for the crowd. It was the ultimate blend of band and fans, and it would be hard to believe that a single person walked out of that show disappointed. If Helsinki really is the heavy metal capital of the world, Sabaton earned some bragging rights for being one of the best live shows of the year!
(Intro) Dominium Maris Maltici
01. Ghost Division
02. Gott Mit Uns
03. White Death
04. Carolus Rex
05. Karolinens bön
07. Cliffs of Gallipoli
09. The Lion from the North
10. The Hammer Has Fallen
11. Attero Dominatus
12. The Art of War
14. Primo Victoria
15. Metal Crüe