Sabaton Rolls The War Machine Into Worcester, Levels The Palladium
Only a few times in my life have I been as worried about how my “vision” of future events would come to pass as when Sabaton rolled it’s Swedish tank division into the Palladium at Worcester on Saturday night. For starters, the band just had a major split with four members, all of which provided the power and part of the rhythm of a band that was all about force. Secondly, the split happened on the eve of two major career milestones for the band: the release of “Carolus Rex” (review forthcoming), which will see a U.S. release even before the European, and a bold North American headline tour with no support, save for local acts at only particular venues. Tack on the fact that the band was late with obtaining visas for the new members forcing the cancellation of the first three nights of the tour and the fact that there has been little no tour hype generated though the band’s Facebook page, which remained eerily quiet since the tour began (not even announcing where the band was playing each day). It also didn’t help that Arch/Matheos was playing the same night back in Hartford in one of very few show appearances, which certainly would make attendance at this show even less. Since there were no supporting acts on the bill, I can report on the VIP meet and greet with the band, which proved to be a smashing success.
I arrived at the Palladium just as VIP ticket holders entered the facility. Again, the show would take place at the dreaded upstairs portion, which I made well known in my report of Paganfest. The band was signing autographs at the merchandise table on the second floor. As I got in line, I hadn’t realized that standing right in front of me was bassist Pär Sundström. Pär turned around with a huge grin softly said “hello.” After my initial reaction at how short he was (and that I could’ve rested my drink on his head) wore off, I found Par to be one of the absolute classiest and nicest individuals I have ever met in my life. You can tell that he was taking in the moment of how many people knew him and his music (which when on stage was even more apparent).
As I fumbled for my full size Swedish flag, my Winterlong self-titled 2005 CD had reflected off the few lights of the hall, which instantly caught the eye of new guitarist Thorbjörn Englund who had been standing just to my left. The whole scene could not have been scripted better. As if in slow motion (queue million dollar man music), Thobbie’s face was a combination of total shock and absolute jubilation at the sight of his brainchild. My war plan was off to a swimming success. He said to me “It would be my honor to sign your CD.” I told him that it was my intention to make sure he and the other new members felt welcome. So we gleefully went on a conversation about Winterlong’s four releases, which could have turned into its own amazing interview. Thobbie picked my brain as to what I thought about the 2006 release “Metal/Technology” and how it was so different than anything he had done before. I picked his brain as to how he came to meet Sabaton, to whom he didn’t know (much to my surprise) before he received the call. As it turns out, Englund’s girlfriend of ten years left him so he packed up two guitars and a bag of clothes and travelled twelve hours south to Falun.
Just like a kid who found a sealed original Boba Fett action figure, Thobbie grabbed my CD and called over Nocturnal Rites guitarist Chris Rörland, who joined the circle of band members around me, save for Joakim Brodén, who was directing traffic and signing autographs. I informed Chris that I searched high and low for the Cronian “Enterprise” CD that he guested on (since he hadn’t yet played on any Nocturnal Rites CD as of yet), but was unable to find one in stock. However, he was just as shocked to see the Winterlong CD and came over to have an inspection, while Thobbie was telling him that the guitar candelabra pictured on the back side of the booklet was on his desk back home in Sweden.
After the festivities it was time to secure a front spot at the stage, the one saving grace of the upstairs portion of The Palladium. If you are lucky to get early entry and get front stage at this location, you mind as well be on stage. I found a spot nestled on the left (band right) side of the stage, where the amplifier made for a comfortable back rest for what would be a neck breaking show. I was even lucky enough to have a ledge for the many spoils of war that I obtained, but now thankfully didn’t have to hold. Free from everything but my camera phone, I awaited a band that I longed to see for years. The crowd funneled in and on my last look back it appeared the hall was just about over half full. Small as it was, it was a typical crowd at the Palladium, a learned bunch who unleashes a force of a crowd five times our size.
The lights dimmed at 8:10pm and Europe’s “The Final Countdown” blasted forth. I led the first chant of “Sabaton…Sabaton,” which showed the true force of what this crowd would unleash. The appearance of new drummer Robban Bäck, barefooted like Nikko McBrain, caused the crowd to erupt. In trademark fashion, the band started “Ghost Division” from the back before running out on stage like the famous panzer brigade that is the subject of the opener. Almost on impact, the band was shocked at the force from the smaller crowd, which had Thobbie and Chris wide-eyed, Pär grinning from ear to ear and Joakim shaking his head in surprise. To give perspective of my viewpoint, Englund and Sundström were just about nose to nose with me, so we often sang, pointed, fist pumped and laughed in spite of each other. Joakim was exactly the amazing frontman I was expecting to see, having the crowd laughing at his usual live antics (which included having the crowd perform "YMCA" and telling the crowd the mark of a good show is being able to throw your sweaty undergarments against the wall and have it stick).
As the band rumbled through a great set consisting of a myriad of great hits (“Uprising,” “40-1,” “Cliffs of Gallipoli”), Joakim introduced “Midway,” which was added to the set after requests from the fans from the band’s last North American tour in support of Accept. Those paying attention would have picked up the one Joakim snafu when he sang the last two lines of the second verse as the last two of the first verse, but it is these little things that make live shows so great. All keyboard parts were piped in through the amps from a computer in the back as the band played along perfectly.
There were a couple of crowd moments deserve special attention. One member of the crowd shocked Joakim when he handed him a Swedish army jacket. A stunned Broden said “This….this is Swedish! Can I wear this during the next song? I promise I will return it to you much wetter than it is now.” With that the band played “Carolus Rex.” During the song, I readied my next attack when I pulled my now autographed Swedish flag and draped it over the monitor. When the song ended and Joakim announced that the next song was also about Sweden (“Swedish Pagans”), I began to wave the flag. Joakim noticed and he grabbed the flag and posed with Thobbie and it during the song. It was a priceless moment I will never forget. I’ll also note that responses to my yelling newer track names did not go without laughter from Joakim along with the “stop yelling out tracks we haven’t even released yet!”
In yet another priceless moment, Joakim noticed a child in the front by the other side of the stage. In a soft voice, he said “Hi, what is your name.” The girl replied “Anna.” Joakim said “Well Anna, is this your first heavy metal show.” The girl answered in the affirmative as the crowd roared in delight. He passed on his sunglasses to the girl. At that point the band erupted into “Attero Dominatus.”
Perhaps the funniest moment of the night was when Joakim asked the crowd the same question all foreign bands ask when they play the Palladium: “How exactly do you pronounce the name of this fucking town?” The crowd said (phonetically) “Wuhster.” I shouted in reply, “Its WARchester” to the laughter of Jocke. The mohawked frontman went on to tell the crowd that over the course of this tour, the band has found that Americans were “much nicer than the rest of the world thinks” because never once did anyone give the “new guys the finger.” The band rounded out the set with “The Price of a Mile,” “Coat of Arms,” “Primo Victoria” and “Metal Crüe.”
It was truly a night to remember for both the band and the fans. To this fan, the night would be one I will never forget. The battle plan was executed to perfection and the band’s war machine lit up the small Palladium crowd. One fan’s cry summed up the night to a tee when he shouted “it’s all about the quality, not the quantity.” Like the subject of the yet to be released song “Killing Ground,” the small army of the Palladium could take on a force four times its size much to the shock of the five Swedish warriors.
Carl Frederick is a staff writer for Metal Underground.com. From the early to mid-90's, Carl published his own fanzine called C.R.O.M. In 1997, he released a compilation entitled "CROM: The Resurrection of True Metal," which featured songs from bands from around the world, including the first U.S. release of any kind for bands like Italy's Rhapsody (n/k/a Rhapsody of Fire) and Brazil's Angra. Follow Carl on Facebook and Twitter: @CROMCarl.
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