Show: Sabaton with support from Apocalyptica and Amaranthe
Venue: Wembley Arena, London
Dates: 8th February 2020
When this show was first announced and tickets were released, I had no plans to go. Sabaton are one of my favourite bands, especially to see live, but they were headlining Bloodstock later that year (2019), and for me, London is a big expense. I have to pay for travel and at least one night in a hotel, preferably 2 so I’m not travelling down the same day as the show. Then Sabaton ruined my plans. They released The Great War in July and well, I had to buy a show ticket the same day, didn’t I?
I got lucky with travel and accommodation. I got a really reasonable hotel room for 2 nights about 5 minutes away from the venue, and a cheap train ticket there and coach ticket back. The whole adventure was going to cost me a lot less than I originally expected. Including food and the ticket, the entire weekend cost me less than £250, most of which was paid over several months due to booking the travel and accommodation early.
I didn’t have my reviewer hat on for this show, but it is my first show on 2020, and I just had to document the experience!
The Main Event
I arrived at Wembley straight after work on the Friday, and got myself a good night’s rest before what had become known as Sabaton Day. I had a leisurely morning getting ready, and then headed off to meet some acquaintances for a few pre-drinks before heading over to the venue. (Thanks to Double Six Sports Bar for having Sabaton on the juke box and putting up with our terrible singing!)
Wembley Arena is a big venue, as the name might suggest, but it was surprisingly easy to get close to the stage, and by the time Sabaton were on, I had reached one person away from the barrier, and I could SEE THE STAGE!!! Well, I could see as much as possible over the pyro setup, and for me, it’s a miracle because I’m a little bit vertically challenged…
I have to admit, I had heard of Amaranthe before they were announced as support, but I wasn’t amazed at what I had heard on record. However, seeing them live was a completely different story. During the set, I couldn’t help but get into the music and the beat and start dancing along with everyone else. They had an amazing stage presence, the heavy bass and mix between full on pop music and crushing metal worked so well, and the three different vocal styles added the cherry on top. Because we’re talking about their live performance here, if I ever saw Amaranthe on a festival or gig line-up, I would definitely take the time out to watch them live again. For me, their music is definitely more suited to a club or venue with a really good bass mix, which unfortunately headphones can’t do justice to.
I had seen Apocalyptica once before at Download Festival at Donington Park, UK a few years ago, but I find with festivals that for bands such as Apocalyptica, it’s not the best place to see bands that have more intricate and deeper meanings in the music. I find that if there isn’t a catchy singalong chorus or something to really headbang to, people aren’t interested. This time was very different. Almost everyone was captured by the performance in front of them. There was a mix of classical, orignal, and cover songs to keep everyone engaged, and a good mix of faster and more heavy tracks and calmer, more emotive music.
Although mostly instrumental, they were some vocals by the band, and they also invited Elize Ryd from Amaranthe to sing a couple of tracks with them too. The Metallica covers and Hall of the Mountain King seemed to go down particularly well with the crowd.
The things that these guys were doing with cellos were amazing. A lot of the time if you weren’t watching the stage, you would believe that there were guitars on stage and not cellos, who knew cellos could be so metal???!!!
It was Sabaton time. The main event. As soon as Apocalyptica left the stage, the giant “The Great War” screen went back up, as a large crew work efficiently and effectively to get the stage ready for the heavy metal titans. The backing track during the interval was orchestral, instrumental versions of Sabaton tracks, which only built the anticipation. It really did not seem like 40 minutes until the lights dimmed and everyone was ready for one of the best live bands on the circuit to take to the stage.
It soon became explosively clear as to what a lot of the stage design was. It got HOT in there, and Sabaton literally set the stage on fire. There were flames at the front of the stage, flames at the back, flames coming out of the tank, and even out of the bazooka that Joakim lovingly aimed at the literal tank of a drum kit and poor Hannes.
We were treated to an array of Sabaton tracks across the years, and there was never a lull in the atmosphere. There never is when Sabaton come to the UK, they are certainly loved when they come here to play. Even when our language skills were (quite rightly) picked on by Joakim, with “IKEA!” sung to the tune of Swedish Pagans, we still loved it.
The perfomance of Attack of the Dead Men was a particular highlight for me; the band wearing gas masks with the perfect lighting to reflect the mood of the song made for a chilling moment. We were treated to a couple of songs from Carolus Rex (which I would have loved to have heard in Swedish), and I don’t envy the band who were wearing military coats for those tracks with all the fire everywhere.
Apocalyptica joined Sabaton on stage for several songs, starting with Angels Calling which was released as a collaboration on YouTube a couple of months ago. They stayed on for a few more songs including Fields of Verdun, and the chemistry between the two bands was absolutely incredible. Apocalyptica were throwing around their cellos just as hard as Sabaton were throwing around their guitars. I felt privileged to watch that live on stage.
Of course, no Sabaton show now would be complete without Swedish Pagans, and it was definitely a Sabaton show, I don’t think there was a single person in that arena that wasn’t singing along.
I am completely blaming Sabaton for forcing me to go to this show when they released The Great War last year. I was going to be content and save some money in the process by just seeing their incredible headline set at Bloodstock last year, but no. I had to see them at Wembley Arena as well.
AS some longer time readers will know, in April last year I became very mentally unwell and it manifested itself in part as some horrendous anxiety in crowds, especially when there is little or no way out. This was the first large indoor gig I had been to where I was standing after this breakdown, and I did think about asking security if there was anywhere I could sit instead.
I am glad I didn’t. My anxiety and panic eases to tolerable levels when Amaranthe and Apocalyptica were on stage, but as soon as Sabaton arrived, all that fear melted away. I was very close to the stage, and knew I had thousands of people behind me, but I wasn’t scared, I was there, in the moment, and I was singing, shouting, dancing, headbanging, and jumping through the entire set. I definitely suffered the next morning with aching feet, legs, and arms, but mentally I was great. I would love to be able to thank Sabaton in person for an amazing night where I conquered some of my inner mental demons, but I hope this review from a small review site run by little old me goes a little way to doing that.
Guess who’s going to endeavour to never miss a Sabaton tour again?