It’s a bit of a surprise when you go to the pinboard in the office to get your ticket for a gig then realise that there are two stuck up there. Annoyingly, Gillian had a shedload of work to do that she couldn’t put by. One quick phone call to a local dinosaur meant that the ticket would not be wasted, however, and Dean and I headed into the city just in time to get parked and join the horrifically long queue outside the Garage.
Fifteen minutes later, we managed to get in (just as they decided to only search people with bags otherwise those at the tail end would have barely caught the encore at the close of the evening) and saw around four minutes of opening band Wisdom. A crying shame as they sounded pretty good, much like (and I credit Mike for this description) Manowar with Bruce Dickinson on vocals. Maybe I’ll catch them again at another gig when I can actually get into a venue in reasonable time.
A short set change later saw an impressive sight for the small-ish Garage stage – eight-piece Swiss folk metal band Eluveitie. All the more impressive given that they only had half the stage to work with as Sabaton‘s kit was already set up behind theirs. Say what you like about folk metal, I’ve all the time in the world for anyone who can play about a dozen instruments and it seems that being multi-talented is a prerequisite for joining this ensemble.
I may miss some out here, or get names wrong, but do please bear with me. I spotted a hurdy gurdy, violin, two vocalists, bagpipe, flute, recorder, two guitars, bass, drums, piccolo, harp, lute, and two instruments I couldn’t even think of naming including one with a horned skull embedded in it. If there was an obvious problem with this orchestra it was that there was no hope for the poor sound tech to ensure that all the instruments were mixed as well as they would be in a studio, but he did his best.
Not my cup of extinct Gaulish tea, but they got a rousing reception (deservedly do) and will undoubtedly appeal to fans of the likes of Ensiferum. My taste in folk metal leans more heavily towards early Skyclad which is a bit more rock and less death metal.
Sabaton themselves took to the stage at a worryingly late hour as I assumed there would be a 10pm curfew. Thankfully this wasn’t the case as they chose to play the entire of Europe’s “The Final Countdown” as their introduction. Guys, the opening minute would have been perfect! And have given you time for another song! Anyway, that was the only whinge of the evening.
Their first Scottish appearance since they opened for Dragonforce in 2006 has seen them rise from “who?” to venue-fillers and deservedly so. Their performance is energetic, varied, humorous and fast-paced. Their music, with its lyrical grounding in many historical events, panders to the prides of many nations and it was no surprise to see the Polish flags and scarves going mental when “40:1” was pounded out near the start of the set.
Indeed, the band pandered to the home crowd with Saltire-backprinted t-shirts on sale downstairs and Braveheart-esque blue face and body paint well applied. And kilts. Which were worn in the traditional manner as evidenced at the end of their set!
The three new members were introduced to the crowd late in the concert to a lot of well-deserved cheering. For a band to lose four of six members in one go and then continue is pretty impressive and the replacements certainly fit in very well.
They went through a few tracks from the new album Carolus Rex including one track (“The Carolean’s Prayer”) in Swedish. Joakim thought he would get away with any lyrical mistakes until he spotted a sizeable group of Swedes near the front of the stage… very much an international evening at the Garage! The set-list was not set in stone, with the band twice pausing to give the audience a choice of two or three songs to pick from. I can attest that on both occasions the band went with the title that gained the loudest cheer.
As I’m sure the photos will prove, the band battered their way through the set with big cheesy grins plastered on their faces which mirrored those of the crowd. Joakim is a great front man, quite happy to rattle off a quick story without taking up too much time and without pandering too much to the stereotypical bits of speech used by pretty much every rock band in the world ever.
He also showed himself to be quite the musician as well, taking to the keyboard briefly (playing some Van Halen and Abba). The whole band performed as if they’d been together for years, not just months and they left the crowd, as the manual states they should, begging for more. My only complaint was a lack of “Screaming Eagles”. Oh, and “The Price of a Mile”. OK, and about four or five others. It’s not my fault their back-catalogue is filled with so many good songs.
An absolutely superb set from a great band who I can’t wait to see again.