Barely ten months since their last appearance on our shores, Sabaton appear once again to regale us with tales of courage and warfare as part of a gruelling touring schedule in the midst of which they’ve released an album and added a band member. This date almost didn’t happen – there was only supposed to be a London show due to the cost of the production – but Sabaton being Sabaton, they didn’t want to let the fans down so a handful more were added.
With them they brought German legends Accept and hometown friends Twilight Force, as ever providing a good package for the pennies. The icy wind and cold rain outside made for an unpleasant queue for the doors to open, but it didn’t take long for things to warm up inside.
Mel reviewed Twilight Force’s Heroes of Mighty Magic last year when it was released and I personally enjoyed it when I had the chance to give it a listen. Still, I wasn’t expecting the cast of Lord of the Rings to stroll on stage as the six costumed members crammed themselves into a tiny area right at the front. So cramped, in fact, that singer Chrileon managed to bop one of his bandmates on the head at the end of the first song when he stretched his arms out.
A lack of space didn’t make for a lack of entertainment, though. Despite some awful sound – which made the first half of the set pretty much a garbled mess passed through an empty concert hall walled with bathroom tiles (even my eight year old son said after the gig that it was “rubbish”) – they put on a good performance. Even when the music was inaudible, you could tell that Twilight Force are fun. They’re playing it for laughs and drama as much as raised fists… and they got plenty of them.
Though the venue wasn’t full for them, it was well-populated and the number of people punching the air and clapping along was pleasant to see from our seats above the action (safer for a tired little boy!). Moreso were the decent number in the crowd who obviously knew the words to some songs. Twilight Force are a band who would do well in a small venue over here at the moment – Cathouse, Garage… somewhere like that. Their songs are good, they’ve got a great rapport with the crowd and they just need a chance to get their sound sorted (not their fault) and some more room to move. Reminiscent of a fledgling Gloryhammer, they’ve got the makings of a very entertaining stage show.
Second Opinion – Twilight Force (by Mel)
After seeing Twilight force last Autumn as a support for Sonata Arctica I was very much looking forward to the openers! Even though this time I could only experience 6 tunes, the setlist was more than worth it, including my favourite tune off Heroes Of Mighty Magic “Riders of the Dawn” and the classic “Power of the Ancient Force” from their debut album. The band always keeps their mystical atmosphere throughout the songs and although the sound was a little fuzzy, I still made out the lyrics and music and enjoyed them to the fullest.
The crowd reception from the crowd was surprisingly good and the audience were in sync with the band. No matter how short the set, Twilight Force always know how to take you into the magical lands of magic and dragons. After two shows as openers, I simply cannot wait for the announcement of a headline tour in the future! (9/10)
The sound was very much repaired by the time Accept came on. Much as they were also forced a little towards the front of the stage, they had a bit more room for maneuver and Christopher Williams’ mighty drumkit gave him a towering view over the audience from the left.
Opening with a massive gong crash and “Stampede” they didn’t hold back during their entire hour-long set. This is the second time I’ve seen them play – the last time was Graspop some years ago – and though I’d not class myself as a fan, I can see why people would be. They ooze experience and quality, chucking out tunes that make you want to sing along and bang your head to the beat.
With a simple stage set, the focus was on the band and they spent plenty of time in Quo-esque poses and synchronised guitar swinging. Essentially, they did the best job of putting on a “show” with nothing more fancy that some stage smoke and a backdrop that a band could do.
Mark did seem to be struggling on the high notes a little during one or two songs – “Metal Heart” sticks in the mind – so here’s hoping it’s just a cold or something. Certainly it didn’t take anything away from my enjoyment of the show, which climaxed with about the only song by the band I really know – “Balls to the Wall”. If the roar they got as they wound up was any indication, this is a band who’d be welcomed back for a headlining show any time.
Second Opinion – Accept (by Mel)
After Seeing Accept back in 2015 at the German festival Rock Im Revier I was very hyped for this show! Accept are one of those bands which sound great on CD but ten times better (and heavier!) live, and I’ve got to say I was not disappointed…
From Blind Rage‘s heavy tunes such as “Fast as a Shark” to the old school classics such as “Balls to the Wall” the band gave every ounce of energy and power! The well known catchy lyrics could only bring you to a big and cheerful headbang and it is needless to say Wolf Hoffman is truly a jaw-dropping guitarist with every solo being more powerful and technical than the last. I could never have enough of watching him play!
The crowd just like Twilight Force was very receptive and loud throughout all songs and even brought goosebumps to me during “Metal Heart”‘s amazing “Fur Elise” solo with the loud and passionate singing from both the band and the audience. I must say that will make “Metal Heart” the highlight of this entire show for me, and by the time Accept walked off stage, I knew they had stolen the show! (10/10)
Mind you, Accept’s closing roar was dwarfed by the one which welcomed Sabaton. Ever the entertainers, they managed to squeeze an impressive amount on to the Academy stage, with a tank front and centre playing host to Hannes’ drums. Backing him was one of the clearest video screens I’ve ever seen at a gig which was used from beginning to end to display lyric videos and other backdrops. It really added to the show. If you want the crowd to sing along, bang the words for the chorus up in six foot letters!
The set was very different from the one back in March, focusing heavily on new release The Last Stand. Opener “Ghost Division” blew the cobwebs away before two new tracks – “Sparta” (featuring members of Twilight Force as hoplites!) and “Shiroyama” were unveiled. Both were accompanied with great background videos and the band were in their usual form, running about, posing for photos and all beaming huge Swedish smiles.
The Last Stand is a little bit of a mixed bag for me, with some outstanding songs as well as a few that are just kind of… there. Sabaton picked six to regale us with tonight, and every one went down well. Some are definitely better live than on the album, though I would have written a letter of complaint if they’d not included the excellent title track. I can put my poison pen letter away, though, as it was present and very well received.
Sadly we were without pyro (I gather London is the only venue getting that due to venue restrictions), but what we did get was yet another brilliant show from Sabaton. As ever, they always try to come up with something new. So as well as a fresh-from-the-wrapper guitarist (who looked like he’d been in the band for years), we got… an acoustic number. “The Final Solution” was done with new guy Tommy on keyboards, the rest of the bands on acoustic versions of their usual kit and Joakim on “shaky egg thing”. They picked the perfect number to do in this style, given the subject matter and the lowered background music lent Joakim’s vocals even more poignancy.
Given that we were watching the Glasgow show, there was no surprise that “Blood of Bannockburn” was on the setlist though, unlike the Dublin show and others in Europe, it was shifted into the encore. If the audience were flagging at this point, they sure as hell weren’t once the song kicked in! There’s a rule at the Academy that the first few rows of the balcony have to remain seated (safety, visibility… whatever). The poor lass on security detail had her work put out getting bums back in seats during this number! I appreciate it’s a song that split fans when it was released on YouTube as it’s quite keyboardy and a bit too different for some. Trust me, though – and this is coming from an Englishman – it works live. It really works live!
By this stage my son was fighting off sleep, but absolutely refusing to leave until the band finished – which they did with a powerful rendition of “To Hell And Back”. As the band took their deserved bow and the woman in yellow tried to stop people giving a standing ovation (I think she was close to giving up – I hope she did, I felt sorry for her!) we disappeared into the cold and wet to head home. One to bed, one to write up a review of yet another incredible performance from one of the most reliable and entertaining bands going these days.
As one person wrote in a comment to Joakim’s “thank you” video online – “Ten months is too long. Can you come back again next week?”
Photos by Coops Gig Photography