Gig Review: Sabaton / Babymetal / Lordi – Hydro, Glasgow (18th April 2023)

When Sabaton come to town, you know you’re in for a treat. When they lug along two headline-worthy supports you know your ticket money is going to be cash very well spent indeed. After our interview with Tommy and a rushed “dinner” in the local McD’s we made it into the venue just in time for Finland’s Lordi to take their rubbery steps onto the huge stage.

Lordi (c) Katie Frost

What we were treated to was great opening act entertainment. I’m not a massive fan of the band, their music is a little run-of-the-mill for my tastes, but they’re a very different thing live. The songs really come to life with Mr Lordi parading the stage. Unusually for a support act, especially an opener and emphasising that they’re a decent sized band in their own right, a fair bit of time was spent on audience interaction. Openers often try and cram in as many of their songs as they can into a limited set time, but with a generous slot and a sizeable number of fans throughout the audience already Lordi took the time to make a show of it.

And what a show! I’m glad they engaged with the crowd as Mr Lordi is good at it. Not taking things too seriously, and with a nice line in self-effacing humour, he was genuinely entertaining and raised as many laughs as the audience raised horns during the music. Songwise we were treated to a nice mix of old and new, with new album Screem Writers Guild getting three tracks into the mix. No surprises, though, that the audient were awaiting “that” song, which rounded things off. You can’t beat “Hard Rock Hallelujah” to get the fists pumping.

I think the last time the band played in Glasgow they headlined the Classic Grand. Looking at the number of hands in the air throughout the folk on the ground floor, they could certainly consider an upgrade next time. Maybe the main hall of SWG3?

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Lordi’s backdrop was removed, some stupidly bright light and another backdrop were bolted into place and a short while later the unbridled lunacy that is Babymetal flew into action. Babymetal are a bit of a marmite band and I can certainly understand why. Their music alone is enough to divide opinions, but the live show adds to the arguments.

Lordi (c) Katie Frost

I liked it. Absolutely hands down, I liked it. The songs were mental, the dancing wonderfully choreographed and bizarre, and the light show was all that was needed to emphasise it. What does need pointing out, though, is that the band is more than just the three ladies fronting it. Sure, they’re the focus, but ladies and gentlemen… the anonymous musicians. Good grief, they’re awesome! Lined up wearing facemasks, they were essentially stationery for the whole show, but the noise they made was incredible. Most noticeable was the drummer who was a damn machine.

Babymetal on the stereo at home are OK, but the sound tonight did them a lot of favours. It sounded more downtuned, bassy and punchy and made their entire set far more metal than baby. Their seven-song set seemed to be over far too quickly, but it was just packed with glittery costumes and hard riffs. What astounded me was at the end of the set where the audience were being thanked was that the singers didn’t even seem out of breath. Say what you like about their music or appearance, they’re physically stupidly fit and put on one hell of a unique show. It’s only a shame there was no big screen and camera so we could see the performers in all their glory. We were sat a bit back in the accessible seating with a good overall view, but it would have been nice to see more.

“Gimme Chocolate!!” was probably the best song from their set with it’s Jekyll/Hyde mix of brutal beats and candy store vocals. It’s just a shame we didn’t get a guest appearance from Joakim and a rendition of “Oh! MAJINAI” but you can’t be greedy.

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Mind, we didn’t have long to wait until the main man himself and Sabaton as a whole appeared on stage. A huge stage. With the biggest single backdrop I think I’ve ever seen. And a massive set of letters proclaiming “THE TOUR TO END ALL TOURS” which turned out to be part of the light show.

Sabaton (c) Katie Frost

After what seemed a slight issue with the pre-recorded intro, it was no surprise to have “Ghost Division” blast out as the traditional opening song. Barely even up to the first chorus and Joakim was at the end of on-stage japery as multiple guitar picks were stuck to his sweaty scalp. “Bismarck” and the ridiculously bouncy “The Last Stand” followed as the biggest Sabaton show that Glasgow has ever seen laid waste to the assembled masses. “Into The Fire” was introduced as being an old and fast number and such it is. It actually sounds a bit out of place amongst the newer, more heavily produced material but the audience lapped it up nonetheless.

The aforementioned big letters lit up blue and yellow as Sabaton visited their own nation’s history for “Carolus Rex” – in Swedish. I found myself singing along with the English lyrics seeing as I don’t know my Å from my Ä! Reversing the viewpoint, we next got a song unique amongst the UK tour setlists. Where all the other dates featured “The Winged Hussars” it would have been remiss of Sabaton to not include “Blood of Bannockburn” when they were playing Scotland. No surprises, like when The Darkness opened their recent show here with “Welcome Tae Glasgae”, the audience went absolutely mental.

By this point I’d noticed the one tiny issue with tonight’s show – the sound. Like Alter Bridge a few weeks ago, the headline act’s sound was clicked up a point above the supports’ and this took it just into “distorting annoyingly” territory. Things may have been better had I remembered my earplugs, but it was the only downside in an otherwise superb evening’s entertainment.

The stage show was embellished by short acted sections as well as the usual flames, gunfire, fireworks, sparklers, explosions, smoke and so on. A brief segment detailing the events in “Sarajevo” led into “Stormtroopers” and then one of the absolute highlights of a wonderful evening. When they dropped the video for “1916” last week, I noted that it was probably my favourite Motorhead track, and that Sabaton had indeed done it justice. I still didn’t expect it to appear in their setlist, as it’s a cover. Consider me absolutely overjoyed that it was slapped right in the middle.

Sabaton (c) Katie Frost

“Soldier of Heaven” is another welcome addition to the setlist from the most recent album, but even more recent is “Father” which debuted on one of the three EPs which came out over recent months. This performance featured a small cast portraying Fritz Haber and associated developing the chemical weaponry that led to the events told in “The Attack of the Dead Men” which followed. A natural pairing of songs which really cemented the effort and ideas that go into a Sabaton show.

Rounding off the main set was another surprise -“The Christmas Truce” – the climax to which was a shower of glitter, sparkles and tape. Absolutely mindblowing.

Obviously, things couldn’t end there. More flames and laughs took us through the mandatory “Primo Victoria” and “Swedish Pagans” before the familiar whistled intro let us all know we’d made it “To Hell And Back” and the show reluctantly came to an incredible climax. Little propaganda leaflets were dumped on the crowd as the band posed on stage for the traditional “look at the audience we just played for” photo and several thousand people wished there was time for just another ten or fifteen songs.

Every time I see Sabaton it’s the best Sabaton show to date. This was no exception. I’ve seen so many bands in my time, I’ve been left in absolute raptures by many… but I honestly don’t think there’s a better show than the one that our Swedish friends put on. Yeah, OK, Rammstein probably just about pip them in terms of scale. But roll on the next time. I really don’t know how they’ll make it any better. But they will.

Photos by Katie Frost Photography

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