Sabaton – headline
The Great Swedish Tour 2023 leg – 2 –
Hulkoff – support act
Sparbanken Skåne Arena
25/2 – 2023
Live review and pictures by: Anders Sandvall
As if the grand 30-gig tour through Sweden last year wasn’t enough, Sabaton booked another 20 shows in different cities in Sweden that they didn’t visit last time, and of course most of the shows were sold out as soon as they were announced. Sabaton is currently one of the biggest metal acts we have in Sweden at the moment and I can’t remember a band that managed to sell almost all of the 50 shows they booked. The band is on tour to celebrate the birthday of their album CAROLUS REX, which will be 20 years old in 2021.
I had the opportunity to see the band at their last show of the tour, which took place in the city of Lund on a Saturday. The arena holds about 4000 people and most of the tickets were sold out. The support act Hulkoff was supposed to go on stage at 7:30 pm, Sabaton one hour later and the doors opened at 6:30 pm. It was possible to buy tickets that guaranteed an early entrance, about 30 minutes before everyone else, and these tickets cost 150 SEK more than the regular tickets.
When I arrived about 60 minutes before the doors opened, there was already a long line in front of the arena. After some problems with getting my press pass, there was another one. The organizers said that the show would be filmed, which meant that there was no room for photographers in the photo pit during the first three songs. A camera on wheels was placed there to film the bands. This meant that me and the rest of the photographers were told to take pictures standing among the fans. This meant that we would have our hands and phones in the way of taking pictures. Well that was a big disappointment and there was no information given to the fans that the show was going to be filmed.
There was nothing on stage but a drum set and microphones waiting for Hulkoff to start his show, and finally the lights went down and it was time for the opening act to kick off the night.
“Sigragaldr” started the show and as soon as the band entered the stage the fans were screaming at the top of their lungs. “Holmgång” followed immediately and just as I expected it was really hard to take pictures standing in the crowd. I was standing in the fourth row and people in front of me were jumping up and down and throwing their hands in the air. Hulkoff thanked the fans and said it was nice to be back in southern Sweden. “Ingvar” followed and both Hulkoff and bassist Johansson moved around the stage encouraging the fans to go crazy. Hulkoff said that the night was being recorded, but that he didn’t know the purpose of it. Are you ready for some Swedish Viking metal, he asked and launched into “Till Valhall”.
“Hammarslag” followed immediately and it was obvious that the fans were longing for the band’s music. Everyone sang for a long time and supported the band throughout the show and it seemed that the band really appreciated the response they got from the fans. “Uldin” and “Dragonrider” continued the show, after which Hulkoff said that the band had a really nice time on the road with Sabaton. Despite the fact that the band had done a sick amount of shows, both on the first leg of the tour as well as on this second leg, there was no sign that the guys were tired or anything like that. The show continued at a furious pace and “Blood and Iron” was dedicated to all the fans in the arena that night. Hulkoff introduced the band members and when he came to bass player Karl Johansson he said that he is a legend in the making, his father is already a legend and his name is Anders Johansson and he played drums with Yngwie Malmsteen and another band called Hammerfall. “Einherjer” followed and Hulkoff thanked the Sabaton crew and named everyone working behind the stage in English. The next song was originally dedicated to his son, but on this night it was also dedicated to everyone in the arena, “Scyth” was the next song and this song also ended the show for the band.
The show lasted about 40 minutes and Hulkoff is always fun to see live. The sound was great, but the lights could have been better and with all the smoke on stage and all the hands in front of me it was hard to take pictures. Hulkoff is the perfect band to open for Sabaton, the band everyone has been waiting for.
Blood and Iron
The crew immediately started preparing the stage for Sabaton. They took away Hulkoff’s equipment and behind a curtain Sabaton’s equipment was already placed and positioned. On both sides of the drums there were two columns with two mannequins dressed as old Swedish warriors. The backline looked really nice and fit perfectly to the music we were about to hear. It felt like the band had put some thought into it and the time went by pretty fast and suddenly the clock read 8:30 and it was time for the night’s headliner to enter the stage.
The intro consisted of songs from the CAROLUS REX album in orchestral versions and the fans started singing the lyrics to the songs. As soon as the intro was over, the band members ran out on stage and fired off “The Lion From The North” in a Swedish version as the first song. Needless to say, the sing-a-long was a fact from the beginning and continued throughout the show. This was followed by “Gott Mitt Uns” in a Swedish version which made the fans ecstatic. The parts of the song originally sung by legendary producer Peter Tägtgren (Hypocrisy, Pain) were taken over live by guitarists Rörland and Johansson. Sabaton is;
Joakim Brodén – lead vocals
Pär Sundström – bass
Chris Rörland – guitar
Hannes Van Dahl – drums
Tommy Johansson – guitar
If it was hard to get shots of Hulkoff, it was even harder to get shots of Sabaton because of all the hands waving in the air and people constantly filming with their cell phones. “Bismark” followed and all members moved around the stage to connect with the fans at the front of the stage. It was full speed ahead from the beginning and it was obvious that the band was comfortable on stage and they all felt really relaxed. Brodén asked how the fans were doing and if they were ready to hear “The Red Baron”.
The band, just like Hulkoff, didn’t show any signs of tiredness or whatever, it was full speed ahead from the beginning and the guys really showed a lot of energy until the end. “Dreadnaught” from the band’s latest album THE WAR TO END ALL WARS followed and even though it is a more recent song, the fans all sang along and it felt like the fans got an energy boost when they heard the song. When the fans started to shout Sabaton Sabaton singer Brodén smiled and thanked the fans. It’s so much fun to be here tonight, he said, and it’s nice to be back in Lund, here’s “The Last Stand”.
Drummer Van Dahl took the mic and said the band wanted to thank everyone for coming to the show, it means the world to us that you and everyone who has seen us on tour have our backs. We are so grateful for your support, here is “Soldier Of Heaven”. And once again, even though the song is from the latest album, the fans sang along. “The Attack Of The Dead Men” followed and the band left the stage while the fans chanted Sabaton Sabaton. When the members returned, they were wearing gas masks and Brodén had a flamethrower on his back. But instead of fire it threw smoke, they all left the stage again and an intro was played over the speakers. After a short while the members came out wearing army coats like the soldiers of the old Swedish king Charles XII had and it was time for the band to play one of their biggest hits in “Carolus Rex”. Brodén let the fans take over the chorus and I have to say that the Swedish version of the song is stronger than the English version. He wanted everyone in the arena to sing along with “The Carolean’s Prayer”, which of course everyone did, and it was actually a pretty magical moment to experience.
Since you are at Lifetime of War” Brodén said and when he heard the enthusiastic crowd singing he smiled and looked really happy. The band took off the army coats and Brodén asked if the fans wanted to hear some older songs, the old “Primo Victoria” set the fans on fire and it felt like the roof was going to blow off. But even though the temperature rose quite a bit during the show, it never got too hot or sweaty inside, which was good. It was fun to hear the old classic “Primo Victoria” from the band’s 2005 debut album live again. For some reason the guys are now focusing more on playing the newer songs and leaving the older ones behind. To date the band has released 10 studio albums and CAROLUS REX have sold 120,000 copies in Sweden alone, which is quite impressive.
As a piano came on stage, Sundström took the mic and thanked everyone for coming to see the show, it means a lot to us, he said. When we planned the first leg of the tour through Sweden, a lot of people said we couldn’t do it, but we did it and we sold out most of the shows. And when we said we were going to add 20 more shows in 2023, people thought we were out of our minds. But we did it anyway and I don’t know any other band that did what we just did. It just goes to show that you have to follow your dream and don’t listen to negative people trying to put you down. Thanks to all of you, we couldn’t have done it without you.
Brodén sat down at the piano and it was time for “Christmas Truce”, a popular ballad from the new album. And it was quite nice that the tempo slowed down a bit, it felt like both the band and the fans needed to take a breather from the furious and energetic speed. Personally I don’t think it’s the best song the band has written, but again it was nice to get a chance to breathe and slow down the tempo. Johansson played a shorter solo leading up to “Swedish Pagans” and the electricity between the band and the fans was restored.
The members seemed to have a great time together on stage, joking around with each other, and Johansson started to play a few notes of the Shakira song “Whenever, Wherever”, which turned into “I Want It That Way” by the Backstreet Boys, as well as “Highway To Hell” by AC/DC. Brodén laughed when he heard Johansson’s jukebox session: “Thank you Lund, we had a great time tonight and we’ll keep this in our hearts. Your support means a lot to us. “To Hell And Back” closed the show and as the members took off their instruments, the fans gave them a warm farewell as they left the stage.
The show lasted 1 hour and 45 minutes and what a show the band gave the fans. It was full of energy, speed, fun and heart. The band always delivers when they are on stage, but this particular show was exceptional, it was nothing short of a showcase of how top notch melodic power metal should be done. The setlist was perfect with a great mix of both older and newer songs and once again I was struck by how solid each and every CAROLUS REX song is. Sabaton move from clarity to clarity with their music and it felt like the band was having as much fun on stage as the fans below them on the floor. The guys felt humbled by the fact that they are nothing without their fans and they give everything to make sure the fans have a great live experience that night.
The 50 shows the band played on this two-legged tour were seen by a total of 80,000 people! That must be some kind of Swedish record. I tip my hat in awe to the mighty Sabaton!
Next up for Sabaton is a European tour, the tour was originally postponed due to the pandemic, but now it’s Europe’s time to enjoy some fine Swedish Melodic Power Metal. They will be joined by Babymetal and Lordi and the tour will start in April/May.
The Carolean’s Prayer/Gott Mitt Uns/A Lifetime Of War/Carolus Rex – intro 1
Dominium Maris Baltici – intro 2
The Lion From The North – Swedish version
Gott Mitt Uns – Swedish version
The Red Baron
The Last Stand
Solider Of Heaven
The Attack Of the Dean Men
Interluder – Carolus Rex Swedish version
The Carolean’s Prayer – Swedish version
A Lifetime Of War – Swedish version
Whenever, Wherever – I Want It That Way, Highway To Hell – short medley
To Hell And Back
Dead Soldier’s Waltz – outro
Monster’s Of The World – outro
Thanks to head of Kulturbolaget Totte Lundgren for help with press/photo pass to the show.
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