February 9 2018, The Wiltern, Los Angeles CA: Sabaton, still high from releasing a very successful record ‘The Last Stand’ and touring internationally to support it, came back to Los Angeles for a full headlining set, to much anticipation amongst metalheads in town. German heavyweights Kreator were performing as the co-headline act scheduled second to last on stage, and neoclassical thrash juggernauts in Exmortus were in the opening slot.
Fans in attendance donned their favorite heavy metal tees, and there were plenty of Exmortus, Kreator, and Sabaton fans at the Wiltern. I was unable to make it in time to catch Exmortus, unfortunately, but murmurs from the crowd in between sets in the foyer certainly felt like a lasting impression was made by Exmortus in a good way, with overhearing chatter such as “they played a great set” and “that last band ruled.”
As Kreator were summoned to the stage, eager to perform to potential new fans and promote their recently released album ‘Gods of Violence’, an album which struck well to metal pundits internationally, they performed with a mighty fervor opening up with ‘Phantom Antichrist’, the song from the album of the same name.
They immediately followed up with the tune ‘Hail to the Hordes’, the first song to be performed off their new album. The song opened with a slower, more epic riff with gallant drums, and picked up pace with riffage and sonic carnage. The song is one with a lot more melody in comparison to Kreator’s typical repertoire, but remnants from their thrash biology found its way to keep fans head banging and fist pumping in the air.
The mood lighting definitely helped with the band and the venue, as the dimmed red back lights cast silhouettes on each member of the band and the sonic atmosphere and thrash metal grew on me. It was like watching a moving train, with all its audible cranks and whistles, coming at you but you couldn’t see where it was coming from. The lighting stayed like this for much of Kreator’s set.
They soon went into ‘Enemy of God’, a personal favorite of mine and a song typically reserved for later portions in their sets. The crowdpleaser worked and just about every metalhead in front of me went wild, as pushing and shoving started between large portions of the crowd. Kreator would go on to perform a lengthy set chock full of their classics, as well as less performed songs, a healthy combination of the old and the new.
Kreator closed out with hits ‘Violent Revolution” and ‘Pleasure to Kill’, and the band wrapped up a ferocious and stunning set. As people stormed out of the main concert hall to catch a breather, the band walked off the stage with a well received roar from the audience.
Kreator set list:
01. Phantom Antichrist
02. Hail to the Hordes
03. Enemy of God
04. Satan Is Real
05. Civilization Collapse
06. People of the Lie
07. Flag of Hate
09. Gods of Violence
10. From Flood into Fire
11. Hordes of Chaos (A Necrologue for the Elite)
12. Totalitarian Terror
13. The Patriarch
14. Violent Revolution
15. Pleasure to Kill
9:15 sharp came, and the lights went out, the headline band’s own cover of the song ‘In the Army Now’ (originally released in 1982 by a duo named Bolland & Bolland, and covered and made famous by Status Quo in ’86) came on, as fans erupted with chants singing along to the tune. By this time I had made my way to the front of the massive stage of the Wiltern, and the absolutely packed house illuminated as the drummer assumed the stage with anticipating cheers.
The voice of Joakim Brodén soon took over as the animated screen spelled the name of Sabaton, and their high paced opening song ‘Ghost Division’ began their two-hour set. They have been opening with this tune for years now and it is always a crowd favorite and engine starter. Brodén flurried across the stage with his high jump kicks and signature thigh pound in between verses, and all members of Sabaton performed the song with high octane aggression.
The followed into the epic anthem ‘Uprising”, and brought the tempo of the evening to a slow thump. The song’s lyrics of the WWII era Warsaw uprising to liberate itself from German occupation were sung by many fans in attendance, and the theater bellowed. The stage banter of Sabaton is absolutely entertaining. They do it well when they are support acts on tours and are at their best when they are the mainstay of the show. Their wardrobe of camo pants suits their image well, a band that often sings about war related lore and history.
In comparison to their performance on their first North American run promoting ‘The Last Stand’, they performed less songs off of the latest album, and chose to play some deeper cuts and older fan favorites. The typical setlist tunes were played, such as ‘Carolus Rex’, ‘Resist and Bite’, ‘The Final Solution’, and an out-of-the-ordinary short cover of Metallica’s ‘Master of Puppets’ got the crowd riled. The well-balanced set list definitely helped newer fans appreciate their back catalog while incorporating the newer stuff, which was received well. It is always a good thing to hear fans singing songs from the new album.
Their performance at the WIltern will be remembered as a personal highlight of mine, alongside Kreator’s furious set.
Despite all of the cheese that Sabaton is known for, their performances are always well received by fans, and it is charming to see this band blowing up all over North America. They are road warriors in every sense of the word, staying busy and slowly building their brand internationally. The almost 20-year old group is now known as a European power metal titan, as they incorporate a lot of synthesizer work in their gallant tunes. They have continued to pack theaters across America in the thousands as their simple songwriting and catchy lyrics continue to find new fans.
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Sabaton set list:
01. Ghost Division
03. Blood of Bannockburn
04. Cliffs of Gallipoli
05. The Lion From the North (English Version)
06. Swedish Pagans
07. Gott mit uns (Swedish Version)
08. The Final Solution
09. Resist and Bite
10. Night Witches
11. Winged Hussars
12. The Last Stand
13. Carolus Rex (English Version)
15. Primo Victoria
17. To Hell and Back
Remaining tour dates:
02/17/2018 – Calgary, AB @ The Palace
02/19/2018 – Boise, ID @ Revolution
02/21/2018 – Denver, CO @ The Gothic Theater
02/22/2018 – Kansas City, MO @ The Truman
02/23/2018 – Minneapolis, MN @ The Myth
02/24/2018 – Madison, WI @ Orpheum
02/26/2018 – Grand Rapids, MI @ 20 Monroe
02/27/2018 – Chicago, IL @ House Of Blues
03/01/2018 – Toronto, ON @ The Phoenix
03/02/2018 – Montreal, QC @ Metropolis
03/03/2018 – Boston, MA @ House Of Blues
03/04/2018 – Huntington, NY @ The Paramount Theater
03/06/2018 – Philadelphia, PA @ The Fillmore
03/07/2018 – Silver Spring, MD @ The Fillmore
03/08/2018 – Raleigh, NC @ The Ritz
03/09/2018 – Atlanta, GA @ Buckhead Theatre
03/10/2018 – Tampa, FL @ Jannus Landing