GIG REVIEW: SABATON, ALESTORM & BLOODBOUND Live At Birmingham O2 Academy
February 28, 2016 was a particularly meaningful date for those in Birmingham, UK, who enjoy what has come to be defined as “pirate metal”, as the co-headlining tour involving Sweden’s Sabaton and Scotland’s Alestorm, as well as opening act Bloodbound also of Sweden, rolled into the city. After walking down to the venue and inadvertently crossing the band’s tour buses and trailers parked nearby, myself and the people I was with entered the queue and was surprised to see it grow beyond the horizon before the doors had even opened.
As mentioned before, the first band to perform on the night were Bloodbound, who if you’re not aware of them are a Swedish traditional heavy metal band. It is quite rare for an opening band on a tour to perform to such a huge mass of people, but that is exactly what happened as the Birmingham O2 Academy was packed before Bloodbound had even played a note. The energy and excitement of the fans in attendance was not specifically reserved for that of the two co-headlining acts gearing up to play later on in the night, as even though the crowd did not know many of Bloodbound’s songs, the people who were there took every opportunity to get involved in whichever way they could.
After Bloodbound put on a fantastic opening performance, it was up to Alestorm to follow it. The primary stage prop of Alestorm’s set was a giant inflatable duck which they positioned in the middle of the stage, which was admittedly quite entertaining to say the least. The crowd participation also ramped up even more so compared to that of Bloodbound, and the band played well although I feel as if frontman Christopher Bowes’ on-stage banter went too far on at least one occasion and the set seemed to drag on after a certain point. However, the overall qualms I had with Alestorm’s set were few and far between and based on the crowd reaction to their songs, especially tracks such as “Surf Squid Warfare” and “Drink”, the band definitely succeeded. Following in general tradition of the band’s overly wacky nature, the band drew their set to a close with a cover of the Taio Cruz song “Hangover”, before finishing with “Captain Morgan’s Revenge” and “Rum”. Some of the other on-stage chatter forwarded by Bowes was very funny indeed, bookending tracks performed earlier on in the set such as “Over the Seas”, “Magnetic North”, and “Walk the Plank”.
The band finishing the show on this night was Sweden’s Sabaton, a band known in metal circles throughout the world as being one of the most entertaining live shows you can see in this genre of music. After coming on following a PA play of Europe’s “The Final Countdown”, which after so many times hearing it before shows does get quite tiresome, but the band shortly descended upon the stage in front of the mass audience and treated us to a total of 16 songs, including a three song encore. The on-stage jokes and banter from Alestorm’s set continued on into Sabaton’s performance, but were much funnier and were peppered in all the right places so that they never became too rare nor frequent for the enjoyment of the audience. Examples of such included a chant of Swedish furniture company IKEA, and an impromptu sing-a-long of the Monty Python classic “Always Look on the Bright Side of Life”. In terms of Sabaton’s setlist, the band performed tracks such as “Uprising”, “Soldier of 3 Armies”, “The Art of War”, “Night Witches”, and many others.
Overall, the Alestorm/Sabaton show in Birmingham was a general success, complete with minor faults which did not drastically affect the quality of the performances at large. A special shout-out has to go to Bloodbound as well who as an opening band won the audience over like I have never seen before.