Co-headlining shows are always an interesting concept. Most fans either think that one band should be the headliner or that the other band is missing out because they have to play first, causing this somewhat rift between local fan bases that is particularly prominent with bands of differing genres. Luckily Brisbane’s Download Festival sideshow featuring Amon Amarth and Sabaton at The Tivoli managed to strike that precarious balance by giving each band a full set, ensuring that no matter what side you were situated on, you were going to be treated to a night of the finest metal Sweden has to offer.
For what would be their first ever appearance in Brisbane, the crowd reception was so large that you would think Sabaton had been playing here annually for the past 19 years. Even before the band had entered the stage, their pre-show warm up track ‘You’re in the Army Now’ had the crowd singing thunderously in chorus, providing a good indication of what was to come.
While the show was a stripped back affair compared to what Sabaton take around to shows closer to home, the energy of the Brisbane crowd rivalled that of some of their European festival performances. There were fans singing in chorus from the opening salvo, and when asked “Will you SING with me, and will you JUMP with me” by enigmatic vocalist Joakim Brodén, the crowd could hardly be contained.
Musically, Sabaton provided an impressive display to watch. The interchange between Chris Rörland and Tommy Johansson was well crafted, offering each member appropriate time at the front of stage, and while most people often forget about the bass players in these live shows, Pär Sundström made sure his presence was known and felt with the crowd.
Sabaton are every part a picturesque band, and one that you can tell enjoys being on stage every minute they are up there. Whether it was posing to the photo pit for some candid snaps, leaning off the edge of the stage to engage up close and personal with the crowd, or the bands running jokes amongst each other, the band had all the moves that made their set ooze with a charisma that most bands are afraid to embrace on stage.
Even an impromptu kick to the groin from Brodén during Shiroyama looked like it had guitarist Johansson in some pain during the song, but he persisted through it. It is this shtick that is very much Sabaton’s ‘thing’, and while it is all put on as part of the show for the crowd, it never really gets tiring to watch – or in the case of most of the Brisbane crowd, witnessing for the first time.
The setlist was a run of the mill Sabaton affair that catered to all of the crowd, including fan favourites like the aforementioned Shiroyama, Carolus Rex, Ghost Division, but the most unique addition of all to this set, and obviously one close to Australian hearts was the inclusion of the track Cliffs of Gallipoli, which received a response well and above what you would have expected for the band’s first appearance in Brisbane.
While the set consisted of only eleven songs, Sabaton made the event seem like an eternity, a blessing for the fans that had made the journey to see them, but one that made it extremely bittersweet when the band finally departed the stage at the end of To Hell and Back.
By the time that the intermission had finished, the crowd had managed to swell to enormous proportions. The venue began to feel like a claustrophobic person’s nightmare, and once the opening riff for Amon Amarth’s first track Pursuits of Vikings had begun, that feeling was enhanced tenfold with a giant crowd crush.
Although the Amon Amarth has been touring extensively for several years now, Johan Hegg’s vocals remain impeccably perfect, offering little deviation from the recorded sound that most fans love, and his performance in Brisbane was absolutely sublime. Amon Amarth’s strengths lie in the vocal and guitar delivery and to have both of these operating perfectly at this performance was quite special. On that note, guitarists Olavi Mikkonen and Johan Söderberg remain one of the finest duos in melodic death metal, and bassist Ted Lundström has been one of the more consistently entertaining bassists in the melodic death metal field during the time that the band has been touring.
As someone who was lucky enough to watch Amon Amarth at Download Festival in Melbourne, I can honestly attest that their set in Brisbane was miles and above the performance offered a few days earlier. The Swedes looked to be reinvigorated and hit the stage like this was to be their final ever performance, displaying an exuberant energy that was infectious to the almost capacity crowd. This was perhaps best encapsulated by the way in which they worked the expansive stage well and made everyone in the crowd part of their performance.
Using all the available room to interchange frequently from side to side on the front of the stage, each member of the audience on the barrier was given ample time to witness each band member up close throughout the set. Without being confined to particular locations on stage the band was able to add an extra layer of engagement to their performance, and as a band that could have quite easily fallen into the usual trope of having the singer remain at the forefront while the other members were situated a foot behind them on stage, this was a welcome sight.
Track wise, Amon Amarth offered an expansive list of tracks throughout their storied career, sampling songs from their latest album Jomsviking all the way back their debut album Once Sent From the Golden Hall, the latter of which included a special medley of tracks to celebrate it being the twentieth year of the album’s release. This mix of songs brought a wide depth to the bands set, catering to those who had been with the band from the very beginning, all the way through to those who had joined in recent years. It was probably the strongest set of the bands throughout their recent tours – and the reaction from the crowd as each next song began was testament to how strong it really was.
These bands might have been on the other side of the world to their home country, but they probably felt right at home with the reception that they got from the Brisbane crowd. Here’s hoping that Brisbane gets another Swedish metal invasion in the near future!