Live at The Wiltern Theatre

Los Angeles, CA

October 11th, 2019

Review and photos by Travis Baumann

Sabaton's formidable assault upon US soil makes its way to Los Angeles. Playing their largest crowd in Los Angeles to date, their fans filled the massive Wiltern, ready for the historic military lessons put into musical form.

Sabaton are a Swedish power metal band unlike any of their fellow metal heads. They focus on historically accurate tales of warfare and conflict that shaped the current global climate and give insight to events of heroism, as well as the horror of war, from our bloody past.

At the core of the band is Joakim Brodén, whose powerful voice invokes the spirits of the past as he relays their tales of sacrifice and valor. Whether singing about the child king of the Caroleans from Sweden's past or about the a young hero from Tennessee that went on to greatness in the name of duty and honor for his country, Joakim brings that story home and makes the passion and patriotism within the listener swell.

Joining Joakim are his stalwart musical soldiers, co-founder Pär Sundström on bass guitar, Chris Rörland on guitar, Hannes van Dahl on drums, and Tommy Johansson on guitar. All of these gentlemen lend their voices for a choral effect that elevates so many of their songs.

July of this year saw the release of their ninth studio album, "The Great War". Focusing primarily on the feats of World War I, the album instantly became a hit with Sabaton fans around the globe. A historical version with foot notes and explanations circulated at the same time to lend further knowledge to accompany the epic and powerful music structures.

The concert tonight began with a prologue featuring video footage and narration that explained the onset of World War I as well as detailing the point where America became involved and helped turn the tide, bringing a close to the war that was meant to end all wars.

Inspiring and instilling a deep sense of patriotism in the audience, the entire venue chanted "USA!  USA" at the top of their lungs as the video drew to a close. This chant quickly turned to "Sabaton! Sabaton!" as the band ran on to the stage.

This was their largest stage presence on a North American tour featuring a giant tank for a drum riser. The five men of Sabaton came out swinging, blasting straight into "Ghost Division", a staple of their set and a mainstay for openers.

The audience sang along to every single song including the new songs which Joakim was very excited about. They did the title track from "The Great War" which starts off from one soldier's point of view saying "Where is the greatness I've been told? These are the lies we've been sold. Is this a worthy sacrifice?"

Moving back a few albums they did the excellent "Resist and Bite" from "Heroes". Joakim took a moment to address the crowd saying that they finally got to bring their tank.  He joked that customs gave them a lot of trouble so they snuck it in through Ikea.

They settled in to a triple threat from the new album with "Field of Verdun" followed by "The Attack of The Dead Men" before doing the instant fan-favorite "The Red Baron".

They moved to the "Art of War" album for the song "The Price Of A Mile. While many of their songs get the blood pumping and riles up the spirit, this song exemplifies that they do not glorify war or death, it is a heartfelt song about the loss of life and the price in young mans' lives spent in every conflict.

Prior to the latest album they put out a stand alone single about the legendary ship "Bismarck". The crowd was obviously familiar with the song and video and sang along to every word, the energy in the room was intense with fists in the air.

Taking a moment to reflect on Sweden's history they performed "The Lion From the North" followed by the massive anthem "Carolus Rex". This song remains one of my all time favorite Sabaton songs, it is so powerful and amazing live, even more so this time with such a huge crowd participating.

Joakim addressed the audience again, this time for a bit of history, saying "Now that we are talking about World War I and while the next song seems like ancient history, it was only forty years prior that the Samurai made their last stand". He was speaking of "Shiroyama" which tells the tale of the outnumbered but dignified Samurai meeting their end.

Already giving us a full set of material, they were far from finished. The bombastic "Night Witches" blazed into "The Lost Battalion" continuing on to "The Last Stand".

For the final song of the main set they performed another song from the latest album, the amazing, "82nd All the Way". A moving telling of the story of Sergeant York, a young man from Tennessee who found himself thrust into the war in Europe. He saved potentially hundreds of lives through his valor and the phrase "Death from Above" was coined after his heroic actions.

The crowd resounded again with a deafening chant of "USA! USA!" as they left the stage. This quickly turned to "Sabaton! Sabaton!" to once more call forth the heavy metal heroes.

The band ran back to the stage and immediately broke into "Primo Victoria", the hair raising recounting of the D-Day invasion on the shores of Western Europe that was the beginning of Ally victory in World War II.

It was their sound guy's birthday so Joakim had everyone sing him happy birthday and then they went immediately into "Swedish Pagans" which is a fairly light hearted song compared to most of their fare.

The time had finally come for the last song of the night. They chose another anthem from the "Heroes" album to end it all, "To Hell And Back". The audience maintained their energy and voices to the very end, the entire band with huge smiles on their faces as they played the last note.

It was an amazing show.  I have seen Sabaton seven times previously so this makes it my eighth time. I have loved them every single performance but this time was the biggest, most intense show to date. Their giant tank, their moving prologue, the collection of material they chose all were amazing but the intensity of the audience was unparalleled.

I often recommend these guys to my teacher friends because nothing helps learning history better than something that gets beneath your skin and ignites the interest and passion like these guys are capable of.  

A history lesson wrapped in music that is irresistible, these guys are exactly what the world and our country need, to reinforce ethical values and show us that ideals such as freedom and democracy are worth fighting for no matter what the cost... and always have been.

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