Postponed because of Covid, Sabaton finally brought their massive tour to the SportPaleis of Antwerp! Soldout in its small version, the arena was full of Swedish fans and the band confirmed they’re one of the biggest metal bands right now. Not a lot of bands can make such a huge show show with this production and great success!
Pure coincidence, during this night where we skipped the Eurovision Final to be in Antwerp, we had the chance to see ex-winners of the worldwide contest: Lordi. It’s been already 17 years since they won the contest with their song Hard Rock Hallelujah, which is still their biggest song/album to date. Not to bad as an opener we thought… Well, we’ve been quickly disappointed. The sound wasn’t really great but decent. And the audience? Calm as f*ck. Seems nobody cares or even knew the band from Finland… When they were at the Eurovision, they said they had the feeling to be some carnivores in a vegetarian restaurant. Well, it was kinda the same feeling tonight. A couple of people were interested to see them and more than 10k didn’t care at all. Until the last song, Hard Rock Hallelujah. It’s sad to see people coming to the show and don’t react at all with a band, even if it’s not the band they were waiting for. Maybe the second band will have more chance?!
Set-list: Dead Again Jayne, Would You Love A Monsterman, Thing In The Cage, Blood Red Sandman, Lucifer Prime, Devil Is A Loser, Who’s Your Daddy, Hard Rock Hallelujah.
The main support was the Japanese sensation BabyMetal. They replace The Hu, announced as support before the tour was postponed. Since then, this OVNI of the metal scene toured on their own with a huge headline show soldout at the Ancienne Belgique and they’ll play at Rock Werchter this Summer! Both are great in their own genre so we didn’t lose anything in this exchange. Sadly, from the first songs, we understood the ambiance won’t be better than what it was for Lordi… Around us, nobody knew BabyMetal. Didn’t they even have a look before the show on who were the support bands? Aren’t they a little bit open-minded? The metalheads we saw were unfortunately cliché of “true metalheads” who listen only to “true metal” aka the few bands they care about.
During 45 minutes, BabyMetal did their best to warm-up the people. From old classics like Megitsune and Gimme Chocolate to new songs like Monochrome including the mega-hit Pa Pa Ya, nothing helped to raise the bar. Song after song, the Japanese stayed professional but it wasn’t easy for her for sure to see such a non-cooperative audience. During the classic ending with Road Of Resistance, they asked to open the pit for the classic wall of death. One small pit opened somewhere in the second floor with a bunch of people but that’s it. And spoiler alert: there won’t be any bigger mosh-pit during the rest of the evening. Like Lordi, we are sad they didn’t have a better reaction from the Belgian fans but at least they had a great sound. We can’t wait to see them playing their own headline show at the Ancienne Belgique in December 2023. We were at their show at the same place a couple of weeks before the lockdown in 2020 and it was a huge party we still remember!
Set-list: BabyMetal Death, Megitsune, Pa Pa Ya, Divine Attack – Shingeki, Monochrome, Gimme Chocolate, Road Of Resistance.
Around 9pm, the stars of the evening finally arrived on stage. The stage production is huge. A big LED screen, decoration and artifices everywhere, with obviously the famous tank in the center of the stage near the drummer. Sabaton loves the stories about war, it’s not new and it’s gonna change now! Opening with Ghost Division, the sound wasn’t so great but people around were happy and ready to react, finally. It took 2-3 songs to find the perfect balance. We’re not gonna blame them: do the soundcheck in an empty huge arena and do the sound during the show of a floor full of metalheads isn’t the same. By the way, it’s important to notice the balcony of the SportPaleis isn’t opened this time. But the floor is packed as f*ck and the seats around are almost full too.
The stage plan is a bit different from their headliner set at Graspop last Summer. Fortunately! We would have expected the same stage but just with a different set-list. We had both: different stage plan and different set-list. And we didn’t wait a lot to get many tanks fire and pyrotechnics everywhere. It’s damn hot in the SportPaleis! People are singing, clapping but not moving. They are here to enjoy the spectacle in its entirety. Both Pär (bassist) and Hannes (drummer) said all the love they have for Belgium during the show, hailed our country as their second home. This isn’t a surprise: Belgium was really the country they had the best success after their hometown Sweden. In 2010, they were already booked on the Main Stage of Graspop at a time where there was only 1 Main Stage so the spots were very limited and still they were on it… with full pyro for a show early in the afternoon! The beginning of a long love story. Last year, when so many headliners cancelled at Graspop, they’ve been chosen to replace Aerosmith and become the headliner to close the first Graspop post-pandemic above acts like Deep Purple, The Offspring or Deftones on a Super Sunday and nobody were shocked about that!
The show keep going song after song when Joakim took a few minutes to say a few words about Belgium, the Graspop and the fast he asked last year what the fans would like to see more in the setlist to have an even best show. Answers were easely resumed in 2 words: old and fast. More old songs and more fast songs. Challenge kinda succeeded! People seems happy so were the fans. Including when they were full of fake snow during Soldier Of Heaven. Too bad it wasn’t real snow because after so many pyro, some cold would have been really appreciated! The encore started with the classic – biggest hit ? – Primo Victoria singing along by the whole arena, Swedish Pagans and To Hell And Black. A great finale for a great show.
Set-list: Ghost Division, Bismarcks, The Last Stand, Into The Fire, Carolus Rex, Race To The Sea, Sarajevo, Stormtroopers, 1916, Soldier Of Heaven, Dreadnought, The Red Baron, Fath, The Attack Of The Dead Men, Christmas Truce. Encore: Primo Victoria, Swedish Pagans, To Hell And Black.
During 90 minutes, Sabaton confirmed they are one of the biggest metal bands right now. The SportPaleis wasn’t full this time, proof they still have some potential to explore to be able to fill in a 24k arena. But they have the fan-base and the massive show production for that and to stay around as festival headliner for a long time!