Sabaton and Epica graced the stage of the Fillmore in Philadelphia, PA on October 18, 2022. The night was filled with metal of both the heavy and symphonic variety. Both bands had large followings in attendance that filled the concert hall from wall to wall. I arrived at the venue as the doors were opening, the line outside was quite long as I headed to the box office. Once inside the lines for merch were 40-50 people long. Fans either ran to the rail or the merch booth, there wasn’t much in between.
The night started of with Dutch Symphonic Metal band Epica. Epica performed 9 songs in a set that lasted just under 1 hour. Lead vocalist, Simone Simons, has the voice of an angel. She sings classical music stylings over a heavy metal band. Two opposite genres colliding to make beautiful and interesting music. They opened their set with “Abyss of Time-Countdown to Singularity” from their 2021 album Omega. This song got the eager crowd going with it’s super-fast beat provided by Ariën van Weesenbeek’s blazing snare work. Mark Jansen (guitar/vocals) chimed in several times with his metal vocals for a stark contrast to Simone. Midway through the set Simone asked for the audience to join in with singing “Storm the Sorrow”. The fans hit all the right notes, while throwing their fists in the air. They ended their set with “Consign to Oblivion” from their 2005 album of the same name. This song had tons of energy, super operatic vocals, and once again heavy drums. The crowd was super energized and jumped quite a bit through the song.
One thing I will note about the entire performance is how connected the band was with one another. From Simone walking over to sing with Mark, to Isaac Delahaye (guitar) and Rob van der Loo (bass) playing off one another and Coen Janssen (keys) cruising over to Isaac with his cool as hell portable keyboard. The funniest part of my night was when I was trying to take a few photos of Coen and Mark walked in front of him. Coen had fun with it and was ducking around him, then he tapped Mark, to indicate this was his time in the spotlight. We both had a chuckle. Epica was a great introduction and compliment to the headliner, Sabaton.
Sabaton’s fans could not wait for them to hit the stage. Epica had been of the stage maybe 5 minutes before the audience began chanting Sa Ba Ton, repeatedly. I entered the photo pit area a few minutes before their set was to start and encountered two lovely and excited fans in the front row. The one woman shrieked and then immediately apologized. I am a huge music fan and spend way more time on the rail then inside the pit, so I understood her excitement. Her and the women next to her explained that Sabaton was their favorite band and spoke about their significant others resembling band members. Shortly before the start of the show they saw a couple of members off the side of the stage and once again shrieked. It was so awesome to see and be part of their experience.
Sabaton is a Swedish metal band that has based most of their songs around historical events, wars, and significant battles. Just before they hit the stage the covering on the drum kit was removed, revealing a military tank set up with the drums perched on the top rear. The video screens lit up with a reel of footage about honoring those who have served in wars and ended with a rendering of a WWI memorial. Sabaton played 18 songs over a 90-minute set. While I am not a history buff and have limited knowledge of wars before my time their music still spoke to me, and it spoke to their fans. From the moment they hit the stage until the house lights shone some audience members never seemed to hit the floor. They jumped, chanted, raised horns, and lifted the venue into another dimension. Singer Joakim Brodén is a true showman; he came running out to the stage to start their set with “Ghost Division”. He engaged with the crowd and hammed it up for the photographers. Between the first couple of songs, he went to the front of the stage, lifting his sunglasses to glance at the fans in the front row. Coincidentally those same sunglasses ended up with a young fan towards the end of the night, it was his first rock show. Guitarist, Tommy Johansson, took on quite a bit of clean vocals during the show, while Chris Rörland (guitar) and Pär Sundström (bass) took to shredding for the crowd. As with Epica, you could tell that they really enjoyed playing with one another.
Other songs Sabaton performed were “Bismark”, “Red Barron”, “Night Witches”, “The Last Stand”, and closed with “To Hell and Back”. I went into this show knowing a couple of their songs but very little about the band. This experience has opened my eyes to why they have such a huge following. Their music is amazing, their musicianship is top notch, and their fans are a bunch of really awesome people. I cannot wait to see them again, hopefully next time on the rail.