Ryan Murray | Co-Owner | Chief Editor | Contributor
All photos used above 📸 – Ryan Murray except for the latent image of Epica with the crowd – This 📸 goes to Jens De Vos
Sabaton and Epica hit North America really hard with their 24-city tour, including their first large venue in Canada! With a final stop ending the tour in New York’s famous Hammerstein Ballroom in Manhattan on Sunday, October 23rd, both bands put on one of the strongest live shows I’ve been to in quite some time! Not only do both bands play INCREDIBLY well live, but their energy is absolutely infectious!
First, I have to give Hammerstein and their staff props! VIP early entry and general public entry were labeled very well outside. The doors for VIP opened EXACTLY on time at 6:00pm, not even one minute late. A very quick stop at security proved effortless and tickets were scanned immediately after. Included in early entry was entering one hour before public doors and early merch shopping. Sabaton’s merch was located in the main lobby and Epica’s downstairs. Having been to the Hammerstein Ballroom only once before, I’d personally have to say that I’ve always had a great experience there, and things are always well ran, so massive props to the staff!
We were also able to access the GA pit right away as well, so after getting two drinks, my wife and I went right up to the barricade, center stage! While it was comfortably spaced out during the early entry rush, we knew that was going to be short lived, but that it would be well worth the coming flood of people!
The public doors opened at exactly 7:00pm and in came the big rush. The pit was filled to the brim before long, along with most of the theatre being packed by around 7:30pm.
While the show was listed to start at 8:00pm, Epica hit the stage just a few minutes ahead of schedule. As the lights went out, screams and cheers filled the entire ballroom, as “Alpha – Anteludium” lightly began filling the atmosphere, slowly building into a more and more epic segue into “Abyss of Time”! Having known Epica’s music for quite sometime, I’ve always appreciated their music, but, to be completely honest, never went far out of my way to listen to them. Not to say that their music is bad, but rather, quite the opposite. I love symphonic metal, the vocals are amazing and the musicianship is top-notch, but it was just something that I never listened to all that often. With this being my first time seeing them live, I have to say how pleasantly surprised I was, and Epica has now gained a full-on fan! Epica puts on one of the most energetic, interactive, and fun symphonic metal shows I’ve ever seen live. The juxtaposition between Simons’ and Jansen’s vocals live is just perfect. Delahaye, Jansen, van der Loo, Janssen & Van Weesenbeek are absolutely incredible musicians with tremendous energy.
Epica’s setlist was absolutely perfect, including “The Essence of Silence”, “Victims of Contingency”, “Unchain Utopia”, “Cry for the Moon”, “Code of Life”, “Sancta Terra”, “Beyond the Matrix”, and closing with “Consign to Oblivion”!
“Code of Life”, for several weeks now, had become one of my favorites leading up to the concert, so I was really glad to hear that one live, but what really turns me into a full fan was their performance of “The Essence of Silence”, “Beyond the Matrix” and “Victims of Contingency”. “Beyond the Matrix” saw the entire place, even those in the balcony, jumping up and down in unison, with a strong sense of joy and just pure happiness to be back out to live music shows again! You could even see some joined in side embraces while jumping up and down. After two and a half years of a global pandemic, it was really beautiful to see!
With the band constantly instigating the crowd to circle up, it wasn’t long before some good size circle pits were forming and the fun ensued! Smaller sized, inflatable beach balls were being tossed around everywhere, some of which making their way up to the stage, with Simons even jesting that she wanted to “play with the balls” as well!
If you’re on the fence about whether or not you are a fan of Epica, SEE THEM LIVE! One live performance will quickly change your doubts! Their live set will light you up with joy and epic symphonic bliss! Epica is one of the best symphonic metal bands of all time, and they fully deserve being one of the top names in the industry! GO SEE THEM! You WON’T be disappointed!
After about a 30-minute change over, the lights go dim again, and deafening excitement with screams and chants for Sabaton fill the entire space! Sabaton’s video monologue cues the excitement, with eventual cheers of “USA! USA! USA!” flooding the entire venue. Kicking it off with none other than “Ghost Division”, Brodén comes running out from behind the backdrop! His iconic fist-pumping, lunging and knee banging begins right away as he begins amping up the crowd!
The band as a whole – Brodén, Van Dahl, Johansson, Suntröm, Rörland, needing no introduction, absolutely killed it! Everything from the entire band backing up Brodén vocally, to heart-pounding drums and beefy, yet catchy melodic guitar riffs, Sabaton absolutely NEVER fails at leaving a lasting impression on the crowd! While I’ve only seen Sabaton twice, this particular show had an unmistakable energy to it. The energy of the entire tour was palpable, and the joy on their faces was both heart-warming and relatable! Sabaton always puts on a great, high-energy show, but there was something special about this show, and everyone could feel it!
Sabaton came prepared with, what I personally feel was a KILLER set list, really capturing a perfect blend of offerings, including tracks from the latest album “The War to End All Wars”, to include “Stormtroopers”, “The Red Baron”, “Bismarck” “The Attack of the Dead Men”, “Soldier of Heaven”, “Steel Commanders” “Carolus Rex”, “Gott mit uns” (in Swedish), “Night Witches”, “Dreadnought”, “Shiroyama”, “The Last Stand” and “Christmas Truce”. The encore consisted of “Primo Victoria”, “Swedish Pagans” (w/ Epica on stage playing, singing and goofing off), “Highway to Hell” (w/ Epica and Tommy on lead vocals) and “To Hell and Back”!
Since first discovering Sabaton in April of 2015 when I first saw them live with Nightwish ALSO at the Hammerstein Ballroom, I’ve always enjoyed their energy, their musicality and their live performances! They are incredibly talented, but bring even more to the table when they perform live. They are by far one of the best live straight-up-metal bands out there, and if you haven’t seen a live performance by them yet, you’re missing out!
And of course, what would a closing show after a comprehensive tour be without the last show shenanigans?! During “Swedish Pagans”, Epica comes running out from behind the backdrop dressed in Sabaton’s crew overalls! Simons carrying a bottle with cups to pour shots for everyone was great, and she even threw a cup to the audience, which just ended up going everywhere, but the crowd loved it! What topped it though was when Coen came out dressed up as Joakim! He had his mannerisms down perfectly, and Joakim’s face when he finally saw him was absolutely priceless!
A HUGE thank you to Epica, Sabaton, to both crews, promoters, and to everyone else who made this tour happen! It was definitely one for the books!