The sublime and the ridiculous join for a night of metallic high jinks in Glasgow...
It’s only fairly recently that I discovered Alestorm, and I was looking forward to catching them live. In the build up to this gig, it seemed like everyone had suddenly become a fan of Alestorm and seemed to be going and with the added attraction of a double headline tour with Swedish Metal maniacs Sabaton, then this became one of the highly anticipated gigs of 2016 so far.
Come the day it has to be said that I felt like absolute shit, after coming down with a horrendous cough and flu virus a couple of days before, but nothing was going to stop me catching these two bands.
The Barrowlands seems to have fallen back into favour over the last years or so after many years of gigs moving to other venues in the city, which is no bad thing. In fact, it was only last month previously that Judas Priest had sold it out and The Cult would be visiting the venue the day after the Sabaton/Alestorm show.
I wasn’t really sure what to expect from Alestorm and as their stage time drew near, the crowd got louder and louder – especially as their mascot, a 12 foot high inflatable duck, was delicately placed centre stage in between the backdrop showing former mascot bananaduck.
In case you’ve not heard of Alestorm, they’re self-styled Pirate metal, and many fans came dressed up for the gig. As front man Christopher Bowes explained, they don’t take it too seriously with a stage set designed like a big Galleon, but have a more subtle approach via their songs. Kicking off with Keelhauled the Perth based quintet had the audience behind them from beginning to end.
With only four studio albums to their name so far, the band played an entertaining set which encompassed all areas of their career. Their debut album, 2008’s Captain Morgan’s Revenge was represented by Over The Seas, Wenches & Mead and the title track, which was held back as their penultimate number.
It was Nancy The Tavern Wench that got one of the biggest cheers of the night however, as Bowes enthusiastically danced around the stage encouraging the crowd to get involved.
Bowes really is an excellent front man and got the crowd interacting with him throughout the ninety minute set and his skill on the seldom-seen keytar is outstanding. Guitarist Máté Bodor, meanwhile, paced the stage looking every inch the thrash metal icon with his poses from the “Jeff Hanneman Book of Looking Cool” while drummer Peter Alcorn kept the beat steady and heavy from behind his unique looking drum kit complete with optics attached to the front.
The band’s 2009 album, Back Through Time was featured with a couple of numbers including The Sunk’n Norwegian and show closer, Rum which had Bowes trying his very best to get as much out of the audience as possible. However, a large chunk of the band’s set was taken from their most recent album, 2014’s Sunset on the Golden Age.
As he introduced Surf Squid Warfare, Bowes screamed out the title in Tom Araya War Ensemble fashion as the deluge of crowd surfers became pretty much constant keeping the security team in front of the stage busy.
“Did anyone here have a hangover this morning?” asked Bowes, which received a somewhat muted response from the audience as it dawned on them that quite a few would be suffering from the next day, but the band’s cover of the Taio Cruz number Hangover provided some light relief for both band and audience.
With Bowes shouting out the famous Glasgow phrase “One mair tune!”, the band wrapped up their set in fine fashion with Rum, which ensured them a huge ovation as they took their final bows and left the stage to the strains of Mr Blobby.
Alestorm are a good solid outfit who don’t take themselves too seriously which is a nice change, but they have the musical back up through their songs and their musicianship to go far. This might have been my first time seeing them live, but I guarantee that this won’t be my last!
As well as my first time seeing Alestorm, this was also my first Sabaton gig too! I’ve heard quite a bit of their back catalogue in the past, but somehow I’ve always managed to miss them live, so this co-headline tour seemed the ideal opportunity to catch them.
After a stunning set from Alestorm, it seemed like Sabaton had a large mountain to climb but as the techs did final changes, the audience were more than ready to carry on the party.
As Europe‘s Final Countdown blasted out of the speakers signalling Sabaton’s imminent arrival on stage, the excitement in the crowd was tangible as they sang along word for word. Cutting straight into the band’s recorded intro, as the lights dimmed and the drum riser which looked like a World War II tank (nick-named ‘Audie’) was finally revealed in all it’s glory, the crowd went absolutely nuts and then the band filed onstage kicked their set into gear.
The biggest roar was left for front man Joakim Brodén who, like most of the band had their war paint on. On that subject, kudos to Pär Sundström for his St Andrews saltire make up which was roundly appreciated by the audience.
The band have an electric stage presence and used every inch of it during the opening salvo of Ghost Division and a fairly new track Far From The Fame. It’s clear that the band were out to impress and the audience were more than up for it as the number of stag divers increased dramatically compared to Alestorm, while he band put on a great show.
Sure, the Barrowlands low ceiling prevents any pyros being set off but none of this phased Sabaton as they battered through their set as they, like Alestorm before them, took the opportunity to cherry-pick their very best songs from their back catalogue.
A couple of tracks from 2008’s Coat of Arms album (Uprising and Midway) saw the twin guitars of Thobbe Englund and Chris Rörland coming to the fore as Brodén kept the audience enraptured with his stage presence.
A bit of in-band japery between Englund and Brodén preceded Swedish Pagans, with Brodén complaining he didn’t want to play the song, but I’m glad they did as it went down a storm with the audience. Another newish track, Resist And Bite was well received as audience levels reaching fever pitch during Attero Dominatus from their 2006 debut release.
In fact, their latest album, Heroes came out in 2014 and it was a track from that album, To Hell And Back that got one of the biggest cheers of the night, signifying that it’s continued popularity may see it sneak into the set list on future tours.
As the band took a breather and prepared for their three song encore, the noise throughout the Barrowlands was truly deafening with a shout of “Sa-ba-ton” over and over again until the band returned for a hero’s (no pun intended) welcome as they wrapped up their set.
Sabaton did The Barrowlands and Glasgow proud with a superb headlining show that just (and only just) beat Alestorm to the prize of the best performance of the night. On paper these two bands may look like a strange pairing but on the night, it was a perfect match and gave the punters real value for money.
Photos: Carlan Main/Main Stage Photography/metaltalk.net