Sabaton, Accept and Twilight Force Live in Manchester

Friday the Thirteenth…… Unlucky for some but lucky for the good people of Manchester who have a night at the Apollo in the company of Sabaton, Accept and Twilight Force.

It’s the first gig of the year for the Scottish branch of Team CB. But day jobs ‘n’ all meant it was a long way from our usual stomping ground. Nope, sorry Glasgow, Manchester it is.

We never hide the fact that most of CB are Sabaton enthusiasts so you can imagine when the press release came through about this tour for The Last Stand with Accept on the bill along with Twilight Force, it was sure to be just a bit good.

Twilight Force are band that need to be seen to be fully appreciated. On first impression one could be mistaken for thinking they were refugees from a dungeons and dragons or magic the gathering type convention. Monastic cowls and make up, over the top for sure but then it’s Swedish power metal so what else would you expect? Songs of wizards and warlocks, demons and monsters, all the usual stuff but delivered with panache. The crowd took the them and we loved them enough to dance on the spot and cheer to their choruses as we are transported to some heroic land of yore that will be familiar to readers of Joe Abercrombie and George R. Martin with their medieval and high fantasy songs with titles like Flight Of The Sapphire Dragon and To The Stars. Great stuff, nice to see the opening band being so well received from their appreciative crowd.

Was Glasgow louder than Manchester? They never told us in the end…


Next up, a class act from Deutschland. They may have been on the go for a fair few decades but with this lot it’s always a heavy metal masterclass and it’s a first time half of Team CB.

It is Friday the 13th and there is going to be a Wolf on stage. Brace yourselves, Ladies and Gentlemen, it’s only Accept!!!!!

Though I’m well aware that im stating the obvious here, Accept have been though numerous reincarnations, as with a fair few bands in the metal scene. This lineup is one of the best and the last couple of albums have seen them all back on top form. They rush the stage and as soon as Mark Tornillo belts out “Stampede” the place is going crazy.

“Stalingrad” keeps the party going as the band blitz through an hour of the highlights from their back catalogue. Princess Of The Dawn was one of the best sing alongs of the evening but, of course, the place goes (even more) wild for Balls To The Wall and Fast As A Shark

Accept-Manchester-IainCackBlabbath-40A very engaging crowd and a great way to whip us up into a frenzy for the main course. Its fair to see I could just as easily have went straight home after this, feeling so elated and filled with adrenaline after seeing a band that have always been held in high regard.

On a personal level, another off the bucket list.

That is how you do it. Accept delivered one of the best gigs I have been to in the past few months. They have restored faith in metal. First class.

Over the past few years we have seen Sabaton more times than we have fingers. Whether it was on tour or at one of their many festival appearances they’re always a “must see” for us. Tonight was something of a special occasion though, not only is it a brand spanking shiny new tour for The Last Stand, but it will also be our first rendezvous with Sabaton’s new comrade Tommy Johannson. We will definitely miss Thobbe though, a happy jolly man, a great guitarist and big pair of shoes to fill.

Still, we’re 100% confident that Tommy boy will be our new hero. If he’s good enough for Sabaton, hes good enough for us \m/

It’s showtime.

Usually as we await Falun’s finest Europe’s The Final Countdown blasts out over the PA, but now the band use their own version of Status Quo’s In The Army Now to set the scene.. This is good. Sometimes change is good. The crowd instantly join in and we’ve got a massive sing along before a powerchord has been struck.

I’ve got a real good feeling that this is going to be special.

“We are Sabaton…We play heavy metal….and thiiiiisss….is ghost divisiiiiiiooonnnnn”

Sabaton-Manchester-IainCackBlabbath-28Joakim and Pär look like the happiest geezers to grace the stage. Though Thobbe’s is not here, Tommy has slotted right into the void and looks like he’s on top of the world. Sparta next, which see Joakim in a Spartan helmet and cloak, and the band joined on stage by 4 blokes in suede thongs and not much else.

A suede thong in Manchester in January, these Spartans were harder than we thought.

Heroes had a very distinct lyrical theme, the unsung heroes of comparatively recent conflicts, mainly the second world war. The Last Stand however, casts a far wider net. It doesn’t focus in on a precise time and date. Rather, we bop about through the ages picking up tales of bravery against the odds.

Sabaton-Manchester-IainCackBlabbath-44Speaking as a Scot, one track in particular I was desperate to hear from the minute I read the track listing on the album was Blood of Bannockburn. No harm in a little patriotism every now and again, right? The Scottish flag was flying high on the massive screen on stage. Just let me say, if this song made the English crowd go crazy, WHAT THE HELL WAS IT LIKE IN GLASGOW A COUPLE OF NIGHTS BEFORE ??!!??.

Crazy Scots in an English crowd watching a Swedish band sing about crazy Scots defeating the English in England is one thing. Crazy Scots in a crazy Scottish crowd watching a Swedish band sing about crazy Scots defeating the f’kin English in Scotland must have been quite something else.

This time round, Sabaton only have their little tank on stage, but the addition of a massive fucking screen worked wonders. For every song, there was a video to watch. Flags ablaze, warriors, heroes. The lyrics work and you get a better understanding when you have the visuals to go with it.

There were even costume changes, Joakim getting his Spartan on and later donning a blue and yellow military coat for Carolus Rex.

Sabaton-Manchester-IainCackBlabbath-41The usual with Sabaton there were the obviously spontaneous and off the cuff ad-libs and tongue in cheek clearly not at all scripted arguments on stage. You know the script, Joakim asks Tommy as the new guy what Sabaton song he wants to play, Tommy plays the riff from Swedish Pagans and the crowd sing along.

For a spontaneous choice it’s a good job that’s the next video on the big screen 😉

A rare treat tonight, a keyboard is wheeled on stage and Tommy takes his place behind it for a touching acoustic version of “The Final Solution”. A more stripped back, honest sounding Sabaton which demonstrates that the band has the ability to deliver in a more laid back stylee to their usual bombast of shock and awe. This was a well deserved rest slap bang in the middle of a battlefield.

Now we don’t usually comment on crowds at gigs, but tonight we’ll make an exception. I have to assume we were in moron corner, if you want to go somewhere to have a loud conversation, shout anti-semetic abuse and have a fight then here’s an idea. Fuck off somewhere else. It’s been a while since we’ve felt this sort of atmosphere at a gig, and strangely the perpetrators weren’t wearing band t-shirts or paying much attention to proceedings on stage.

Just saying…

Sabaton-Manchester-IainCackBlabbath-8This may  be a new tour but sometimes you just cant help but want the classics. Lion From The North and Primo Victoria cranked up the bounce-factor. Of course the new stuff is almost as well received, we do love the chorus-tastic Shiroyama which was a power metal stormer and history lesson in one.

And in what seems like no time at all it’s over, we’ve been to To Hell And Back and escaped unscathed. Joakim, Par, Hannes, Chris and that young Tommy boy take a bow, promise they’ll be back soon and we’re done, heading back to the car for the long drive back up the motorway.

It has been a rather eclectic mix tonight. Twilight Force through to Sabaton. A magical mysterious and thunderous musical journey. But we all speak the same language. That of metal.

Just an afterthought. But I reckon Nicola Sturgeon should campaign to adopt Sabaton’s “Blood of Bannockburn” as Scotland’s national anthem. Can you imagine?! Well either that or take it to prime time TV. It almost has a whiff of Eurovision song contest about it.

Lordi did it! Why not Sabaton?

I’ll stop now. Final words… check out The Last Stand, Sabaton’s newest album. You will NOT be disappointed \m/