In the shadows of the great Rocky Mountains, a battle of insurmountable odds took place. A clash that would leave the US conquered by five warriors from the land where Vikings once ruled. Sabaton would rise from the ashes of the fallen Judas Priest tour for one last clash on American soil. The date history would be made September 29, 2021, and the site for the epic clash over North American domination would take place in the trenches of the Ogden Theater in Denver, Colorado. Judas Priest had just pulled out of the long-awaited tour due to guitarist Richie Falkner’s emergency heart complication, which would sadly lead to heart surgery. Left alone, in Denver, Sabaton decided one last show was needed to secure the battlefield.
The recruits filled in one by one, starting at 16:00 hours, by 17:00 it had become quite apparent that no prisoners would be taken, and by 18:00 the crowd was ready for auditory war. Chants of “Sabaton, Sabaton” began, and after having only 24 hours to form a strategy, Sabaton took to the stage at dusk. The time was 18:30, and it would begin, a battle of epic proportions. The band entered to a screaming crowd, and immediately the blitzkrieg started with “Ghost Division.” The energy was atomic as the crowd erupted, and Sabaton fed off the energy while rolling their heads, leading to hair flying everywhere.
Things quickly transitioned into “The Last Stand,” and the crowd was not holding back any energy with fists pumping in the air. The setlist dove right into the dogfight classic “The Red Baron” from the latest album, The Great War. The battle transitioned from air to sea with “Bismark.” “Defense of Moscow” held successfully even as the energy was not slowing down on either side of the barricade. At this point, singer Joakim Brodén commented on the lack of oxygen in the “Mile High City.” It would not slow the intensity of the show, and the rest of the band showed their gratitude to the crowd for making something on such short notice so successful.
“Carolus Rex” is one of my favorite Sabaton songs, and by the crowd’s reaction, it seemed to be one of theirs too. Fists pumped in the air to the beat of the song. “Fields of Verdun” began and so did an impromptu mosh pit in the crowd. A quick exit off stage at this point prompted the crowd into chants of “Sabaton, Sabaton” once again. It wouldn’t be long before the band arrived back on stage wearing vintage gas masks as they broke into “Attack of the Dead Men.” The song seemed to slow the beat and crowd but only temporally because “Primo Victoria” immediately increased the rhythm and intensity. Sabaton jumped repetitiously on stage, and the audience mirrored their actions.
“Steel Commanders” marked the end of the setlist that occurred during the tour with Judas Priest.
It was time for the crowd and band to come together to help determine the last half of the setlist. Joakim put out a call for fans to pick a song. Guitarist Tommy Johansson quickly broke into the introduction of “Swedish Pagans,” and the insaIt was time for the crowd and band to come together to help determine the last half of the setlist. Joakim put out a call for fans to pick a song. Guitarist Tommy Johansson quickly broke into the introduction of “Swedish Pagans,” and the insanity of the crowd left no doubt as to what would be played next. Dancing and play ensued as Joakim bantered with Tommy as the music began. At this point, it was Tommy’s choice to sing a song. He broke out into Rick Astley’s “Never Gonna Give You Up.” The song lasted about 15 seconds; then, he was promptly stopped. “This is a Metal Show” Joakim noted. Tommy then chose “Seven Pillars of Wisdom,” the rest of the band obliged and broke into an epic live version of the song. Now it was guitarist Chris Rörland’s turn to choose. He decided to go back in the band’s catalog to 2006 and selected “Attero Dominatus” from the album bearing the same name. A second wind seemed to fall upon the crowd as yet another mosh pit broke out during the song.
Drummer Hannes Van Dahl took the first part of his time in front of the drum kit to thank his drum tech for all his hard work. Then he decided it was time for a balled. Hannes chose “A Lifetime of War” but then decided it was to be the Swedish version. As Joakim sang at one point, he held the mic out for the crowd to join in. No response was sung, so he just smiled and continued on. At the end of the song, he said jokingly: “I have to admit, I was taking a risk having you sing that song, but you can always hope.”
Next was Pär Sundström’s turn to pick, and he said, “Well, it is about time I decide something in this band.” He then thanked the crowd and chose a song from 2008’s The Art of War, “Panzerkampf.”
Lastly, it was Joakim’s turn to choose. Based on his ancestry being from the Czech Republic, he decided on “Far From the Fame.” Sabaton immediately broke into “The Great War.” At this point, the show had been going for 90 minutes, and little did anyone know it was only a little over half complete. Things continued with some fun; the crowd got to choose between “40:1” and “Saboteurs.” There was no clear winner, so the band did both. There was another surprise, Tommy was stripped of a guitar and sang the first half of “40:1.” Tommy is not shy about singing as he fronts his own band, Majestica. He then took his guitar back in time to give the song a proper solo.
Yet another priceless moment occurred when it was time to sing “Resist and Bite,” a song that Joakim typically plays guitar on, but there was no guitar, so Tommy brought out a hot pink “Hello Kitty” guitar for him to play.
The show continued into the second hour with “Price of a Mile.” In the middle of the set, the band took time to sing “Happy Birthday” to soundboard engineer Barry. Joakim joked that Barry does not like attention, so he got it sung to him two more times and then a chant of “Barry, Barry, Barry.” “The Art of War” was up, followed by another favorite, “Night Witches.”
The audience was again forced to choose between “Gott Mit Uns” and “Uprising,” and again, there was no clear winner as they continued to frenzy. Sabaton played the Swedish version of “Gott Mit Uns” followed by “Uprising.” Things went totally off the setlist with the Swedish version of “Lion of the North.” Amazingly the crowd showed no signs of slowing with continued chants of “SABATON!”
Just when you thought it couldn’t happen again, the crowd chanted the opening chant to “Swedish Pagans.” Joakim indulged and said: “Fuck it.” The crowd got a repeat of the song, which somehow seemed even more epic than any other song played that night. The nearly three-hour set ended with “To Hell and Back.”
Up against all odds, Sabaton took a huge tactical chance playing a show with only 24 hours’ notice. It seemed like the cards were stacked against them with a major tour being canceled and nowhere left to go. That is not how Sabaton operates. They find a way to make things work. One last stand in Denver could have been a disaster, but the troops pulled off a miracle and proved that Sabaton has gone from formidable underdogs to the Vikings that will conquer North America.