November 4, 2014For the first time ever, Amon Amarth rode into Lincoln, Nebraska, and I was witness.
It was at the Bourbon Theatre, where I've been a couple of times before. They of course had to use the larger stage and room. The house was packed--even more draw than Opeth, apparently, although that might have something to do with the supporting acts. Of the crowd, I didn't see anything distinctive. They ran the gamut of what I would consider "typical" metalheads, with shirts ranging from Darkthrone to Obituary to Motörhead to Veil of Maya. Longhairs mixed with normal-looking dudes and, of course, an old lady who didn't seem to belong and a guy with bizarre hair and face piercings whose parents didn't love him.
Skeletonwitch was up first. Apparently their vocalist was unavailable due to personal issues. So they played a 30-minute instrumental set. While they're still a killer band, the songs leave much to be desired without vocal accompaniment. I'm sure they could have torn the place down with someone rasp/screaming the chorus of "Beyond the Permafrost," but it didn't happen that way and people didn't get terribly excited. We were appreciative, and they gracious, but it just didn't feel right.
Then came Sabaton. I'd never actually heard this band before, but apparently a lot of people were actually there to see them. It was, let's say, an interesting experience. They wore matching camo pants and had clearly worked out some choreography among them, which seems pretty damn un-metal to me. But the vocalist was charmingly self-effacing, and compared his band to the Village People. He also had a lot of energy and knew how to throw his mic around and catch it, and had an undeniable stage presence. He got half the crowd singing his lines. But when it comes right down to it, the music was fun but not that great. It was somewhere between Dream Evil and Turisas. And even though half their melody came from synths, there wasn't a keyboard player in sight. They played somewhere north of 45 minutes, and it was fun but too goofy for my taste.
Finally, there was Amon Amarth. They were everything I expected: Loud as hell, and bringing the riffs. Johan Hegg had an imposing presence (and Viking-appropriate girth) and also knew how to get the crowd involved. They played a solid 90+ minute set list that drew at least from Versus the World to the present.* What else can I say about them, really? It was exactly what I expected, and exactly as great as I expected, and I would highly recommend seeing them.
*However, I don't know the earlier material and there was a song I wasn't sure I recognized).