Evergrey / Sabaton / Powerglove @ The Opera House, Toronto ON, September 22, 2011

Evergrey photo by Rob Kachluba

By Natalie Zed

Powerglove are a much-beloved band for a very good reason: they play very, very geeky music, homages to videogame soundtracks and songs from beloved cartoons. I mean, who doesn’t love nerd nostalgia? Powerglove embrace the most fun parts of the culture they participate in and own them completely. They walked onto the Opera House stage decked out in their trademark foam armour, designed to look like Koopa shells. Powerglove are primarily an instrumental band; they do have a with a frontman, of sorts, in Chris Marchiel, who interacts with the crowd, but primarily they let the music speak for itself. They played songs based on the Super Mario theme and the theme from Batman: the Animated Series. At one point, the band even passed out inflatable swords and hammers to the crowd and demanded they fight, then began to play the Mortal Kombat theme. The crowd, of course, went completely mad with aggressive glee. Their performance was based 100 percent on fun, nostalgia and tapping into nerd culture, with no hint of self-important kvlt elitism. There is something goofy about it, but also lovely and pure. Their set ended with a rendition of the Pokémon theme, and a room full of 17- to 22-year-old boys sang along at the top of their lungs; it was adorable.

Sabaton performed next, and — just, wow. I seriously don’t even know. First of all, the crowd totally loved them. A huge, manic pit developed in front of the stage and almost everyone in the building went nuts, screaming their lungs out and having a ball for Sabaton’s entire set. I want to honour that, because Sabaton entertained the hell out of this crowd, and good on them. However, they play really silly metal — this coming from a woman who loves power metal to an embarrassing degree. Sabaton are a Swedish group parodying American war-machine military culture in their look and music. At this show, all the band members wore identical, brand new white and grey camo pants.

Singer Joakin Brodén wore a bullet-proof vest with metallic abs painted on it, reflective sunglasses and a short Mohawk; I actually laughed through a lot of their set. Their songs about a very clean, glorified, G.I. Joe version of war didn’t raise my blood pressure nearly as much as my mirth; I am all for entertainment and ridiculousness, but this was a bit much. That said, the place was packed and everyone loved it, so kudos to them for their appeal.

By the time headliners Evergrey began their set, the crowd had thinned out considerably. Evergrey are a Gothenburg unit with a distinct power metal flair. They’ve gone through some significant recent line-up changes and played with a new guitarist, bassist and drummer — all the previous members in these positions left in 2010. Only original member Tom Englund remains. I got the sense from their set that Evergrey are going through a fallow period. They bill themselves as progressive, but there was little forward momentum or innovation in their sound. Their live performance was a bit dreary for power metal and a bit light for gothic; it felt like they were trapped in a state of too much and not enough. This translated into a somewhat low-energy performance, which was particularly disappointing after the over-the-top theatrics of the first two acts.

I left after the main part of their set, which ended with their famous Dilba cover, “I’m Sorry,” and “Frozen,” both of which were solid, good notes to end on. Friends who stayed reported they played a full four-song encore, plus a guitar solo, which made me rather glad I left when I did.

Sean is the founder/publisher of Hellbound.ca; he has also written about metal for Exclaim!, Metal Maniacs, Roadburn, Unrestrained! and Vice.