sleep token: wembley arena (dec 2023)

sleep token are arguably one of the hottest metal bands at the moment. with the release of their latest album, take me back to eden, they have had a meteoric rise that has taken them from playing relatively small venues to selling out the massive wembley arena in just 10 minutes

the biggest show of their career so far, on one of the biggest stages in their home country. this show was always going to be intense

i’d never seen sleep token live before, someone i’d wanted to see for quite some time but never had an opportunity to, yet had heard they were an experience like no other

somehow, i managed to misjudge my journey up to wembley and arrived a good three hours before the doors were due to open, but there were plenty of fans already in the vicinity and a merch van already parked up outside the arena

we decided to join the queue for the merch stall early as we saw a couple of items that we were interested in. this turned out to be a good decision as despite joining it early, the queue was long enough that it still took us over an hour to get to the van!

sleep token merch van outside wembley arena

we had heard earlier that there was a pop up shop in camden town selling some exclusive merch that wouldn’t be available at wembley, but figured this was a bit too far off our planned route. chatting to some other fans in the queue for the van, there were reported queues of up to 4 hours for the camden pop up shop and even then, not everybody was able to get in

i was able to grab a limited edition t-shirt exclusive to the wembley ritual with some amazing purple graphics to commemorate the event

onto the show, we were able to get in reasonably quickly and headed straight down to the floor. we were able to get a position on the left hand side not too far back

the show was opened by an american industrial/noise metal band called health. i’ll admit, i hadn’t heard of them until the show so i had no prior knowledge of their music. they put on a good show, although i’m not entirely sure they were a great fit and i’ll be honest, not my thing. i found the lighting a little too strobe heavy so it was a bit hard to watch and the sound mixing, to me at least, sounded a bit muddy. i did wonder at the time if that was just an arena characteristic, but the main event was much clearer so i would put this down to the mixing. overall, not bad but personally wouldn’t rush to see them again

after a short break, the main event starts… and it’s starts massively. a loud cheer erupts as iii and iv appear on the stage, and an even louder cheer when vessel arrives starting with the first track from take me back to eden, chokehold

given they started with chokehold, some of us wondered if we were in for a full play of the album from start to finish, wondering if we would finally get a live debut of euclid. this wasn’t to be though, as the second song was hypnosis from their earlier album, this place will become your tomb

after 7 tracks, following rain, there was an unexpected pause in the show. an interlude backing track had been playing, but it soon went quiet and the band left the stage. i assume at this point it was all part of the show, building up to something happening… but after a quiet few minutes, vessel came back on stage accompanied by sam (the band’s drum tech) who announced that vessel was not well & could not sing, but the show would go on, urging the crowd to help fill in for vessel

and fill in, the crowd did. continuing the show with the summoning, the crowd more than just filled in

(credit to rob watson for this footage)

granite and the love you want followed this with the crowd still filling in, before finally vessel was able to at least partially sing again starting with atlantic. while still managing his voice and avoiding anything too intense, he was able to carry on the show for the most part, but i imagine he was absolutely devastated that this happened during the biggest show of their career to date

(credit again to rob watson for this footage)

the show continued for another 6 songs, ending with an encore of the offering. and just when we thought the show was over, we were treated to a second encore, the first time blood sport had been played live in over a year with some incredible emotion from vessel, nearly breaking down on stage as he finished the show

(credit once again to rob watson for this footage)

i have been to some excellent shows over the last couple of years, but despite the unfortunate events that happened mid-show, this was absolutely incredible and makes me wonder, if this is the level they can perform when not at their best, how incredible must it be when they’re at their peak

this was my last show of 2023 and by far the best show of them all… and i made a new fan out of tania too

i hope to see them back again in the future and i’ll be straight into the queue for tickets if & when they do return

full set list:

  1. chokehold
  2. hypnosis
  3. vore
  4. interlude i
  5. dark signs
  6. like that
  7. aqua regia
  8. rain
  9. interlude ii
  10. the summoning (ft. the crowd)
  11. granite (ft. the crowd)
  12. the love you want (ft. the crowd)
  13. interlude iii
  14. atlantic
  15. nazareth
  16. alkaline
  17. ascensionism
  18. higher
  19. take me back to eden
  20. the offering
  21. blood sport