I’ll start this review off by saying last night’s experience was a first for me on a number of levels. For one, it was my first time seeing Blind Guardian after many, many attempts. While my taste in metal may be more on the extreme end, Blind Guardian will always hold a special place in my heart. So, finally getting to see them is a monumental event in my lifetime. Beyond that, it was my first Halloween not spent blitzed out of my mind in some absurd costume in almost a decade. Good for me, right?
Good for me, indeed. Being Halloween, it was an incredible evening full of twists and turns that absolutely nobody expected or could have prepared for. I know many are planning on seeing this same show in coming days. If you are among those, stop reading here. You owe it to yourselves to wait and have your own experience. It was an amazing night and one that I will remember for a long time. Now, allow me to get into more detail.
This particular show was held at the Worcester Palladium. You know, that “historic” venue that I can never decide if I hate loving it or love hating it. Either way, after an hour-plus drive, there I found myself again. The last time I was here, of course, was for the Insomnium/Omnium Gatherum show. While that show was held in the smaller, upstairs venue, Grave Digger and Blind Guardian occupied the 1,200 (or so) capacity larger downstairs venue. Open balcony and all. Obviously, there no chance in Hell the globally popular Blind Guardian would be resigned to a 500-seat standing room only venue.
Another factor to keep in mind here is the fact that I attended this show with company. Normally, concerts a very personal experience for me and only on the rarest occasions do I attempt to assemble a crowd. This was one of those times. So into the main stage area we walk. I point out the peeling walls, shitty balcony, and overcrowded bar to the Palladium rookies before we make our way to an open area conveniently located next to said bar just in time for Grave Digger to take the stage. From this vantage point, we can clearly see and hear Grave Digger while I strategically return to the bar to throw back the notorious Narragansett Lagers. Despite my lack of familiarity with Grave Digger’s discography, the German heavy metal legends put on a solid show. Covering ten songs over many albums, their set was appropriately diverse and each song generated more than enough energy with the audience. Despite them being at it for 35 years, they still delivered. They sounded great, they were active on stage, making them a quality opening act for the evening. Oh, and they closed with “Heavy Metal Breakdown”. It was a song they dragged out for several minutes, utilizing audience participation, that absolutely brought the house down. The crowd was loving it. And then they were done, so we worked our way to the front for the main act.
Finding ourselves in the standing area directly in front of the stage, we patiently waited for Blind Guardian to take the stage. For several minutes fog poured over the audience, leaving virtually no visibility. The moments ticked by and the anticipation grew. And then, finally, the opening percussion and choirs of “The Ninth Wave” began to fill our ears. I immediately threw out my ear plus as Hansi Kürsch and company stepped out. But, being Halloween, it wasn’t that simple. Hansi, dressed as Elvis Presley, with wig and all, was joined by the others who were decked out in demon jester costumes and drummer Frederik Ehmke in a skeleton suit. The crowed absolutely erupted in excitement. A Halloween surprise to say the least. And so our journey began. They tore it up with “The Ninth Wave”, getting the crowd to jump in unison to the chorus. It was incredible. But it was only just the beginning.
As the set worked through “Nightfall” and “Fly” within the first four tracks, it was clear that this wasn’t simply a tour supporting this year’s Beyond The Red Mirror. No, they were going to do so much more with it than that. And the exploration of albums like Nightfall in Middle-Earth and Follow the Blind were extremely welcomed. By the end of the first few tracks, we retreated to the balcony to catch some of the performance from a better viewpoint. And as great as tracks like “Lord of the Rings” and “Majesty” were from afar, it wasn’t long before I needed to head back to the energy of the main floor below. The rest of the group was soon to follow. And let me say, the timing was perfect.
Venturing towards the right side of the stage, we were immediately greeted with “Imaginations from the Other Side” and I, for all intents and purposes, lost my shit. It sounded great, despite our spot relative to the stage. But then, just like that, the track ended and Blind Guardian departed. Obviously we were all awaiting an encore. And we got not one, but two. Within a couple of minutes, they retook the stage, still in full costume, and broke out three immense tracks in “Sacred Worlds”, “Twilight of the Gods”, and “Valhalla”. Are you kidding me? Talk about coming back to the stage with authority. The whole building was shaking with crowd-generated energy. And then, before we knew it, once again the stage was vacated.
But, of course, back they came to deliver a five song second encore. But they weren’t tracks we may have expected. Sure, it kicked off with “Into the Storm” and “Wizard’s Crown”, which was fine. But from there they used “The Bard’s Song – In the Forest” to transition to “Mirror Mirror”. Now, these tracks reach pretty deep into Guardian’s discography for closing tracks to a tour that supports a release from just this year. But based on the crowd reaction, you never would have known it. Still, the audience raged on, screaming each and every line from each and every song. And just when it seemed like everything was at its terminus, they broke out “Barbara Ann” as the final closer. Yep, a cover of that song done by The Regents. Why? Why not? We were all dancing and singing along, obviously. It was amusing, if nothing else.
Let’s take a step back a moment and reflect on what we just experienced. This was Blind Guardian, in full costume, performing on Halloween. To be honest, I still have a hard time believing I have finally experience a Blind Guardian performance live. The costumes? Not helping that skepticism. The set covered a total on 19 tracks, spanning multiple decades of music and over two hours of set time. The energy never wavered with the band or audience. It was a celebration for everyone in the building. I go to a lot of shows. Like a lot of shows. And I have never, in my life, experienced so much joy and positive participation with a performance. Everyone that attended this show left with an ear-to-ear grin. It was a massive performance from a massive band. It sounded great, it looked great, and it was a unique experience that will never happen again. Not bad for my first Blind Guardian show. The anticipation and frustration over the years? Totally worth it.
If you are attending this show at a future date, you are in for an experience. If you weren’t planning on attending this show? Fix it. You’ll thank me later. There truly is no other band like Blind Guardian and my appreciation for them and their music just reached new heights.
“Ein Bier… bitte.”