Blind Guardian Conquers Everything In Chicago on Sacred Worlds And Songs Divine North American Tour
Band Photo: Blind Guardian (?)
After I bought my ticket to the Sacred Worlds and Songs Divine Tour I realized I had never seen Blind Guardian play live, which in turn sparked some questions: would I have to recite Gimli’s entire family tree to get my ticket from will call? Would the audience be acting out the grand tales Blind Guardian spins in real-time? Would I need a suit of armor? A battle axe? Should I ride my war horse or would my lighter travelling mare be better suited to the evening? Fortunately all my questions would be answered by the great bards…
I arrived just as opening act Seven Kingdoms was getting rolling. Hailing from Orlando, Florida these power and speed metal troubadours have the chops and desire to be quite good, even though silky vocalist Sabrina V could use a couple semesters in the Angela Gossow School of Stage Presence for Women. The songs ranged from overwrought to outstanding; set closer “Seven Kingdoms” was the standout as the eponymous tune was Maiden-meets-Yngwie-meets-Doro fun, and Seven Kingdoms was warmly appreciated by the already full house.
After Seven Kingdoms removed their gear, Holy Grail lept onstage as a lemur leaps on a cracked nut. Hailing from Pasadena (just outside Los Angeles), Holy Grail mixed NWOBHM and speed metal with LA boogie and sleaze, which is an interesting mix. Vocalist and band leader James Paul Luna had a nice rapport going with the crowd with his interpretation of David Lee Roth on speed, and the crowd in turn responded well to his unreal energy and impassioned falsetto. Walking off the stage Luna remarked, “we’ll be over at the merch table, let’s party!” Which was interesting as the last 30 minutes was the biggest glam-power party I’d ever seen, so the following party must have been epic.
After a set change the lights went out and the opening strings of “Sacred World” started on the PA system. When I reviewed Blind Guardian’s new album “At the Edge of Time” I said “‘Sacred Worlds’ is easily the best song on the album – maybe even a top ten metal song of the year – [it] may be the longest unbroken crescendo of all time and the 60 seconds leading up to the bookend outro are speech-stealing.” Well that’s all fine for the studio version, but live the song was like riding a flying unicorn down a nine-minute water slide in outer space – you know it’s going to be awesome, but you have no idea how awesome it will actually be until it happens. Once “Sacred Worlds” came to its world-beating conclusion both the audience and the band needed some fresh air and a post-coital cigarette.
After coming down I noticed a few things:
1. Sporting a buttoned up dress shirt, no tattoos or piercings, neatly trimmed short hair and a self-deprecating sense of humor, Hansi Kursch looks and acts nothing like a heavy metal legend! But under that tax-accountant exterior Kursch hides more power in his vocals chords that Optimus Prime does when he is in truck form. Kursch’s voice is unbelievably powerful live, and seemingly only Blind Guardian’s epic tunes can support his best stuff.
2. It is striking how much folk music is worked into Blind Guardian’s music. Outside of the obvious “Lord of The Rings” and other similar songs, most of the tunes (the older ones in particular) have folk melodies, rhythms and arrangements played by heavy metal instruments. When listening to the studio albums it is easy to get caught up in the NWOBHM/speed/power sturm-und-drang Blind Guardian executes so well, but it is the folk elements that give the music the extra piece of brilliance much other power metal lacks.
3. Blind Guardian fans really like the band. I mean really like the band. We don’t get much power metal in Chicago - right now we are in Sanford-Parker-post metal-mania - but the crowd knew every single word to every single song and wasn’t shy about singing along the entire time. The atmosphere probably wasn’t “Tokyo Tales” nuts but the crowd was just as enthusiastic as the participants in a Slayer pit; they just showed it in a different way.
Ultimately I didn’t need any of the kit I wondered about, as Blind Guardian provided everything I needed to head bang and sing along to fantastic epics of fairy tales, battles won and nations conquered – thunderous drumming, searing guitars and the voice of the gods.
Blind Guardian Set List – November 29, 2010
1. Sacred Worlds
2. Welcome To Dying
3. Born In a Mourning Hall
6. Time Stands Still (at Iron Hill)
7. Bright Eyes
8. Banish from Sanctuary
9. Lord of the Rings
10. A Voice In The Dark
11. And Then There Was Silence
12. Wheel Of Time
13. The Bard's Song - In the Forest
15. Mirror Mirror
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