LIVE REVIEW: Blind Guardian at The Academy (May 19th 2016)

Blind Guardian Tour PosterDate: May 19th, 2016
Venue: The Academy, Dublin
Line-up: Blind Guardian + Gloryhammer

Even when there was just mere teasing at the thought of Blind Guardian coming back to Dublin people’s excitement could hardly be contained. A few days later it was officially announced that the “modern day travelling bards” would be making their long awaited return to Ireland after 10 long years. Still touring in support of their latest masterpiece Beyond the Red Mirror the band promised over 2 hours of music spanning their entire back catalogue.

Opening tonight’s show were Gloryhammer, probably one of the silliest bands I’ve seen in my life. I mean this in the best possible way of course, I mean what other band could get away with introducing themselves as “We are Gloryhammer, we are from outer space and we sing songs about hammers!” or writing a song called “The Unicorn Invasion of Dundee”. Performing as a number of different personas, they take the concept of space opera to new meanings, with each and every song telling their little story in the tale. Guitarist Ser Proletius, Grand Master of the Spaceknights of Crail introduces his track “Hail to Crail”, later there were the cries of “Hoots!”  for bassist Hootsman, the Barbarian King of California. The whole thing was completely crazy but they made it work incredibly well. Frontman Thomas Winkler (better known as Angus McFife XIII, Prince of the Galactic Empire of Fife) commanded his audience with ease, his gleeful attitude had people singing in their droves and timing and visual prompts to the crowd were spot on. The guitars were a little low in the mix but overall it was a larger than life performance the ultimately got the crowd pumped up.

When the opening to “The Ninth Wave” began to blare over the PA the room instantly filled with the excited roars and screams of the crowd, with the members of Blind Guardian beginning to flood out on the stage to join in the bombastic track. The real fun began with the classic pairing of “Time Stands Still (On the Iron Hill)” and “Nightfall” the latter of which nearly blew the roof off with the intensity of the crowd singing along. The tempo hardly let up for the entire night except for a few choice moments notably the more playful progressive leanings of their hit “Fly”.

One thing that struck me about the band’s performance was how natural they were on stage; there was a spark of youthful energy about them, somethings that’s rare to find in newer bands never mind a band 30 years into their career. Lead guitarist André Olbrich’s playing throughout the night was exceptional, the melodies and solo’s came so fluidly and naturally, while rhythm guitarist Marcus Siepen threw out riff after riff of punchy power metal. Hansi Kürsch is just a phenomenal frontman, he’s so laid back and humbled by the crowd but he also knows how to work them and keep them motivated. Like with Gloryhammer before them, he knows all the que’s and right things to keep the crowd happy, however, his work was scarcely needed given the sheer enthusiasm on display.

“The Last Candle” was extended to nearly double its length when the crowd continued to sing its refrain of “Somebody’s out there” with drummer Frederik Ehmke joining in for his chance at a solo. Semi-ballad ‘Lord of the Rings’ performed similarly with the crowd singing back it’s huge chorus much to Hansi’s delight.

Hansi’s jokingly said goodbye to the crowd claiming they’d finished their set and that we’d see them back again soon. That soon was mere moments later when they jumped into their encore with the over the top orchestrations of “Sacred Worlds”. Before jumping into the classic speed metal of “Majesty” Hansi spoke retrospectively of all those years ago that they wrote the track then jokingly speculating that there were a few in the crowd who weren’t even born  back then. “Majesty” was given a modern Blind Guardian touch making its chorus sound bigger and better than ever. When the band plays “Valhalla” it’s hard to put into words the feeling and atmosphere of the room, the band knocking out the song and the crowd bellowing back its massive chorus. Similar to “The Last Candle” it was extended far past its normal length with an orchestrated sing along by Hansi.

This is already past the point where most bands would have finished up playing but not Blind Guardian who re-appeared for their second encore. The bombastic “Wheel of Time” was closely followed by the groups defining song “The Bard’s Song – In the Forest”. The performance was very minimal with Hansi leaving much of the singing to the crowd who happily obliged. “Mirror Mirror” closed out the evening in an energetic manner. Even with the band giving their final applause and goodbye’s there were still many in the crowd chanting for “one more song!”, a fitting testament to their amazing performance.

Setlist:
The Ninth Wave
Time Stands Still (at the Iron Hill)
Nightfall
Fly
Tanelorn (Into the Void)
Prophecies
The Last Candle
Lord of the Rings
Bright Eyes
Journey through the Dark
Imaginations from the Other Side

Encore:
Sacred Worlds
Majesty
Valhalla

Encore 2:
Wheel of Time
The Bard’s Song – In the Forest
Mirror Mirror

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