Once again I have found myself at my local concert venue, the Baltimore Soundstage for the second time in a month. This particular outing was to see the likes of the long lived legend that is Blind Guardian, with the special guest band Grave Digger. As it would turn out, Baltimore was the first stop on the list for Blind Guardian's: Beyond the Red Mirror North American tour and I couldn't be happier. To be quite honest, I'm surprised at not only how many Blind Guardian fans actually reside locally to me, but also how enthusiastic they would be to see these guys live. The Baltimore crowd gladly went on that journey beyond the mirror with Guardian, and took a nice long look at itself for good measure just to show it wasn't afraid of what it saw.
This was easily one of the best concerts I've been to in years, and yes my ears are still ringing from the superb bombast that is Blind Guardian's distinctive sound. For those not in the know, Blind Guardian is a melodic/progressive rock band hailing all the way from Germany. Their penchant for epic storytelling practically makes them like modern day bards (a title they openly embrace) and some of the most drama laden metal of today has come from them over the course of their fantastic thirty year career. If you can't tell by now, I'm a big big fan of theirs. In fact, I would say, next to the band Nightwish, Blind Guardian is one of my all-time favorite metal bands.
I could gush on and on about these guys, but what I'm sure you all really want to know is all the little details of how this show went. First and foremost, before Blind Guardian could take the stage proper, the ever awesome Grave Digger came out to get the crowd warmed up. To any who may be wondering who these guys are, they're another German power-metal band, and that's a good thing. The best way to describe their sound would be to imagine if Megadeath sang about the likes of King Arthur (and to an extent Macbeth) and you've got a pretty good idea of what to expect. With kick-ass fist pumping tracks like 'Season of the Witch' 'Excalibur' and 'Heavy Metal Breakdown' it was nigh impossible to not get totally amped-up with these guys on stage. Vocalist Christ Boltendahl's voice (while not in perfect shape) boomed over the speaker system as the crowd lapped up guitarist Axel Ritt's sick chops. Stefan Arnold's drums were performed with perfect timing, and I'm fairly certain that I lost probably about ten pounds just from head-banging to their set alone.
Then it was time for Blind Guardian to step up, and the audience just became electric. I honestly felt an energy in the air with this concert, and I knew that this was going to be something to remember the moment things got underway. Blind Guardian stood front and center, with an almost deafening dirge of adoring fans (myself included) and belligerently began to blow the roof off the place. Playing iconic hits from all across their storied discography, everyone sang along to the likes of 'The Last Candle' 'Imagination' and 'Tanelorn'. What made people go completely bonkers though was when they announced that they were doing another live album, and that they wanted to make Baltimore a part of the cut. Shortly after that they "left the stage" only to come back out and play the absolutely epic tracks 'Sacred' 'Mirror Mirror' 'Twilight of the Gods' and 'Valhalla'. To get an idea of the vibe the crowd had with these songs, I suggest watching/educating yourself with these videos here and here. Watch them all the way to the end because that's were the magic happens.
No joke, this is exactly what happened... and it was just as awesome as you would think it'd be!
To help bring things down to a nice simmer before they finally exited the stage a second time, they played perhaps one of their most famous songs 'The Bard's Song' to which the entire crowd joyously/tearfully joined in singing. It was surely a momentous occasion to say the least, and it's incredibly satisfying to know that, even after all these years, Blind Guardian still sound like they always have; amazing.
Lead singer Hansi Kürsch still possessed his trademark banshee scream for all of the high marks, and had an awesome rapport with the audience as a whole. It can't be stated enough of how fun it was to watch him live, as his energetic interactions with the fans were highly contagious. The guitar riffs of Andre Olbrich were just as fantastic here as they've ever been, and I would dare to make the argument that he may be better now than when the band first started. While drummer Frederik Ehmke may be the newest member, he has played with the band for a decade now and still delivered the goods where it counted. His distinguished double bass roll is the foundation power-metal has been fundamentally built upon, and I can only hope that he continues to stick with Guardian for the years to come.
Overall, I feel like my painfully short (but easy to digest) write-up here fails to truly describe what it was like to be there and witness this concert event up close and personal. If anything else, should the opportunity to see these guys live comes your way, I emphatically, and vociferously encourage you to do so. It will be a night you won't forget anytime soon, so look into that Red Mirror and dare to dream!