Live gig review and photo credit : Adrian Hextall
There’s a clear buzz inside and outside of the Forum tonight. Blind Guardian have done what few bands are willing to do these days and listened to their fanbase and returned to England for what Hansi describes as “the opening and also the closing night of the UK tour”.
So, we get one night only of Blind Guardian and as such, fans have come from far and wide for this rare sighting of the band that has created the definitive version of Game of Thrones like, fantasy themed, progressive power metal.
You would be forgiven in assuming that the band didn’t think there was a need to play the UK. The last time was around four years ago and for whatever reason the fever and anticipation of tonight was not present at that time. Tonight however is different, the venue is virtually sold out, the beer is flowing and everyone is in good spirits. Good spirits are rightly justified as the stage times indicate a minimum of two to two and a quarter hours for the headliners.
Before Blind Guardian we get a single support band which allows for a lengthy opening set. Israeli progressive metal/folk metal band Orphaned Land is certainly original. Orphaned Land fuse progressive, doom, and death metal as well as Middle-Eastern folk music and Arabic traditions in a form of Oriental metal. Each album has some concept related to two extremes: a meeting of East and West, past and present, light and darkness, and God and Satan.
As well as being voted Global Metal Band of the Year at the Golden God Awards in 2014, they’ve also been the subject of an on-line petition to see them nominated for a Nobel peace prize. This is primarily due to their unwavering determination to promote messages of peace and unity, particularly between the three main Abrahamic religions (Judaism, Islam, and Christianity), something few would dare attempt in these times.
Their set is certainly interesting and grabs the crowd from the off. They seem to have a reasonable amount of support with them and do go down well. Frontman Kobi Farhi, is barefoot and black robed and jokes at one point that he is not in fact Jesus Christ, even though combining the look with his hair and beard, the comparison is absolutely appropriate. For those that do not know the band there are many heads nodding in appreciation and a fair few people, including myself that will probably be checking out their back catalogue in the near future.
Kobi Farhi – lead vocals
Uri Zelcha – bass guitars
Matan Shmuely – drums, percussion
Chen Balbus – guitars, piano, bouzouki, xylophone
Idan Amsalem – guitars, bouzouki
All Is One
The Simple Man
The Kiss Of Babylon (The Sins)
Birth Of The Three (The Unification)
Norra El Norra (Entering The Ark) + Ornaments Of Gold
And so to the headliners. The afore-mentioned length of time since the band played has left the crowd tonight at fever pitch. Anticipation is ripe and from the moment the lights dim, the roar that greets the band is phenomenal.
Opening with ‘The Ninth Wave‘ from ‘Beyond The Red Mirror‘ confirms the band are back with a very strong release. That strong release also makes it difficult for them to pick the right tracks from an already impressive and extensive back catalogue. Bands touring in support of their latest album obviously wish and need to include tracks from it in their set list and are always faced with baying fans desperate to hear their older more well-known material. Tonight is no exception. The crowd are often heard, shouting out for more tracks from the past, especially fan favourites like ‘Imaginations from the Other Side’ and ‘’Tales From The Twilight Zone’. Given the fact that ‘Imaginations..’ is the prequel \ sister album to the latest release it’s no surprise we also get material from that, with the stunning title track as the main set closer.
Hansi Kürsch looks genuinely surprised by the crowd reaction, often smiling and silently mouthing “wow!” as the audience cheer and chant in support of the band. His comment about the show being the beginning and end of the UK tour only serves to show that promoters need to have a little more faith in the fans in this country and add a few more venues to a tour as it is clear they would sell very well indeed based on tonight’s frenzy.
Juggling the fan favourites with material from the new album is completed successfully and by the time they return to the stage for the first of two encores, the set time is already around the 90 minute mark.
‘Twilight Of The Gods’, from the new album is included in the encore with ‘Valhalla‘ following, much to the joy of the crowd who sing along to every word. Then, just as we thought it was all over, the band depart and return again for a second set of encores beginning with ‘Wheel Of Time‘. It’s followed by another firm, fan favourite ‘The Bard’s Song – In The Forest‘. A second rousing sing along is delivered by the “still” eager crowd and at two energetic hours in, it felt as though the whole audience never wanted this to end.
End it does though and in great style with ‘Mirror Mirror’. As the PA plays ‘Sacred Worlds’, the band then depart for good, leaving the crowd fulfilled and with the knowledge that they have just witnessed an amazing gig from Blind Guardian. It is a show that will have people in years to come confirming they were there and probably in greater numbers than were actually present tonight just to feel like they were part of the event.
Let’s hope the band return again and soon. On the strength of the performance and reaction, there is a crowd waiting for them.
Hansi Kürsch– lead vocals
André Olbrich – lead guitar, backing vocals
Marcus Siepen – rhythm guitar, backing vocals
Frederik Ehmke – drums, percussion, flute, bagpipes
Barend Courbois – bass guitar
The Ninth Wave
Banish from Sanctuary
Tanelorn (Into the Void)
The Last Candle
A Past and Future Secret
Lost in the Twilight Hall
Imaginations from the Other Side
War of Wrath (Intro)
Into the Storm
Twilight of the Gods
Wheel of Time
The Bard’s Song – In the Forest
Sacred Worlds (orchestral outro)