Words by Alan Daly
© Olga Kuzmenko
Photos by Olga Kuzmenko
A notably warm and sunny evening welcomes legendary German power metal ensemble Blind Guardian back to Dublin, almost a full decade since their last visit to these shores. An apparent surge in the popularity of the genre has seen bands like Alestorm and Sabaton draw sell-out crowds to Dublin in recent years, and tonight the Academy is densely packed with a mix of young and old, ready to show that power metal has a loyal and dedicated following in Ireland.
A punctual 8:15 start, and the house lights go down as the six band members take their places, clearly illuminated by the daylight still streaming through the frosted skylight. The recorded intro to the opening track ‘The Ninth Wave’ from their most recent studio release Beyond The Red Mirror accompanies them onstage while the already willing audience echo the chanted lyrics. There is no hiding the pride and gratitude on the face of frontman Hansi Kürsch as he looks out at the sea of beaming faces before him.
Instead of dwelling on tracks from their newest release, they immediately transition into ‘Time Stands Still (at the Iron Hill)’ from their 1998 album Nightfall in Middle-Earth, and only return to Beyond The Red Mirror once more a few tracks later for ‘Prophecies’. The rest of the setlist is a broad selection of tracks spanning most of their thirty year career. The audience is one of the most vocal and emotionally charged seen at the Academy in recent memory, fervently singing along to most of the lyrics and vying for the attention of Kürsch and his axemen. In return, the clean-cut and well-dressed vocalist interacts with his loyal subjects, smiling at, pointing to and flirting with them at every available moment.
Almost hidden behind his gigantic drum kit, Frederik Ehmke never misses a beat and provides the backing for flawless rhythms and riffs from his brethren who flank the drum riser throughout most of the show. Kürsch banters with the crowd between most tracks, reminiscing about their last visit to Dublin when they lost all of their equipment, and graciously basking in the chants of “Blind Guardian” regularly echoing around the floor. An extended version of Last Candle drags on for several minutes as Kürsch encourages the more-than-eager fans to sing “somebody’s out there” repeatedly while Ehmke accompanies them with a drum solo.
Next up is the Tolkien-inspired semi-ballad ‘The Lord of the Rings’ which typifies the power metal genre with tales of Middle-Earth and fantastic fiction. The first act finishes up with a trio of nineties tracks ‘Bright Eyes’, ‘Journey Through the Dark’ (which even spawns a surprising mosh pit) and ‘Imaginations from the Other Side’. At 9:30, the band leave the stage, and none are surprised when they return with a three-song encore of ‘Sacred Worlds’, ‘Majesty’ and ‘Valhalla’. Some do, however, seem genuinely surprised when they leave and return yet again for another three tracks, bringing the show-time to a very admirable 135 minutes.
The final finale includes the semi-acoustic ‘The Bard’s Song – In the Forest’, which does slow the pace briefly before the real show-closer ‘Mirror Mirror’. Despite not being the biggest fan of power metal, one cannot deny that Blind Guardian put on one of the most impressive performances and drew some of the most enthusiastic fans seen in Dublin for some time. They’ll be welcome back again any time, and Ireland will hold Kürsch to his promise to return sooner, next time around.