Blind Guardian

Live at The City National Grove

Anaheim, CA

November 21st, 2015

Review and photos by Travis Baumann

Blind Guardian are one of the primary bands responsible for my resurgence into Metal over ten years ago. After taking some time off of in my love affair with high speed metallic musical notes, I ingested their "A Twist in the Myth" album like a drowning man gasping for air.

Ever since, the band has remained one of my all time favorite acts and has released an album every five years since to resolidify that position. Having followed up "A Twist" with the amazing "At the Edge of Time" in 2010, they continued to set the bar high for all subsequent albums and acts.

This year's release of "Beyond the Red Mirror" was another grand slam of Power Metal awesomeness that I continue to play repeatedly with the same awe and zeal as when I first listened to it.

And so it comes to pass, that the legendary Blind Guardian return to our lands and bring with them their modern minstrels' take on story telling and relaying the myths that continue to fuel our dreams (and at times, nightmares).

Supporting their latest output of musical magic, they come with the "Beyond the Red Mirror" tour. Having announced the tour months prior, the anticipation was lethal but finally the night was upon us.

Blind Guardian opened the set with a Magnum Opus off the new album in "The Ninth Wave". At once a huge, epic song fueled by the fundamental guitar layers but also with compounding choirs and orchestration that turn a Blind Guardian song into a quasi-religious experience.

These are truly metal hymns that are derived from an original mythos but at the same time speak to the individual as they interpret it. The entire audience was singing along from the first lines and only picked up in magnitude as the chorus came.

Hitting it off with a brand new song, they followed up with an old favorite; their second song of the set was from their second album, "Follow the Blind" which originally released in 1989. "Banish from Sanctuary" got all the old time fans riled up and had them all singing along as the concert was just getting started.

As with all things Blind Guardian, it would seem that great care and orchestration took place in their set list as they moved mid-career for a song off their 1998 album "Nightfall in Middle Earth". They played the title track, "Nightfall" which is one of the songs and albums that cemented the band with fans of the literary fantasy world.

The set continued with "Fly" from "A Twist in the Myth" which, inspired by "Finding Neverland", breathes new life into the Pan mythos by way of blistering guitar assault as well as fine crafted lyrics of the mythical land where we can all learn to fly and not lose our child-like sense of wonderment and imagination.

The band consists of the founding members, Hansi Kürsch as lyricist and vocalist extraordinaire, along with his instrumental counterpart, André Olbrich blasting out lead guitar riffs that define articulate shredding.

In addition, long time conspirator, Marcus Siepen plays rhythm guitar and for a decade now, Frederik Ehmke has been beating on the skins. They also utilize touring members on keyboards and bass that do not play on the albums but offer both their instruments and voices to fill out the full Blind Guardian experience.

Hansi announced the next song by hinting at the albino protagonist which could only be Elric. The white skinned, red-eyed devilish hero of many a book was always seeking the mythical city of peace but for now all he could do is cry for it... and so they played "Tanelorn (Into the Void)". The song ends with the resounding "Stormbringer!! Into the Void".

As the tale came to a close with the utterance of the demon sword, the audience began chanting for the song "Majesty". This song comes from their debut album "Battalions of Fear" and was not on their set list for the night. After much banter with the audience, André played a bit of the song and the crowd went wild. Hansi mentioned that since André was in a good mood, something he had not seen in over ten years, that they were going to play it.

The song is epic-fast, blazing guitar work from their earliest days when they were technically more speed metal than power metal and it was ultra impressive to watch his fingers at work. The entire audience sang along with the chorus and it was an amazing performance to say the least.

After they finished up the song Hansi said, "if it is alright with you, we will continue with the planned program for the rest of the night". With that they went into another new song, "Prophecies".

I love the new material so much, I was really glad to hear more of it. When a band has been around for thirty years, there are just too many good songs to fit into one night so no matter what they played I was going to be enthralled.

The remainder of the main set was a selection of favorite songs moving about their huge back catalog. We got to hear "The Last Candle" from 1990's "Tales From The Twilight World", followed by the ballad-like, "Lord of the Rings". Keeping up the Tolkien inspired works, they did "Time Stands Still (at the Iron Hill)" which tells the tale of an epic battle that shaped the future of Middle-Earth out of the pages of the "Silmarillion".

They played "Bright Eyes" about an isolated child who finds another world through the looking glass and must come to terms with which path he will take. Blind Guardian closed out the main set with "Imaginations From The Other Side", the title track off the album of the same name which acts as a prequel for "Beyond The Red Mirror".

The band left the stage but the cheering and chanting from the audience raised to extreme levels. All that furor cut itself off in an instant when the first keyboard swells of "Sacred Worlds" began to resonate.

This is a huge, building song that is the first track on "The Edge of Time" release and one of my all time favorite songs of theirs. The entire hall sang along with the chorus: "It's now or never - We shall stand together - One by one, This world is Sacred".

Carrying on with that near religious feeling, they went into "Twilight of the Gods" from their latest release and followed up with the crowd favorite "Valhalla" which had possibly the most intense sing along of the night that extended far beyond the end of the song.

Once again the band left the stage but the crowd would not be quiet or content. The cheers and chants raised once more and continued on. We had been treated to fifteen songs so far and some of those clocking in at near ten minutes so it had already been a full evening.

Blind Guardian were not done yet however, and the cheers and applause redoubled in effort as the instrumental "War of Wrath" played throughout the hall.

Hansi and company returned to the stage and played "Into the Storm" from "Nightfall in Middle-Earth". The guitarists switched out instruments for the intimate "The Bard's Song - In The Forest" which gave another resounding sing along for the audience - "Tomorrow - Will take us away.. Far From Home, No one will ever know our names - But the Bard's song will remain".

With that, it would be a fitting end for an amazing night but before they left the stage, Hansi teased us with asking if we wanted more. The entire hall yelled out and with a smile and a gesture he ushered in one of their favorite songs to play live, "Mirror Mirror".

It was an incredible night. Eighteen songs, over two hours of majestic music to fill our heads with tales and images. A Blind Guardian show really is like no other in terms of the talent, the sound, the audience, and the magic. It really is something to behold. Hopefully we don't have to wait another five years to see them again but if we do, the wait will be worth it.

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