Demons & Wizards

Live at The Wiltern Theatre

Los Angeles, CA

August 17th, 2019

Review and photos by Travis Baumann

Twenty years ago two immense talents in the world of metal got together and formed a magical side project from their primary endeavors, thus unleashing the powers of Demons & Wizards upon mankind.

Featuring Hansi Kürsch from Blind Guardian fame providing vocals and lyrics and Jon Schaffer from Iced Earth composing the epic song structures. Demons & Wizards combines the best of both bands; intricate dark and moving music, combined with intelligent story telling inspired by literary works that stand the test of time.

In the year 2000 we saw the first release, the self titled "Demons & Wizards" which was followed up five years later with the spectacular "Touched by the Crimson King" release. Since that time, the two master minds went back to their respective projects, always hinting that they would like to get back together at some later date.

With great excitement the world wide metal scene reacted to the tour announcement that Demons & Wizards would be, for the first and only time, coming to North America for a headlining tour. Months of anticipation have now culminated in this very special occasion.

The tour was kicking off here in Los Angeles and the Wiltern was packed with metal fans. The set opened with the instrumental introduction "Rites of Passage" as Jon took the stage. Joining him was his Iced Earth co-conspirator Jake Dreyer on lead guitar, along with Blind Guardian members Marcus Siepen on bass guitar and Frederik Ehmke on drums.

The crowd went wild when Hansi stepped to the mic and the song broke into a hi-speed gallop that is Jon's signature playing style. The mosh pit blasted into action as "Heaven Denies" from the debut album hit full throttle. Hansi is simply put a mind blowing vocal talent, his voice moving from soft spoken to epic metal screams as the story he is crafting demands.

Plunging directly into "Poor Man's Crusade", they followed the initial release in track order and gave fans two amazing favorites in rapid succession. As the song came to an end the crowd started chanting "Hansi!  Hansi".

Hansi took the moment to address the audience telling them to save some of that enthusiasm as there was much more to come. He said thank you from the "wizard" and that "we have a good looking demon over here" gesturing to Jon.

He then introduced the next song as being very special as the band broke into the powerful "Crimson King" based on the adversary from the Dark Tower novels. I would be hard pressed to name a song more epic or fitting of the subject matter. Continuing with another song from their sophomore release they did the sad yet beautiful, "Love's Tragedy Asunder".

Hansi took another moment to address the crowd and said that since we had so many members of both Iced Earth and Blind Guardian on stage, it was only fitting that they do a few songs from each band's catalog. They kicked it off with "Burning Times" from Iced Earth. It is a blazingly aggressive song that sounded amazing with Hansi singing it.

They reciprocated by following up with Blind Guardian's classic "Welcome to Dying", both songs inducing massive sing alongs by the audience. It was interesting to hear how each song was so different from the original counterpart, yet completely identifiable and fullfilling, a really fun treat.

Returning to the Demons & Wizards material, the band all left the stage except Jon and Hansi.  Jon switched to an acoustic guitar and the duo performed a moving rendition of "Wicked Witch", Hansi mentioning that it was inspired by The Wizard of Oz.

As the rest of the band joined them on stage Hansi said, "speaking of movies.... The Dark Tower" and then made a face showing how badly the film conveyed the magnitude of the books. "We think the books are really good. Really, Really good. We also think our songs about the Dark Tower are very well done".

They are more than well done as all of the fans present could attest to when he announced "The Gunslinger" was up next. Weaving a better account of the trials and tribulations of Roland of Gilead's quest to find and save the Dark Tower than Hollywood could ever dream of, this song is the epic bard's tale the character and world he inhabits so richly deserves.

They proceeded into the hyper-fast "Terror Train" rounding out the Dark Tower inspired storylines before delving back into material from their respective main projects.

Hansi said that since he first discovered Iced Earth, one of his favorite songs has always been "I Died For You". This song encapsulates the melancholy gothic mood that Iced Earth invokes so well and it was great to hear it performed by such a brilliant vocalist who is also a fan of the original.  

Maintaining the reciprocal nature of the set list, they did Blind Guardian's massive fan favorite, "Valhalla". This song is usually featured towards the end of a Blind Guardian set and invokes a never ending sing along to the chorus and tonight was no different, the Blind Guardian fans showing up in force. Even after the band had finished the song, the crowd just kept singing for quite some time until Hansi gestured for them to stop.

Hansi said that for the final portion of the set that they had a special treat for everyone, a triple offering from their debut release with "Tear Down the Wall" flowing directly into "Gallows Pole" and ending with "My Last Sunrise".

After completing the triptych, the band left the stage to the tumultuous roar of the crowd. After incessant chanting for their return, Demons & Wizards ventured back to the forefront for their encore.

"Blood on My Hands" was up first, a moving imagining of the lasting legacy of Wagner's Ring Cycle told in elegant fashion. For the final song of the night they did the fan favorite, "Fiddler on the Green", the fiddler being death collecting the souls of the fallen. In this telling, collecting innocent children taken before their time and lamenting his lot in the great game.

It was an absolutely amazing concert and everything that I had hoped it would be when they first announced the tour. I discovered Demons & Wizards many years ago on a trip to Germany and found their debut in a record shop there. I have been a massive fan ever since, having loved both of the primary projects from the founders but never hoped to actually get to see them perform this material.

I highly recommend everyone get out to see this tour as it moves across the country . It is more than likely that this will in fact be the only tour of its kind and it is not to be missed.

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