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Wednesday 17 April 2024

A View From The Back Of The Room: Blind Guardian (Live Review By Matt Bladen)

Blind Guardian & The Night Eternal, The Academy, Manchester, 13.04.24

Heading up to Manchester for a gig from South Wales could bee seen as a bit of a mammoth task but when that bands are one of the best epic metal bands to come out of Germany and this is only one of three UK shows they are playing it was well worth doing.

A two band show is something of a gift, especially after a long trip, but what it really does is give the support band a chance to play a longer set and show the crowd what they do. The support band in question are classic metal troop The Night Eternal (8) also from Germany they play some muscular old school heavy metal inspired by witchcraft and the occult, drawing musical comparisons to Mercyful Fate, Angel Witch, In Solitude, Portrait and even ol' Mr Danzig (in his solo guise). 

Bags of energy and commitment to giving a good show won over the crowd, including this jaded hack, as for my sins I'd not heard much from the band before. Fists in the air, playing songs from their two albums at full throttle it was fast, furious and a little theatrical.

Though nothing compares to Hansi Kürsch's theatricality as a frontman, whether it's leading the chants, getting hands in the air he has the crowd in the palm of his hand, gently ribbing or humorously praising the audience to participate more, it's more vaudeville than power metal but perfect for the bombastic show you always get with legends Blind Guardian (10).

Just three UK dates in support of their latest album The God Machine, any show that opens with my favourite song Imaginations From The Other Side will score highly. Chills down my spine already it was a warm welcome and Blood Of The Elves into Nightfall as the LOTR inspiration loomed large as it always does with Blind Guardian. 

The founding trio of Hansi and guitarists André Olbrich and Marcus Siepen prowl the stage in every song, peeling off the songs that they are the creative forces behind. Behind the core trio is fourth 'official' member Frederik Ehmke behind the kit, plus live members Johan Van Stratum on bass and Kenneth Berger on keys (who is the unsung hero on the more recent tracks).

After the epic Nightfall one of two from Nightfall In Middle Earth, it was another classic the rampaging The Script For My Requiem as the heaviness increased for Violent Shadows and the folksy Skalds And Shadows brought some tracks from the often overlooked A Twist In The Myth, the other track from here was This Will Never End came next as Deliver Us From Evil closed out the songs from The God Machine.

It was time to grab the tissues though as the mood turned, Manchester Academy shifting into one big karaoke session for The Bards Song - In The Forest, the Manchester audience singing long after it had finished and then bursting into emotional applause. This gratitude was reciprocated with the full bore speed metal of Majesty and the main set closer Traveller In Time.

I would have happily had that but the obligatory encore came and as they returned to the stage it was the 9 minute Sacred Worlds which though fairly recent has become a staple, started off this last few songs. The last trio of songs though brought about the biggest smiles by far, Bright Eyes displaying those note perfect Hansi vocals while it was sing along time again to Valhalla, the shouts of "deliverance" reverberating around The Academy. 

Regretfully it was time to go home and Blind Guardian brought things to a close this incredible show with Mirror Mirror, gaining love from every single person in the room. Some things are inevitable; death, taxes and Blind Guardian leaving you with a smile on your face! The Bard's of Manchester (and Wales) salute you!

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