Blind Guardian live at The HiFi in Sydney. Picture: From the iPhone of Editor Matt LawrenceI apologise in advance if the following gig review falls short of making sense. You see, while attempting to put finger to keyboard and find logical patterns of linked words, my brain is desperately trying to find an equilibrium inside its now quite foreign casing, due a night of fever-pitched head-banging … curse you Blind Guardian, you beautiful bastards.
I guess it was to be expected. I’ve waited a long time for this chance. The brain fuzz, raw throat and associated body aches are proof positive the wait was in deed rewarded.
The HiFi at Sydney’s entertainment quarter was the venue for last night’s epic two-hour set by the German masters of symphonic progressive metal.
It was the second of just two Australian dates on their Beyond The Red Mirror world tour.
Such is the love for the outfit among their fanbase, there’s a fair bet many of last night’s revelers had also attended the previous night’s Melbourne show – I ran into a few who had done so in the course of the evening.
Before delving into their spine-shaking set, special note must be made of the two Australian acts who opened proceedings.
Tasmanian power metal practitioners Taberah were, in a word, amazing. The quartet’s instrumental wizardry was dripping ear candy, especially when the guitarists cut loose with their dexterous harmonies. The singer also earned his place centre-stage … quite the showman.
Melbourne’s Divine Ascension were a more than worthy support for the mighty Blind Guardian. Again, this picture is from editor Matt’s iPhone.
Next up were Melbourne-based Divine Ascension, who also trod the power path. The band’s singer, Jennifer Borg commanded the stage with her pleasurable pipes and theatrical sensibilities. Her cohorts impressed with their heady blend of keyboard-infused and guitar-driven heaviness. David Van Pelt’s keys added real flavour to the structure. Sadly, when he powered forward from behind his rig with keytar in hand – yes the same device used by Pseudo Echo – his sound was lost in the mix. I had bought both of this band’s CDs on spec at the start of the night – masterstroke on my part I reckon.
At this point, had it not been known that Blind Guardian were to walk the stage next, I would have left one happy metal fan, such were the quality of the supports. I was pleased to see each treated to ample love from the appreciative crowd.
But the fact remained; there was plenty of reason to be hanging around.
I had held my ground at front of stage from the point of entering the venue – just one sweaty body away from touching the barrier between heaving mass and stage.
It was only as the final pieces of the support’s equipment were removed, that it hit me … I am finally about to see a band who have been part of my life for more than the last 20 years.
Around me, fellow revelers started a ”Guardian” chant. As they say, when in Rome – I joined in with gusto.
Then, just before 10.30pm it happened … cue intro tape, cut house lights.
Drummer Frederik Ehmke led the band onto the stage. He was followed by guitarists Andre Olbrich and Marcus Siepen, and touring bass player Barend Courbois and keyboard player Michael Schuren.
Finally, vocalist Hansi Kursch appeared to a rousing reception, breathing the first lines of The Ninth Wave, the opening track to the band’s latest album.
What followed was nothing short of a schooling in metal. Seeing this band in full flight is absolutely breath-taking.
They make the complex seem effortless. They blend the intellectual with the primal. They make it near impossible to remain a passive observer.
I had spoken with Olbrich several weeks ago about the tour and he had stated that the band had devised ways of adapting its studio material for the stage – a necessity, considering the rich orchestral sections on many of the band’s recordings.
He said they had it down to a fine art. I would certainly agree.
The live translation of The Ninth Wave was sensational and lost absolutely nothing. In fact, it seemed to grow into an even bigger beast, due to it being pumped through a mighty set of house speakers.
At song’s end Kursch addressed the crowd, before the band forged ahead with a gem from their glorious past. Banish From Sanctuary, from the Follow The Blind album, was high-speed Euro-thrash at its finest.
I had grown up feasting on this sort of stuff and finally getting the chance to truly sample its live energy was mind-blowing.
The self indulgent side of me wants to wax-lyrical about each of the songs from the set, but I will refrain.
All that is required knowledge, for you who weren’t lucky enough to witness the spectacle, is that it was just that … a glorious thrill ride that gets your heart palpitating and leaves you sore, and yet strangely leaves you begging for more.
Those in attendance will understand.
Highlights were many. The material was truly a selection of cuts from throughout the course of the band’s career. New tracks, Prophecies, Twilight Of The Gods and the acoustic, Miracle Machine, were eagerly embraced, while The Last Candle, Guardian Of The Blind, Valhalla, Fly, Blood Tears, Mirror Mirror and Bright Eyes were all welcome nods from the past.
The true standouts for me, were experiencing the endurance ride that is And Then There Was Silence from A Night At The Opera, and being able to sing along with Nightfall (my favourite BG track).
And on the subject of singalongs – there were many – there was something quite special, being one of the metal brothers and sisters in full voice with the band as they ran through The Bard’s Song. It really was one of those moments as they say.
Kursch and his bandmates seemed genuinely affected by the amazing reception they received from the Sydney faithful and he intimated a swift return. We can only hope.
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