Live Review: Blind Guardian – Manchester

Live Review: Blind Guardian - Academy, Manchester
13th April 2024
Support: The Night eternal
Words: Dan Barnes
Photos: Julian Tanner

If my calculations are correct, then this is only the twelfth show the German Power Metal juggernaut that is Blind Guardian have played the soil of the United Kingdom. And if you remove the three Bloodstock appearances – 2002, 2009 and 2017 – and any London shows, it’s only the band’s fifth venture into the wilds of the nation.

That said, this is Blind Guardian’s second trip to Manchester and any chance to see the Teutonic legends in concert is to be grasped with both hands.

Opening proceedings is Essen’s The Night Eternal who draw a sizable crowd all baying for some German Heavy Metal. And, fortunately, the support band is ready to give it in spades. Taking the stage under a strong blue light, it’s clear the band are not here to re-invent the wheel; rather, their mission is to serve up a whole heap of Metal, which they do with some aplomb.

Photo Credit: Julian Tanner

Splitting their set evenly between 2021’s Moonlit Cross and last year’s Fatale albums, these Germans’ sound is closer to classic Heavy Metal, rather than the headliner’s Power Metal aesthetic. Close my eyes during In Tartarus and I could be back in 1987, but for the general aches and pains I don’t remember having back then.

It’s The Night Eternal’s biggest crowd yet and their tried and tested denim and leather approach is manna for those in attendance. It’s never really been fashionable, but that’s part of its outsider-charm. Deadly as a Scythe and Shadow’s Servants are built on soaring guitars and big vocals, Prince of Darkness gets things a bit dirty with some mighty galloping 16ths, and a singalong to the chorus of Elysion (Take Me Over) is called and received, as guitarists Rob Ritcher and Henry Käseberg, go all Murray/ Smith on us. Stars Guide My Way pulls us into the later-Eighties and things come to an end with the title track of the first record, which bristles and bubbles with an unfettered, youthful energy.

Photo Credit: Julian Tanner

As impressive as The Night Eternal were, there’s only one bunch and Germans we all want to see tonight and the gap between bands is bridged with the PA playing Priest, Alice, Dio and a bit of Queensrÿche. The anticipation is palpable as the atmosphere builds to what promises to be a very special night.

In the spirit of open and transparent, I was at all three of those Bloodstock shows and caught the band at Graspop back in 2007 and I’ve never been onboard with the high praise levelled at Blind Guardian. Tonight, though, is a revelation – an epiphany, if you will – and in my first non-festival show of theirs’ I now understand the reverence in which Blind Guardian is held.

Photo Credit: Julian Tanner

From the outset of Imaginations from the Other Side, all the way through to the final encore of Mirror Mirror, I now see the truth behind the 2002 Bloodstock programme’s advice to prepare for “the best Metal show of your life.”

It’s everything you could possibly wish for from a Saturday night gig. Crunching guitars, soaring solos, just the right amount of tongue-in-check cheese and, in Hansi Kürsch – a forty-year veteran with the band – you have someone who had a wicked sense of humour and the voice of a demigod. I still think it’s strange to look at Hansi now he’s cropped his hair short. I’m never sure whether he’s going to enrapture thousands with his vocals or approve a bank loan.

Photo Credit: Julian Tanner

I’ve made sure I done my homework for tonight’s show, catching up with my Tolkien, ready for the likes of Blood of the Elves and Skalds and Shadows; Nightfall is greeted and sung back with such passion that even the band appear stunned. Script for My Requiem takes things in a grittier direction and come Violent Shadows it’s clear that Blind Guardian is setting their own bar unfeasibly high, and meeting the expectation every time. Following the folksy Skalds… the performance takes a swift 180 degree turn as This Will Never End arrives with Hansi delivering a Halford scream.

People are on shoulder, there’re crowd surfers aplenty going over the top and the backdrop has taken on a blood-red hue for Deliver Us from Evil. That is to nothing when compared to an imperious version of The Bard’s Song: The Forest, where the band give it over to Manchester, who sing it loud and proud, word perfect, the whole room raptured in a moment, with few cameras held in the air to unsettle the ambience.

Photo Credit: Julian Tanner

The Speed Metal magnificence of Majesty and Traveler in Time round off the show, which had seen Hansi flabbergasted throughout the performance at Manchester’s reception, and he leaves the stage with the promise of a speedy return to town.

Sacred Worlds and Bright Eyes lay the path for the obligatory version of Valhalla, with the Academy finding their voices once more for the shout-back chorus. Only Mirror Mirror is left to finish the night and I have the realisation that, without the distraction of – honestly, being rendered – a Blind Guardian show is one of the best times a heavy music fan can have at a gig.

Big, bombastic, funny and personal, an evening with these Germans was a real treat. Look forward very much to the next one. Oh, and the band’s merchandise was very reasonable priced, too

Photo Credit: Julian Tanner
Photo Credit: Julian Tanner
Photo Credit: Julian Tanner

Photo Credits: Julian Tanner

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