Worcester Palladium, Worcester Massachusetts. October 31st. Halloween. What better way to spend All Hallows Eve than in the presence of the greatest culture on earth, Metal. I am fortunate enough to live in an area where, through luck of the draw I suppose, our date for Blind Guardian‘s Beyond the Red Mirror tour with Grave Digger fell on Halloween. If there was any show on this tour to attend and review, this was the one.
Let’s start by talking about the atmosphere. A true power metal show at the worst of times is a very fun environment. The sub-genre tends to pull the friendliest members of the metal community and this show was no exception. I could literally walk up to anyone, strike up a conversation, and instantly have a new friend to enjoy the music with. As one might expect, that friendly environment was enhanced tenfold by the occasion. Just close your eyes and imagine a mosh pit with Ninja Turtles, Power Rangers, Disney princesses, video game characters, and all of the most infamous individuals from the Norwegian black metal scene going completely bat shit bonkers. Needless to say, it was hands down the most interesting pit I’d ever seen. It was one of the funnest shows that I have ever attended, and that isn’t even taking the music into consideration. The venue was packed and the love emanating from the crowd was palpable.
There were only the two bands on the bill, Grave Digger and Blind Guardian. No openers to speak of, local or otherwise, so when the lights went down and the volume went up, it was full steam ahead. Grave Digger opened strong. The crowd reacted well, seeing as a good number of those in attendance had long dreamed of the day that they could see these power metal pioneers live in the United States. They played classics from earlier albums as well as newer material, the whole time taunting the crowd for not being loud enough. There were certainly songs that stood out as having a lot of feeling from the crowd, but towards the end of their set, I think the crowd finally reached a volume that satisfied the band when they played Rebellion and the entire audience was chanting the chorus along with them. They closed on a very strong note as well with Heavy Metal Breakdown, and again the crowd was neither disappointed with Grave Digger’s set nor disappointing to Grave Digger in their level of participation. Hopefully the immense response will make them want to play here again, as the fans would love to have them.
Onto the main event, the mighty Blind Guardian. As we all stood in anticipation, the atmosphere grew more and more jovial. The crowd threw out various versions of chants for Blind Guardian as we waited impatiently for what seemed to be a small eternity. The lights were low, and for some odd reason the fog machine was going full bore and it definitely added to the magic in the atmosphere as we awaited the bards to take the stage. Love was definitely in the air that Hallows Eve and as the crowds chanting and singing reached a fever pitch, so too where the opening notes to The Ninth Wave, and Blind Guardian took the stage… but wait. 3 jesters, 1 skeleton, and… Elvis?
Elvis Presley leading a band of jesters took the stage and the crowd loved it. I’m fairly certain that more fun was not to be found elsewhere that night. The played the opening song from Beyond the Red Mirror and the crowd stood transfixed, not able to move, just sing along to the glorious song. After the end of the song, Hansi Presley (Elvis Kürsch?) made a spiel about Halloween and Gods and honouring tradition, but when he was done, they dove straight into the classics with Banished from Sanctuary and the crowd found their feet as a massive pit erupted. Again, the most interesting pit one might imagine with all of the costumed patrons.
The pit raged, the crowd surfers surfed, and the bards played as the entire room sang themselves horse. Blind Guardian played a great balance of classic and contemporary Guardian tunes, and it all sounded fantastic despite the venue’s notorious muddy sound quality. They never faltered and the crowd never slowed down. They came to what was to be their closing song, Imaginations From the Other Side, and they played it enthusiastically to an enthusiastic crowd. When the song was over, the music stopped and the exited the stage, though the crowd had not yet have their fill, and so without much of a pause they walked back out and played their encore. What an encore it was.
The Encore happened in two parts. The first part opened with the opening track from At the Edge of Time, Sacred Words. The crowd once again found their feet and their voices and launched back into it as if there was no pause at all. They played three songs, ending with the crowd favorite, Valhalla. The lights stayed low and after a few moments, War of Wrath started playing over the PA which could only mean that we were all about to go Into the Storm.
Elvis and the boys once again took the stage and gave another encore that would make that night a cherished memory for those fans for the rest of their lives. They launched into the song and the crowd went clinically insane! They played it with fury, and the audience fed that fury right back to the bards. Then Blind Guardian really surprised everyone after another brief Hansi Speech, even those of us that Googled the set list, when they played Wizard’s Crown. What a treat it was to hear the first song that Blind Guardian (Lucifer’s Heritage at the time) had ever written performed for us on that night of all nights. After completely shocking the crowd with that gem, they played two songs that had been noticeably absent from the set previously in The Bards song and Mirror Mirror. It is worth noting that during The Bard’s Song, the pit goers traded their slamming for an imaginary rowboat and it was fantastic. One might think that the set would have closed on Mirror Mirror, but no. That would not have been enough for that magical evening, so Hansi brought out a couple of guests. Two men dressed in drag whom he introduced as Barbara and Ann, which was an amazing segue into their closing number, their famous cover of The Regents’ Barbara Ann.
In my life, I have been to thousands of shows. I have seen many bands, and I can count Blind Guardian as a band that I have seen multiple times, and I can say with surety that the show on October 31st 2015 will go down in my books as one of the best I have ever attended. Grave Digger damn near stole the show, and while it would be impossible for Blind Guardian to play every song I wanted to hear, they played enough and they played it well. I feel sorry for anyone that had the opportunity to attend but chose not to, for they missed a once in a lifetime experience.