GIG REVIEW: BLIND GUARDIAN & GRAVE DIGGER Live at Summit Music Hall, Denver, CO
What do you get when you take two German heavy metal giants, throw them on the same stage, and drive them around the United States? You get insanely happy metalheads screaming “Rebellion on my mind!” and “But the bards’ songs will remain!” on the same night. Like a lineup out of many of our dreams, Grave Digger and Blind Guardian hit the U.S. road in the fall, before a busy festival season in Europe kicks off. On Veteran’s Day, November 11, the massive Beyond the Red Mirror Tour hit The Summit Music Hall in Denver, CO, celebrating the most recent Blind Guardian release. The line outside was one of the largest I have seen in a long time, wrapping around the block. The crowd ranged from middle-aged men and women talking about a show they saw Grave Digger at twenty years ago, to younger fans excited about seeing Blind Guardian again since the five long years it’s been since they last toured the US. One thing everyone had in common however, was the sheer excitement for the night of amazing live performances before them.
Heavy metal veterans Grave Digger might have aged since they began in the 1980’s, but watching their live show now is no different than then (maybe add some graying hair). In fact, vocalist Chris Boltendahl had an impressive and catching energy that night that blew everyone out of the water. When he hit the stage with such ferocity, I thought I was watching someone in their twenties rather than their fifties. The smile on his face made me smile, and I couldn’t help but imagine how many performances this legend has seen over the years, and yet he still loves every second of being on stage. I was beyond impressed.
However, guitarist Axel “Ironfinger” Ritt totally stole the stage. He had the leather, the fringe, a bare chest, and a black and white striped guitar that just screamed “The eighties will rise again” and was an absolute blast to watch (and photograph). The band played great classics such as “Witch Hunter”, “Excalibur”, and closed with “Heavy Metal Breakdown”. The only letdown of the night was the fact that only about a quarter of the crowd knew the worlds to “Rebellion (The Clans are Marching)” which was the song I so badly wanted to experience live. I had seen older performances, given to massive crowds of thousands, and the energy felt in those performances was amazing. Denver, you really let me down here!
After Grave Digger closed, the excitement built exponentially for Blind Guardian‘s near 2-hour performance. When the six guys hit the stage, the crowd erupted in a cheer that bled into “The Ninth Wave”. Stoic vocalist Hansi Kürsch has such grace and control on-stage, it feels as if you are watching a classic opera. The power metal behind him just makes it all that much better. One of the greatest things going for this tour, aside from the obvious, was the set list picked by Blind Guardian. On this set list were songs that had rarely ever seen the stage, like “The Last Candle” and “Banish From Sanctuary”. Of course, classics like “Lord of the Rings”, “Nightfall”, and “Valhalla” were featured, as well as two encores, teasing the crowd that they weren’t going to hear the song everyone expects to. In the middle of their final encore, the band brought out the acoustic guitar, and sang “The Bard’s Song – In the Forest” (which standing in a crowd singing this song is an experience all its own).
All in all, it was the night to remember that I was fully expecting. I had a blast from the second the doors opened, to walking back to my car. Blind Guardian is always amazing live, but Grave Digger was equally as impressive. You have got to catch this tour before they go back to Deutschland!