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Blind Guardian/Grave Digger

Date: 11/3/15
Venue: Webster Hall, NYC
Report By: Rich Catino


As we all know, the 80s was the golden age for Heavy Metal music. Following in the footsteps of German countrymen the Scorpions and Accept, with Helloween, Grave Digger emerged in 1984-85 with their debut, Blind Guardian's followed in 1988. The unfortunate thing. both band's albums only available on import in the US during the decade, and well into the late 90s. On top of that, neither band had a video to promote albums so both unfortunately missed the boat to benefit from MTV exposure. Regardless, they forged ahead making new music into the 90s which is where both bands solidified their style and released most of their strongest albums and classic songs. With all that in mind, neither band tour North America often, been five years for Guardian, and seven for Grave Digger who have only done one tour in their career. So to see both bands back, and together on one bill, was very exciting.

Grave Digger are out in support of their latest album “Exhumation”, a collection of re-recorded songs from their 80s albums. Opening to a packed house with the righteously titled ‘Headbanging Man’ established the tone for the rest of their set. Lone original/founding member Chris Boltendahl lead the reaper’s (who was on stage behind the keys) charge through ten European speedy Power Metal tunes that have become classics in the underground, and elsewhere around the world at huge concert venues and festival grounds. But, tonight, and from Youtube footage, the American audience obviously have done their homework. Fans sang, chanted, hummed melodies, banged heads with fists in air to every song just like the Europeans do. Seriously, the crowd’s response and energy released filled the hall and sent throbbing swells through the hardwood floors.

The slower paced anthem ‘The Round Table’ to the quickened ‘Excalibur’ (from the Middle Ages album trilogy) ,wicked ‘Witchunter’, and catchy Judas Priest-ish ‘Turbo’ synth flavored ‘Tattooed Rider’ (from the album “Return Of The Reaper”) had everyone singing with band and crowd exchanging energy like a king rallying his soldiers to battle. Hell, Boltendahl barely had to do anything to get the crowd involved as the people even sang the opening melody to ‘Ballads Of A Hangman’ and the bagpipe spirited ‘Highland Farewell’. And, to top it off, anthems ‘Rebellion’ and ‘Heavy Metal Breakdown’ brought down the house, filling the venue with the chorus, Chris (and band) smiles ear to ear, leaving everyone salivating for more. You could tell Grave Digger were overwhelmed and surprised by the response. They’d be stupid not to come back for another tour sooner than later.

Blind Guardian have rightfully become legends from the second generation of traditional influenced Heavy Metal to see rise in the 90s. Frontman Hansi Kursch, with original guitarists André Olbrich and Marcus Siepen, proudly wear their love for all that is about swords and sorcery, dungeons and dragons, and especially the Lord Of The Rings story. On the road in support of the new album “Beyond The Red Mirror”, while a damn solid album, ‘The Ninth Wave’ is a bit too proggy and anticlimactic as an opener. The speed metal attack of ‘Banish From Sanctuary’ packs a much bigger punch to get the crowd going. Nonetheless, the people didn’t care. Everyone was amped up from the moment the intro tape started. Washes of cool blue and red lights colored the stage for ballad ‘Nightfall’ (from their now classic concept album “Nightfall in Middle Earth”) which showed up early in the set and had everyone singing. Rhythmic ‘Fly’, ‘Tanelorn’, and ‘Prophecies’ was a triple play of more recent Guardian and their last three albums.

‘The Last Candle’ was back to their Helloween speed metal roots, while Andre and Marcus strap on acoustic guitars for ‘The Lord Of The Rings’ as the crowd clapped and sang in approval. ‘Majesty’ and ‘Valhalla’ are two more singalong fan favorites from their first two albums and are always met with a rousing response. Like Chris from Grave Digger, Hansi as well had little to do getting the crowd involved. More often than not he could have just pulled a Vince Neil (Motley Crue),haha, put the mic out to the audience and let the crowd sing for him. And he did during ‘Imaginations From the Other Side’ and the acoustic Celtic camp fire ballad ‘The Bard’s Song’ which is always in the encore with closer ‘Mirror Mirror’.

Like Grave Digger, Guardian as well need to come back to North America sooner than later, and obviously its beneficial to return with another talented European Power Metal band. O… and these bands continue to play to large crowds with no support from major market radio, video channels, or advertisers who are all obviously wearing blinders. Thank God we at least have the ProPower festival in Atlanta who has opened the door to many of these great European bands over the years. Cheers, and much respect to all the above mentioned who have been instrumental in the cause, and have a clue as to who has been part of the present for years.

Blind Guardian setlist:

The Ninth Wave
Banish from Sanctuary
Tanelorn (Into the Void)
The Last Candlev Lord of the Rings
Time Stands Still (at the Iron Hill)
Imaginations from the Other Side
Sacred Worlds
Twilight of the Gods
Into the Storm
The Bard's Song - In the Forest
Mirror Mirror

Grave Digger setlist:

Headbanging Man
The Round Table (Forever)
Witch Hunter
Ballad of a Hangman
Season of the Witch
Tattooed Rider
Highland Farewell
Rebellion (The Clans Are Marching)
Heavy Metal Breakdown


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