Say what you want about Blind Guardian fans, but they are certainly patient. The band have only played the UK five times in their career, with the first time being at the indoor version of Bloodstock Festival in 2002 and the most recent prior to this gig was in London in 2010 at Shepherd’s Bush Empire. It’s no easy feat having to wait four and a half years to see a band live again, especially due to the band’s appearance at The Forum being the only UK date on the tour. But boy did Blind Guardian make the wait worth it.
What also made the show was the opening band Orphaned Land, who I was there to see more than Blind Guardian. Fronted by Jesus look-alike Kobi Farhi, the band launched into ‘All Is One’ and got the crowd motivated from the get-go as they did at Bloodstock last year. Unlike Bloodstock there were no long speeches on peace but there was an obligatory message on the subject which got the band a deserved cheer. Not only being passionate about peace, the Israeli five piece were passionate about their music and warmed up a crowd who wanted to be warmed up. The crowd jumped, waved their arms in the air, pumped fists and headbanged throughout their set. It’s always a nice sight to see a support band so loved and reacted to and the songs proved why; the likes of ‘A Simple Man,’ ‘Brother,’ the Opeth-like ‘Barakah’ and the ridiculously fun ‘Sapari’ which had the entire venue waving their hands in the air. Orphaned Land simply kicked ass, they were one of the best support bands I’ve ever seen and were simply on fine form. Everyone in attendance agreed that they needed a longer set, especially considering how ridiculously long the wait in-between bands was.
Now for the main event. As the intro music kicked in, the audience chanted “Blind Guardian” at the top of their lungs as the band marched on stage to a hero’s welcome. The band started with ‘The Ninth Wave,’ as the audience in unison raised their arms in the air for the band. As well as being great musicians, the band were also hilarious; there’s probably a comedy career in the wings for front man Hansi Kürsch in the unlikely event Blind Guardian split. He was genuinely funny as he told jokes which had The Forum roaring. At one point he said “Blind Guardian are the only band in your life, after the tour I will go to your homes and burn all your records,” the audience booed as the front man couldn’t help but laugh. “Okay then, that doesn’t sound popular. Perhaps I shall only break your Blind Guardian records so you have to buy them again so we can have more money.”
The band’s setlist was a set of classics which the band performed the only way they knew, in a grand epic fashion. The hits were all there, ‘Banish From Sanctuary,’ ‘Fly,’ ‘Nightfall,’ ‘Prophecies,’ ‘Miracle Machine,’ and set closer ‘Imaginations From The Other Side.’ The band walked off, returning for the obligatory encore where they steamed through ‘Into The Storm,’ ‘Twilight of the Gods,’ and their hit ‘Valhalla.’ During ‘Valhalla’ the strength of the crowd really blew the band away as they sang every word – when the music stopped the crowd kept singing and the band looked on breathlessly as the crowd gave a lyric perfect rendition. As the band walked off stage the crowd kept singing, straight up until the band returned for their second encore. ‘Wheel of Time,’ ‘The Bard’s Song,’ and ‘Mirror Mirror,’ finished the set off in style.
“We promise, you will not have to wait as long to see us again, England” said Kürsch before the band bowed and walked off the stage. Blind Guardian were heavy, magical and breathtaking. The fans’ patience clearly paid off.
Blind Guardian made the trip worth it, I was not a big fan of theirs prior to the gig but I walked away a fan. Their stage show was immense, the production was superb and they certainly knew how to pick a support band. What a show indeed.