The English downpour did not perturb the power metal fanatics from queuing all around the venue for this show and it takes a long time to go down once the doors opened. Blind Guardian’s return to London after four years is to be one met with great enthusiasm. Beginning the night was Sweden’s own Steelwing. In recent history, Sweden appears to be undergoing nostalgic dreams revolving around ‘80s rock music, formulating their own bands in waves to create a revival in hard rock and heavy metal (Crashdiet, Veins of Jenna, Enforcer, H.E.A.T. etc.). By simply looking at the band, it was simple to assume what they would play. Spandex leggings, leather waistcoat and skinny denim jeans suggested ‘80s heavy metal and that indeed is what the quintet have to offer. Formed in only 2009, these youthful Swedes have just one full-length, ‘Lord of the Wasteland’, to their name. Musically, Steelwing are very typical, drawing strong influence from Iron Maiden and Dio. Vocalist Riley is particularly dynamic, racing around on stage and keeping the audience’s attention retained as best as he can while he pulls off a strong range of heavy metal croons with understated ease. Playing a prestigious slot as support to Blind Guardian so early on in their career in front of a generously-sized audience must have made them genuinely happy. Closing with ‘Roadkill (…Or Be Killed)’ from the EP of the same name, released this year, Steelwing create a light-hearted atmosphere that intensified peoples’ readiness for the headlining act. With nothing fresh to offer, the band are not worth picking up on CD but are certainly bearable live, for the novelty time-travelling factor if nothing else.
Sunday 26th September 2010
Shepherd's Bush Empire in London, UK
Reviews by Elena Francis
Before Blind Guardian take the stage, the venue is completely heaving with the number of bodies crammed downstairs. Now twenty four years old, Blind Guardian can be expected on knowing how to put on a fantastic live show. Opening with the lengthy ‘Sacred Worlds’ from their new ‘At Edge of Time’ studio release, Blind Guardian immediately enthral the fans with their colourful and multi-layered power metal, striking riffs in favour of chords. Despite the length of the song, the energy is maintained throughout via variation and passion from the Germans themselves. Those unfamiliar with the new album certainly engage with the following song, the much-loved ‘Welcome to Dying’. The sound is quite patchy, with the keyboards particularly struggling against the drums and guitar but as the night unravels, the sound improves. The stage show is bolstered by the presence of a projector screen, showcasing images and ambiances that compliment the music (many of the same videos that played on their 2006 tour). All eyes stalk vocalist Hansi Kursch. He moves almost stealthily, projecting his emphatic facial expressions like an actor in a play. His in-between song conversation is somewhat humble yet he is still clearly one hundred percent behind his music, with the remainder of the band diligently playing away. The setlist refrains from being particularly ‘At the Edge of Time’ heavy, with only ‘Voice in the Dark’ and ‘Wheel of Time’ (this one appears in the encore) in addition with the opener representing the release. Fan favourites are the way to go as the fans sink their teeth into ‘Born in a Mourning Hall’, ‘Nightfall’, ‘Time Stands Still (At the Iron Hill)’, ‘Valhalla’ and ‘The Lord of the Rings’. The loss of staple ‘Into the Storm’ feels like a regression, but the show is nowhere near spoilt by its omission. ‘Mirror Mirror’ closes the set but the audience’s chants for more secure Blind Guardian’s return for the inevitable encore. ‘The Bard’s Song (In the Forest)’ sees the vast majority of the audience singing along word-for-word with Mr. Kursch to the acoustic number. The fantastic ‘Imaginations from the Other Side’ closes the set but it would have been more effective if it was switched with ‘Mirror, Mirror’ as the atmosphere for the latter was significantly better. ‘Imaginations…’ does not feel like a closer and the show does not feel properly concluded when the band take a bow. Nonetheless, the hour and forty-five minute show is a grand success, which proves Blind Guardian’s popularity in the UK, possibly enough for them to do more than a one-off London show next time around.