Last Thursday I went to see one of my favorite bands of all-time for the third time: Blind Guardian. I have to say I was pretty impressed with the venue. It was the first time I went to a concert in Utrecht, and the TivoliVredenburg exceeded all my expectations. In just a few minutes I was able to get my “press pass” and get into the concert hall.
The opening act was the Israeli band Orphaned Land, perhaps the greatest metal band in the Middle East. I saw them back in 2012, when I went to an unsuccessful metal festival in Brazil in which 40 bands were supposed to perform, but only 9 really did. So, it is not surprising that their set from last Thursday was much enjoyable for me than the first time I saw them live. After all, three years ago I was too upset about all the bands being cancelled to actually pay attention to their songs.
I am not very familiar with their albums and songs, but the concert itself was very pleasant. You could say by the looks of the audience that they were really into the music coming from the stage. The lead singer Kobi Farhi had some problems with his microphone in the beginning of the show. But he is a real frontman and got around the problems easily. His dance moves and “ethereal” vocals made the crowd dance and sing along to some parts of their songs. This is quite an achievement, as they do not sing only in English, but in Hebrew and Arabic too. The mix of Israeli and Arab worlds was also present in Farhi’s speech, and he talked about why Orphaned Land has some many Arab fans despite being from Israel. According to the singer, this happens because they don’t talk politics or bullshit and just follow one religion: heavy metal. The metalheads there went crazy!
My favourite moments of the concert were when they played Sapari from the album The Never Ending Way of ORWarriOR; when the guitar player Idan Amsalem played a curious instrument named bouzoki; and the last song Norra el Norra. And I also have to mention the drummer Matan Shmuely, what a beast!
When the intro from Ninth Wave started to play, Blind Guardian entered the stage for the first time in Utrecht in 30 years. Not a great problem for the audience as the majority had seen them in Eindhoven, at the beginning of their European tour — I saw them live in Antwerp. Banish From Sanctuary was played next, to the delight of the old fans present there. The readers of fantasy novels got their shares with Time Stands Still (at the Iron Hill) and Tanelorn (Into The Void), with the ever-present Fly in between. The set was almost the same from their concert in Antwerp, but they made a few changes to please the crowd. One of these was the inclusion of The Curse of Feanor, song from the album Nightfall in Middle-Earth (1998), which they had never played live in Europe before.
The first part of the concert ended with And The Story Ends. The band soon returned with Sacred Worlds, their best song of the last 15 years, in my opinion. Valhalla got the crowd singing the chorus over and over at the end of the song as they did with “Somebody is out there” in The Last Candle earlier in the set. Majesty brought the first attempt of a mini mosh-pit, but it was only in the last song, Mirror Mirror, that it really worked. But before that, they played the essential The Bard’s Song, which was sung beautifully by the audience.
The band was as excellent as always. The guitar players Andre Olbrich and Marcus Siepen did a phenomenal job. Fredrik Ehmke also did great behind the drums. Hansi was amazing, especially with his growls, but I felt he had some difficulties to reach the high notes.
The setlist was very close to what they played in Antwerp months ago (14 of 17 songs). Or perhaps this was just my bad luck, and maybe the setlist of their concert in Eindhoven was not that similar. But the fact is, Blind Guardian is an amazing band with lots of classic songs to choose from. They could alternate the setlist more and still please the fans.