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Blind Guardian @ The Bottom Lounge, Chicago, IL (US)

BLIND GUARDIAN, HOLY GRAIL, SEVEN KINGDOMS
in Monday, 29 November 2010 at The Bottom Lounge
by Maria Voutiriadou, Dimitris Kontogeorgakos

DimK: Although, I was aware that “At The Edge Of Time” had been quite successful in the US, I did not expect a big crowd that stormy Monday. But, upon our arrival outside The Bottom Lounge we encountered a line of bold BLIND GUARDIAN fans waiting – some of them were freezing their arses off – patiently for the doors to open! Ok, it is official BLIND GUARDIAN is one of those bands who have loyal fans all over the globe. So, after a very good interview with Marcus Siepen we found a good spot to wait for the first supporting band. There wasn’t a photo pit so, I had to improvise from a standing position.

DimK: The five members of SEVEN KINGDOMS found some space in the packed stage (the two drum sets had split the stage in two) and right on time started their setlist. I had done my homework by listening to the band’s latest and second album and knew that it was a female fronted band with a Power Metal (mostly) musical direction. The album sounded very good so, I had some expectations before their appearance. Also, I had gone through some negative comments on the band’s past performances having as main target the singer… but you should judge something with your own eyes, don’t you? After the short intro, “Somewhere Far Away” was the setlist opener; the first impression was really good since SEVEN KINGDOMS looked pretty solid on-stage and the guitar duo was highly skilled serving a good deal of fast riffs. SabrinaValentinesounded quite good with her slightly operatic voice but had awkward looks during her singing. “Give them time to warm up”, I thought and tried to focus on the music. But, as time went by, Sabrina kind of dropped the ball by almost dancing during the fast parts and on top of that, sounded not that stable on the vocal lines. Fronting a Metal band is a difficult task that has a great impact on the image and can easy spoil the appetite of the audience. After the second song I found it hard to watch the rest of their performance being additionally annoyed by the pre-recorded backing and growling vocals! Have mercy on us! For the time being SEVEN KINGDOMS sound way better in the CD than on stage, sorry!

MariaV: After the discouraging live performance of SEVEN KINGDOMS, it was time for HOLY GRAIL to ‘bring the real shit’ on stage. I mean, we had to warm up a little bit before welcome the mighty BLIND GUARDIAN and seemed that the Californian quintet was exactly what we needed. The stage had to be prepared in HOLY GRAIL measures, thing quite difficult if you saw the packed stage with the two drum kit sets. I had the opportunity to give some spins in the latest HOLY GRAIL album, “Crisis In Utopia” and I have to say that I was quite curious to watch these guys live and find out the magic they can bring onstage.

James Paul Luna with his traditional Heavy Metal reading and the two guitarists found quickly their spots in the front part of stage, while Blake Mount on bass was right behind James J LaRue, sharing the rest with Tyler Meahl behind drums. Ok, it wasn’t very comfortable out there for the traditional Heavy/ Thrash Metal act but HOLY GRAIL did the best they could, giving us a 40minutes’ full set of energy, unstoppable headbanging and good music of course that many bands of their range would envy. Luna dedicated “Call Of Valhalla” to the upcoming GUARDIAN and the crowd seemed to be so excited. It was quite impressing watching these guys onstage, doing their well-played songs while headbanged and trying to perform so professionally out there, but one thing was missing: having fun. I caught myself many times searching if HOLY GRAIL’s members were having fun while they were on stage and that is still an open question for me. The sure thing is that they have a very good album and are capable to support it live, but nothing more than this.

Highlights of HOLY GRAIL performance were the two last songs, “My Last Attack” and the superb “Fight To Kill” that had the dynamics to blow your mind off. Hey, who was coming up next? I almost forgot…

HOLY GRAIL setlist:

  1. "Immortal Man"
  2. "For All Eternity"
  3. "Call Of Valhalla"
  4. "Crisis In Utopia"
  5. "Hollow Ground"
  6. "My Last Attack"
  7. "Fight To Kill"
DimK: The energetic and relentless HOLY GRAIL on-stage was a great appetizer for the Germans that were about to take over the stage in front of an almost packed The Bottom Lounge. Indeed, there must have been 700 faces in there and most of them sounded really excited!

So, the lights went out and the intro of “Sacred Worlds” spread waves of enthusiasm to the GUARDIAN fans who were cheering welcoming one by one the band members. But, the excitement really broke out when Hansi showed up with his extremely friendly face that the fans are so familiar with. When he started singing I realized that he probably had a cold since his voice was more harsh than usual. Hansi did not hold back on his performance and obviously “pushed” his voice that sounded better after a while.

As expected BLIND GUARDIAN did the single version of “Sacred Worlds” that lasts half of the time of the studio version. The sound was loud and perfectly clear giving the band all the potentials to throw a great show. Hansi took some moments to greet the US fans obviously struggling to keep his voice in shape and welcomed all of to “Dying”. That was it; everyone in the venue was singing while in the center a huge mosh-pit was formed. Yep, you read right; mosh-pit in a BLIND GUARDIAN concert that granted the band’s appeal in the US. André Olbrichlooked he was having a great time and delivered all the leads with impressive dexterity and endurance (as always). I may sound sacrilegious to some Thomen Stauch die-hard fans by saying that Frederik Ehmke did great behind his drum-kit. His powerful drum-work fits like a glove in BLIND GUARDIAN’s aura, something that I find totally satisfying.

Despite his voice harsh condition, Hansi kept talking between the songs being 100% determined to do nothing less than the usual BLIND GUARDIAN show. The only moments that he left the stage was to wipe his nose that after a while looked red-ish underlying the fact that Hansi had a rough cold there. "Born In A Mourning Hall", "Nightfall" came next and it was time for the audience to sing! Everyone who has been in a BLIND GUARDIAN gig knows that the audience plays an important role in the band’s performance. If the audience feels good, then the band gives something more from the stage and this is when magic happens. The untrained observer will get the impression that the band and the audience unites the constant energy exchange between them looks like it is part of a rehearsed show.

“Now, I am going to tell you a story about Peter Pan said Hansi and “Fly” followed. From the crowd’s reaction it became obvious to me that “Twist In The Myth” was better accepted in the US than by myself… And that reaction gave this song a boost and made it way better than in the studio version. As time went by Hansi looked worse but for a strange reason sounded better! “Bright Eyes” sounded amazing while the old-school “Banish From Sanctuary” gave another reason to headbang and get into the mosh-pit once again. “The next song is about Saruman who is a real bad guy and you shouldn’t like him”, said Hansi as a preamble to “Lord Of The Rings” that once again got all the voices inside the venue into singing as one sending shivers down my spine as always. It is amazing how this band invites everyone into the singing festivities making every concert special. I think this is why BLIND GUARDIAN have loyal fans around the world who know how to have fun. Hansi was coughing in times but that did not stop him from hitting hard the higher pitches of the new “A Voice In The Dark” and even went far enough to do the entire “And Then There Was Silence”. Again I want to underline my deep respect for this story telling singer who did not chose to skip this track but went full force and nailed it. I cannot think of many singers who would push themselves that hard for the shake of the fans; do you?

“And Then There Was Silence” marked the end of the band’s regular set and we all knew there was more. “Majesty” was a request that was heard many times during the set but Hansi said that it was not included in their setlist. Instead, they did “Valhalla” who sounded absolutely fantastic after the singing highlight of “The Bard's Song - In the Forest”. I have watched BLIND GUARDIAN many times in the past but still, I sing on top of my lungs this song enjoying every minute of it.

“Mirror Mirror” was a killer ending to the gig that clocked almost 2 hours. There wasn’t a single disappointed face in the venue when the lights went on. BLIND GUARDIAN came and conquered Chicago with an honest performance satisfying all their fans to the maximum. I am sure Europe will also have a great time in the following live dates and sings like we did that cold night in Chicago!

“…In the dark and cold
'Cause the bards' songs will remain
They all will remain…”
BLIND GUARDIAN setlist:
  1. "Sacred Worlds"
  2. "Welcome To Dying"
  3. "Born In A Mourning Hall"
  4. "Nightfall"
  5. "Fly"
  6. "Time Stands Still (At The Iron Hill)"
  7. "Bright Eyes"
  8. "Banish From Sanctuary"
  9. "Lord Of The Rings"
  10. "A Voice In The Dark"
  11. "And Then There Was Silence"
  12. "Wheel Of Time"
  13. "The Bard's Song - In the Forest"
  14. "Valhalla"
  15. "Mirror Mirror"
(photos by The One Ring)

SEVEN KINGDOMS


HOLY GRAIL





BLIND GUARDIAN







Promoter:
Ticket Price: 17€


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Edited 17 January 2022
 

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