Monday, November 22, 2010

Blind Guardian with Holy Grail and Seven Kingdoms [Worcester Palladium, 11/21/2010]

I missed a couple shows in the week leading up to this one due to jetlag getting back from Hong Kong (report on that is coming up), but I couldn't miss this one, partly because seriously, this is Blind Guardian, and partly because I was dragging my younger brother along as well. That commitment kept me from bailing, as I wasn't feeling tip-top, and as a result we both got an awesome show out of it.

We got in a little before doors, but this did not matter enormously because there was a ridiculous lineup, entirely as expected. Both the ticketed and non-ticketed lines went about a block in either direction, but both got processed relatively quickly, and we were in about half an hour after the doors opened. Line in, line to piss, line for merch -- good thing that because of the demographics of this show, much like a lot of other Palladium shows that fill up the downstairs, there wasn't much of a line for beer.

Beers and shirts in hand, we got down to the lowest non-floor deck, right in front of the soundboard. I've seen the Guardians from the floor both indoors and outdoors, and as getting to be an old person, it's ok to stand off a little bit and actually hear something.

Seven Kingdoms [5/7]
I got this band's record at the merch table on the general "support everyone" principle, not expecting too much out of it. This is pretty much what they delivered, largely generic power metal with generic Swedish influences; if you want to get brutal about it, a discount Doro doing cut-down Morifade. They justified their inclusion on the tour, and did put in a good performance, but did not rise much above that -- and when you're opening for a band like Blind Guardian, the bar for making a positive impression on fans at large is really, really high.

I was thinking about maybe going back in here to get Holy Grail's new one, or another beer, but the packing in of people was only escalating throughout the gig. I'm not sure if this one sold out, but it was damn close.

Holy Grail [5.5/7]
After the openers, it was good to get more back to a thrashy feel with this band. They've improved since the last time they were around (with Exodus at the end of August), but I'm not sure how much of this is genuine leveling-up due to touring and how much is just due to having a little more time and a better balancing of their material. This set was all originals, the Accept cover off their EP now a thing of the past, and the fact that they continue to improve while further developing their own music rather than woodshedding others' is a definite positive for the future. This band is going to keep improving, and while they're still as vulnerable to the old-school-for-the-sake-of-old-school trap as a lot of other thrash revival bands, their influences are broad enough that they've got room to develop and regrow, rather than just revive and rehash, that sound of thirty years gone.

Blind Guardian [7/7]
Welcome To Dying
Born In A Mourning Hall
Time Stands Still (At The Iron Hill)
Lost In The Twilight Hall
Bright Eyes
Lord of the Rings
Voice In The Dark
Imaginations From The Other Side
Wheel of Time
The Bard's Song
Mirror Mirror

It's stupidly presumptive to look at the setlist above and immediately conclude that BG must have seen and reacted to certain whinings about them not playing Tales... material on this continent. It's not too much of a stretch, though, to think that other people, and enough of them, were complaining in other places where the band might have seen it, and at the heart of the current record is the thesis that Blind Guardian is better when they play Blind Guardian songs as a live band, rather than going into studio mode and penning stuff where Hansi sings nonstop for seven and a half minutes. Regardless, DUDE LOOK AT ALL THE TALES SONGS!!!1! Yes, I nerded out on hearing "Lost In The Twilight Hall" announced, but if you can't nerd out at a Guardian show, especially one where they seem to have soundly rediscovered themselves as a power/thrash band rather than wanting to be the German Queen, where the fuck can you nerd out?

As for the actual performance, this was, despite being off the floor, in many ways stronger than that outing four years ago. Some of this is the new record, which continues the upward trajectory from Twist..., but if you look at the setlist, they only did three songs off it: the bulk of the improvement comes from playing songs off every record (except ANATO, which perhaps vindicates all of us who were complaining at its release about it being overproduced and practically unperformable by its absence), and having enough energy to play something like "Majesty" at the end of the encore/second half, despite going all out all through the rest of the set and immediately coming off "Valhalla". Hansi didn't do the "YEAH!" attacks in "Imaginations...", but aside from that, his vocal style is as cord-bustingly raw as ever, and the band made no other concessions to being middle-aged men still challenging -- successfully -- material that was straining the edges of their abilities fifteen years ago. You know with Blind Guardian that you're going to get the performance; what varies is only the material and the atmosphere; if the crowd gets Hansi's jokes (mostly ironic straight lines, like a lot of German humor, but amazingly there is still this meme that Germans don't do funny, or at least not that English-speaking people can understand), if the floor gets violent, how many burly bearded guys sing along to lyrics about Peter Pan. This one delivered, on all counts, to about the reasonable maximum.

(The unreasonable maximum, of course, includes "Banish From Sanctuary", "Somewhere Far Beyond", and "The Last Candle" and half an hour to an hour of additional set time. But bands are not jukeboxes, and this was a Sunday night show.)

Despite the five-song encore, this show did eventually have to come to an end, and after the usual difficulties getting out of the venue, it was clean sailing back on the highways. Because my circadians were still a little messed up from the timezone transition, I was more tired than I needed to be yesterday, but this writeup is out in something approaching good order, and the HK writeup will be done and up by the end of the week. Next show is probably Toxic Holocaust on Sunday coming, but my on-call shift may complicate that; if not, Autumn Above's CD release at Church the weekend after for sure.

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