Blind Guardian made their first club appearance in Finland in 10 years on June 2nd, 2015, which also happened to be their second-ever club show in Finland. After the release of their 10th studio album, Beyond the Red Mirror, the follow-up to the critically acclaimed Imaginations from the Other Side, their promotional tour brought them to Nosturi in Helsinki, where we were practically first in line.
I hadn’t intended to review this show. This is one of very few bands that I’ll stand in line to buy tickets for and make sure that no matter what’s going on, I’m there. I wanted to go out, have some drinks, and enjoy a show without worrying about remembering the details to share with you all. I wanted a night for me. With that in mind, you’re still getting a review because this band is so great live that I genuinely can’t keep it in.
Tuesday night, 21:00, and a familiar new sound began to hum over a very, very full Nosturi as the lights dimmed. The first track off the new album, “Ninth Wave,” got things moving, and I’m very happy with their choice of starter. A lot of the things that make a great album starter also make a great live show starter, and “Ninth Wave” is one of the strongest songs off Beyond the Red Mirror. It’s a great kick-off track with a lot of good energy, and I can’t deny that I appreciate when bands start their promotional tours with songs off the album they’re promoting.
I’ve only seen Blind Guardian a couple times in the past and the prior ones were mostly festivals. As such, I have to say that I have very little memory of Hansi Kürsch (vocals) as a frontman. I had no recollection of how great he was and how fun it was hearing him talk. After the first song, he said that they were bringing sunshine and happiness to Finland, but to avoid culture shock, they were only playing the dark songs, which got a good chuckle out of all the Finns.
He chatted amiably between most songs, teasing the crowd when they called for “Nightfall” or “The Bard’s Song” or “Valhalla” (all of which they did eventually play). Unfortunately, the set itself was rather hit or miss. Most people who attended the show said that they played too few of the songs they were dying to hear, which I’m willing to blame on the fact that Kürsch told us they were recording this for a live CD. The past few setlists from other shows in other countries have varied a bit, so I suppose this is due to them wanting more than one show’s worth of songs on the album. I wasn’t overly bothered, myself. They played some older songs that I’m not so fond of, but with such a vast discography of great songs, it’s hard to pick out the best and I never expect to hear them all live. My only regret is that I’ve never heard “Curse My Name” in a live show that I can recall. We can’t win them all though. Still, I was glad to hear “Fly” and “Bright Eyes.” Also, for the selection of songs off the new album, they mostly played my favorites: “Ninth Wave,” “Prophecies,” “Distant Memories,” and even “Twilight of the Gods.” Also, “Wheel of Time” from their previous album was also pretty cool live.
This one flaw was the only thing offsetting what was otherwise an essentially flawless show though. Again, maybe this was due to the recording, but the sound in the venue was perfect. It’s possible that I’ve never heard such well-balanced drums before. And holy shit, how does Kürsch still hit every high note perfectly after all these years? Most of the greatest of the great have slowed down in time, but not this guy. Every wail he let loose was pitch-perfect. Color me more than impressed.
The other great thing about this show was the crowd. I’ve talked in the past about how intense Sabaton’s crowds get in Finland. This was about the same – one of those gigs where every hand in the house is in the air and everyone is screaming between every song and chanting “Guardian! Guardian!” over and over until the band can’t help but burst into uncontrollable grinning. It’s that sort of unconstrained enthusiasm that really separates the Finnish crowd from others and keep bringing bands back.
So sadly, the setlist was a mere okay, but otherwise the show was phenomenal. It’s hard to nail exactly what everyone wants to hear when you’ve got a full discography of unbelievable songs, so it’s understandable that some people would be let down, but what would surprise me is if anyone who really likes the band left the show with anything but a great feeling. The perfect sound quality and fantastic energy coupled with the unbelievable atmosphere and charming frontman certainly made it a memorable show and next time they choose to stop by, I’ll be back in the front of the line once more!
1. The Ninth Wave
2. Banish from Sanctuary
5. Tanelorn (Into the Void)
7. The Last Candle
8. Miracle Machine (acoustic)
9. Lord of the Rings
10. Guardian of the Blind
11. Bright Eyes
12. And the Story Ends
1. War of Wrath (intro)
2. Into the Storm
3. Twilight of the Gods
1. Wheel of Time
2. The Bard’s Song – In the Forest (acoustic)
3. Mirror Mirror