BLIND GUARDIAN, GRAVE DIGGER - Hello Cleveland!

November 10, 2015, 2 years ago

Mark Gromen

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Returning to the scene of the crime, Grave Digger were back in Cleveland, the site of their first North American gig (BW&BK 6-Pack Weekend), back in '04. Two weeks into a five week tour, the long running outfit is winning new converts at each stop, with an infectious batch of high energy tunes that span a 35 year career. The balcony and low downstairs ceiling, at the House Of Blues,gave a decidedly Germanic feel to the whole evening, helped by frequent sing-alongs and plenty of skyward thrusted fists. The Grave Digger setlist has remained constant throughout the tour, although tonight Chris Boltendahl dropped to his knees, towards the conclusion of “The Round Table (Forever)”, fist bumping those pressed against the rail. The crowd reveled in “Ballad Of A Hangman” and bassist Jens Becker was noticeably more mobile onstage. Although a newbie, the purple lit, Judas Priest homage, aka “Tattooed Rider” was a fan favorite, but it was the ‘80s material: opening “Headbanging Man”, “Witch Hunter” and “Heavy Metal Breakdown” set closer (Boltendahl donning a patch covered jeans vest, the back emblazoned with the debut artwork) which most came to hear. Many a new convert was welcomed into "The Clan" tonight.

As they continue to record each show for an eventual live CD, Blind Guardian throw in a couple of different tunes each night, notably at the close of the proper set and then again in the second encore. Smile on his face, as he recognized me in the photo pit, Hansi Kursch gave me a wink and quick "zipped up" motion, confirming there'd be no repeat of the threatened wardrobe malfunction in Philly.

Overall, 17 songs. This time around there was no “Welcome To Dying”, nor “Majesty”, “And The Story Ends”, “Into The Storm”, “Wizard's Crown” (which Kursch said was been relegated back to the vault), but in their place were “Time Stands Still (At The Iron Hill”), “Imaginations From The Other Side” (which rounded out the proper set) and “The Script For My Requiem”. It's kind of geek chic to like Blind Guardian now, what with all the songs about the stories in Lord Of The Rings. Prior to Peter Jackson's movies, that wasn't necessarily the case. Is it me, or does bald, pale, shirtless drummer Frederik Ehmke look like an extra from one of those films?

A ripping “Banish From Sanctuary” was up second, getting the crowd's voices well-oiled early. “Tanelorn (Into The Void)” flashed a storm of strobes, guitarist Andre Olbrich highlighted under yellow light. Stadium rock moment, lighters cam out for “Lord Of The Rings”! “Welcome To Dying” saw Olbrich and six-string partner Marcus Siepen switch sides of the stage. Later, during the second encore, the seated pair would brandish dueling acoustics, for “The Bard's Song - In The Forest”, which was dedicated to Iced Earth mainstay (and Kursch's partner in their Demons & Wizards side project) Jon Schaffer, who was in attendance, but absent from the stage. “Mirror Mirror”, complete with close to a thousand additional sets of lungs, was a fitting send-off for the conquering kings of Mordor. Can't wait to hear the album!

 

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