November 24, 2015
Gas Monkey Live!
Dallas, TX USA
Review by Andy Laudano
Photos by Andy Laudano
Metal Returns With Vengeance!
Metal fans in the Dallas/Fort Worth metroplex had plenty to be thankful for when just two days before Thanksgiving, two of Germany's very best, the legendary Blind Guardian and the mighty Grave Digger came to Gas Monkey Live.
Other than a one off appearance at the 2004 Brave Words & Bloody Knuckles festival in Cleveland, Ohio, this was Grave Digger's first ever tour of the U.S. After more than 30 years, the wait for most American fans was finally over! Grave Digger opened hard and fast with "Headbanging Man" and never looked back. The set was a nice career retrospective, but with 18 studio albums to choose from and only ten songs in the setlist, some favorites were unfortunately left out. Following the title track to their second album, "Witch Hunter," vocalist Chris Boltendahl led the crowd in a big sing along to the more recent "Ballad Of A Hangman."
Long time members, drummer Stefan Arnold and former Running Wild bassist Jens Becker were like a well oiled metal machine. Guitarist Axel Ritt, who joined the band five years ago, looked like a metal God with his long hair, fringe leather jacket, bare chest and black and white striped guitar. Newest member, keyboardist Marcus Kniep was dressed as The Grim Reaper from the band's album covers. Together they played with the energy of band's half their age. This was a master class in how metal should be done. The hits continued with "Excalibur" and "Rebellion (The Clans Are Marching) before ending with their traditional closer, "Heavy Metal Breakdown." Lets hope it doesn't take another 30 years for them to come back.
Following a five year absence from the U.S. of their own, Blind Guardian returned in support of their latest offering, Beyond The Red Mirror. After opening with the first song from that album, "The Ninth Wave," the band showed just how diverse the setlist would be by following it up with "Banish From Sanctuary" from their second album. After singing along to the fan favorite, "Nightfall" vocalist Hansi Kursch informed the crowd that the show was being recorded for a future live album.
Watching Blind Guardian perform live is a truly magical experience. Their music can take you back, to another time and place with Kursch as your guide. Besides his powerful voice, Kursch has a commanding stage presence and holds the audience in the palm of his hand. You can't help but sing along to favorites like "Lord Of The Rings" and "Welcome To Dying." Following the closing number, "Imaginations From The Other Side," the bards returned for three more encore songs. The last of which was the epic "Valhalla" and it seemed the crowd wanted to continue singing the chorus forever.
But that was still not the end as the band came back for another three encores! In what was the highlight of the night, guitarists Andre Olbrich and Marcus Siepen sat with their acoustic guitars and played "The Bard's Song." This was the moment most fans had been waiting for all night and they sang along loud and proud. The over two hour set came to a close with the classic "Mirror, Mirror." This tour was a dream come true for fans and easily one of, if not the best metal show of the year.