The Germans are coming! The Germans are coming! And thank God for that! Decibel Geek staff Shawn “Animalize” Irwin and Rich “The Meister” Dillon were on hand as two veritable German forces invaded The Danforth Music Hall in Toronto on Thursday, October 29, 2015, Blind Guardian with special guests Grave Digger.
Having been a member of the Grave Digger camp for some years, Meister was highly anticipating their set while Animalize leaned more towards Blind Guardian having followed them for quite some time. The Danforth Music Hall at Broadview and Danforth was once an old movie theatre dating back to 1919 and holds a top capacity of just over 1400, the bulk of that being general admission with limited balcony seating. Having been here a few times, I (Meister) was surprised to see that the line stretched all the way down the street to the corner of Broadview and Danforth. Never having seen it like this at Danforth Music Hall, we wondered if it was a sellout tonight (actually around 1300 in attendance). Admission tickets and a photo pass for Shawn were easily secured from the box office and in we went. The merch table, as it always does, instantly caught our eyes as we ogled the colourful shirts. I’m a guy who loves album artwork, especially translated onto a t-shirt! The Grave Digger tee resembling a concept seen on a Saxon shirt from a few years ago with a horse and rider waving a Canadian flag was particularly attractive to Meister and soon to become a wardrobe addition. Shawn‘s drooling over the Blind Guardian graphic hoodie turned into a purchase before long in addition to the Grave Digger tee. The place had a decent sized crowd to start as we made our way into the auditorium and out of the foyer.
In an unusual twist of fate for concerts, Grave Digger had a very prompt start, actually taking the stage about 5 minutes earlier than the promoter posted set times in the Facebook event page. “Headbanging Man” started the German assault as Grave Digger launched into a set that would basically beat the crowd into submission by the end! The air above the heads of the steadily packing in throng quickly became a sea of horns as Grave Digger next presented “The Round Table (Forever)”. Chris Boltendahl, vocalist and sole original member for this German heavy metal force that originally began in the early 80’s, took a moment to announce that this was Grave Digger‘s first ever Canadian show in their 35-year history. And it seemed they were hellbent on making up for lost time as “Witch Hunter” was expertly delivered. “Ballad of a Hangman” saw the crowd and I do mean the whole crowd, even tone deaf Meister, supplying the whoa whoa’s. “Season of the Witch” was the first offering from 2014’s Return of the Reaper album while “Excalibur” was a song about a famous king and his sword we were informed by way of introduction. With the crowd totally under the Grave Digger spell right from the getgo they continued to pummel us with gruff vocals and blistering riffs in songs like “Tattooed Rider”. To further prove the spell was well cast, when Boltendahl made the signal for clapping, everyone participated, again even Meister. “Highland Farewell” was followed by “Rebellion (The Clans Are Marching)” which was obviously well known as seemingly the whole crowd was singing the chorus once again. Grave Digger completed their first ever Canadian set with “Heavy Metal Breakdown” a fantastic fist pumping anthem that left The Danforth Music Hall patrons absolutely buzzing! Fine job Grave Digger, expect your album purchases to go up! Take a look at Shawn “Animalize” Irwin‘s review of the latest Grave Digger offering, a re-recording of classic material: Grave Digger – Exhumation: The Early Years
Blind Guardian prepared to take over the stage at 8:50 pm as the ominous intro to “The Ninth Wave” filled our ears. After this near ten-minute opening epic, the audience began chanting in loud unison, “Guardian, Guardian, Guardian…..” to which singer Hansi Kürsch joked with the band, “Hey, that’s us!” To the unknown Kürsch easily appeared like he had just come from the office after work dressed in a collared shirt and sporting short hair. “Saying Toronto backwards, Otnorot, sounds a bit more evil so I shall call you that tonight”, Kürsch continued, launching the band into “Banish From Sanctuary”. The thunderous double bass drumming of Frederik Ehmke drove Blind Guardian forward as the crowd surfing began down in front of the stage. Addressing us between each song selection seemed to be the way it was to go for this evening and without breaking the mould Kürsch informed us of his pleasure with this promising beginning and that he was anxious to see where we would end up. Promising we would be in for a long night drew a resounding uproarious cheer. The conclusion of “Nightfall” brought about his next address in which we were told that tonight was being recorded for their next live album! Very cool! “Fly” was next before it was “time to speed things up a bit” with “Tannelorn (Into the Void)”. By this point, Meister had more than caught the buzz of Blind Guardian and their mystical lyrical subject matter as they flawlessly delivered their setlist choices. The latest Blind Guardian album, Beyond the Red Mirror, supplied “Prophecies” after which the “Guardian, Guardian, Guardian…” crowd chanting that had become common place seemed to swell in volume. With the statement that the warm-ups were over and we would now be getting into more serious stuff, the chanting volume rose yet again as we were served “The Last Candle”. The soft acoustic beginnings of “Lord of the Rings” saw several actual lighters go up in outstretched arms displaying the little flames. Awesome, I didn’t think anyone did the lighter thing at concerts anymore. I couldn’t help but think that drummer Ehmke even resembled Gollum a little as he sat behind the kit shirtless and bald, bathed in different coloured light, especially during a greenish hue. “When Time Stands Still (at the Iron Hill)” and “Lost in the Twilight Hall” brought us to the announcement by Kürsch that we’ve reached the end of the show with time for one more special one, “When the Story Ends” in Toronto, sorry Otnorot! Leaving the stage resulted in thunderous “Guardian, Guardian, Guardian…” chants from the crowd and they were back for the encore of “Sacred Worlds”. After “Twilight of the Gods” it was time to slay the Gods of “Valhalla” at the end of which the band had to pause a little for the crowd as they loudly sang “Valhalla…..” Again Blind Guardian left the stage at The Danforth Music Hall and were called back to deliver their second encore of the night that began with “Imaginations from the Other Side”. “The Bard’s Song-In the Forest” saw the lighters raised up again and “Mirror Mirror” saw them chanted off stage for the final time tonight, but not before getting a photo of the band with the audience behind them. Ending at 11 pm, so about 2 hours and ten minutes showtime, Blind Guardian just taught a lesson to other headlining bands who try to get away with a set half as long!
Whether you reside with The Meister in the Grave Digger camp or more with Shawn “Animalize” Irwin in the Blind Guardian forces, one thing is certain. Both of these long-running German bands will deliver high-quality professional performances that will blow you away! Get out and see this tour as it rolls through the US and Canada through November. Shawn “Animalize” Irwin‘s photo galleries (one for each Blind Guardian and Grave Digger) appear below, enjoy!
[gmedia id=151] [gmedia id=152]