The palpable crowd excitement on Blind Guardian's Live is real, believe me. I was there -- well, not there, as in all 18 cities where this invigorating 22-song double-disc set was recorded. But I saw the band on the U.S. leg of its 2002/2003 tour in support of A Night At the Opera, and Blind Guardian sure know how to work a crowd into a frenzy. The voracious audiences audible throughout Live sing along to practically every lyric and chant in between songs -- enhancing and hindering at the same time the listening experience at home. None of the locations for this recording were in America, but the set list is similar to the ones the band used for its U.S. shows with Symphony X in late 2002.
Germany's Blind Guardian is wrapping up its 15th year of forging its brand of epic power, speed and traditional metal into an imaginative and colorful fantasy world. And the songs on Live — from scorching metal anthems to acoustic ballads — sample from all seven of the band's studio albums. Highlights include "Welcome to Dying," "Nightfall," "Under the Ice," "Bright Eyes" and "Imaginations From the Other Side." The audio quality is so crisp that I wouldn't be surprised if the tunes were spiffed up a bit after the fact in the studio. And if they were, so what? Live still oozes pure heavy metal performed by four seasoned musicians who aren't afraid to push themselves a little (or way) over the top. But singer Hansi Kürsch, who I suspect may have read The Lord of the Rings trilogy one or ten too many times, slows down the pace a bit by incorporating brief verbal introductions about hobbits and enchanted forests — spoken in a variety of different languages.
1. A seven-song encore pieced together from various encores recorded around the world?
2. Where's the live version of the 14-minute "And Then There Was Silence"? I know the song uses 50 vocal tracks and 30 guitar tracks, but a band as adventurous and innovative as Blind Guardian could have found a way to bring this monumental song to the stage.
Nevertheless, for a primer on the band you've heard so much about in the past few years, start here. As for the converted, you may already have this material. But most of it doesn't sound quite as kinetic as it does on Live.