Blind Guardian - Imaginations Through The Looking Glass
The time has come for Germany's premier act in the metal scene, Blind Guardian, to make an entrance in the business of releasing a live dvd. They have chosen the perfect event to capture for this purpose - 2 nights in a row as headliner at their own festival Blind Guardian Open Air, held in Coburg, Germany in June 2003.
After a short introduction consisting of the narrated War Of Wrath, the curtains fall and some pyro go off, and we are struck by Time Stands Still, Banish From Sanctuary and Nightfall in a nice sequence to warm us up. From here onwards we are brought through a cavalcade of song from their whole career, and not much is to be said about the choice of songs. Blind Guardian's back catalouge is impressive with very, very few less good songs. The mixture is good between olden goldies and more recent tunes, but I am a bit surprised that the material from their, according to me, magnum opus Somewhere Far Beyond have to stand back so much and is only represented by one song. Big emphasis is put on the Imaginations, Nightfall and A Night At The Opera albums. You can't get it all, and it's merely a reflection from my side, but one or two more bits from Somwhere Far Beyond would not have hurt.
The band have been said to sometimes be a less interesting live band, as nothing much happens, and I can agree to that as I have seen appearances where there are hardly no movements or action at all. This show does now fall under that category, luckily, since the energy is high and the guys are evidently trigged for the task. Guitarists Siepen and Olbrich are running around and banging, and the whole band are obviously moved by the awesome response from the audience, and are really living up to the max and are returning the enthusiasm.
Blind Guardian have been accused of overworking/producing their latest albums, and I have to agree to some extent on that. At a live show like this you would expect a more naked and raw sound, where the metal roots comes to the surface, and that is exactly what happens here since the instruments are not drowning behind a wall of orchestral arrangements. With help of a session keyboardist and bassist, they still manage to reproduce the perfect amount of the most important elements to make it sound as mighty as it needs. More about how the work behind arranging their material for live shows are being done, can be seen on the second dvd disc.
The production is absolutely flawless, with top notch and crystal clear sound and lights. Everything from scene decorations, lights and colors and live fires during the slow songs are well blended and in harmony with each other, and create a relaxed and enjoyable feeling. The fires during A Past And Future Secret create a beautiful mood during a great song. A great moment in the set. The sound is crystal clear and fat, but I would even go so far as saying that the sound is almost - but only almost - too good. It sounds like there has been quite some work put into some after-polishing on details, and it takes away a tiny bit of the geniune live feeling.
On the other hand, the audience have been given a lot of space in the mix and are loud and well represented. They contribute a lot to the great mood, as they like usual during a Blind Guardian concert take over most of the choruses and lead the song onwards. During the mandatory The Bard's Song, as well as Nightfall and Valhalla to name a few, the goose bumps appear. Hansi himself looks very touched when the audience starts chanting "Valhalla....deliverance" after the song has ended, and keeps going for several minutes. They would still be chanting up to this day, hadn't it been for drummer Thomen to phase it out.
As for the bonus material, they have first of all included 4 great songs that individually easily would take a place among the top 10 in the normal setlist. Why they were not there in the first place I can only speculate about, but hey...as long as we get them. They are filmed at Wacken Open Air and Stuttgart shows during 2002, and they are all awesome. Great songs in great performances. Thanks for those bonus tracks, guys. We also get a pretty good and interesting 25 minute interview with the band, as well a 40 minute documentary about The Making Of this event. From preparing the stage to the gathering of the fans the days before the shows and various happenings in the camp, to the backstage area during the festival. This is among the first time I see an interview with the band, even though they have been around almost 20 years, so that's why it's of interest for at least me.
An awesome dvd release, with a great concert that probably won't leave many, if any, Blind Guardian fans less then very, very satisfied. Apart from a few minor wishes for a tiny, tiny different setlist and the above mentioned live sound, this is up there touching at a full grade.