Live Coverage || Blind Guardian, The Night Eternal @ O2 Kentish Town, London (14/4/2024)

 Here we are, queuing outside the closed door of the O2 Kentish Town, sharing some chats and laughter with strangers and fellows who were as excited as we were. Even though the show didn't sell out, we witnessed over a hundred bards eagerly anticipating the Guardians' long-awaited return to the mainland, longing to sing along to the song that symbolised their past.

After the release of their twelfth album, “The God Machine,” in 2022, the band spent all of 2023 touring in the US and finally announced last August that UK dates were added to the bill. We read from different sources that Hansi and Co. were in top form, ready to deliver a unique show. So, as you can tell, our expectations were high, and we were ready to get transported into the Guardians world.

But before we get to talk about the mighty Blind Guardian, let’s focus on the opening act for this London show: The Night Eternal. The German band shows London what it is like to keep the German heritage up and running, hitting the stage with a powerful and curious sound: catchy riffs resemble some sort of eighties sound, almost dark waves. We hear some similarities with a lot of occult rock influences, and there are some hints of Ricardo’s voice that remind us of an early Danzing (perhaps a good reason for him to wear a Misfits jacket?).

Not knowing the band much, we took a very big breath and let their sound take us and the entire crowd away, almost to ease our nerves about what would be happening next. Undoubtedly, the band possesses a similar magical quality to the Guardians, yet their choice of heaviness caught our attention. It wasn't until later that we realised they had only released two albums, but upon listening to them, we could clearly sense the band's significant musical growth in a short period of time. We were pretty impressed by the stage presence and felt they were able to entertain a crowd that was only thinking about Blind Guardian.

All the bards are ready for the moment! Despite the tour being marked by the new album, the opening song took us back to the mysterious and exciting year 1995, when “Imaginations from the Other Side” was released and later remastered in 2007. The self-titled song hit us all straight in the head like thunder: people shacking, shouting their guts out; you could feel the excitement in the room with a cracking setlist that left us breathless.

From the new album, we hear “Blood of the Elves," “Violent Shadows," and “Secrets of American Gods,” and we straight away feel like the band has kept a good mark on their sonorities while still exploring some new sounds, almost more progressive, which break nicely from the most famous songs and let us gasp that there is much more from the Guardian to give to this world.

I will definitely recommend a second listen to their new album before seeing them live, as we feel there is a lot to unpack from their new works compared to older albums, with great research and discoveries of melodies and bits that are less familiar to the more traditional bards.

"Nightfall" and "Banished from Sanctuary" transported us back in time. The crowd erupted in cheers as the band delivered an electrifying rendition of these favourites, reaffirming their timeless appeal. And as Hansi reminded us, it was on that very day (April 14, 1989) that “Follow the Blind” was released, so it was a very special moment to celebrate altogether with some great metal.

The band's raw energy and passion were palpable as they navigated through these remarkable songs' intricate melodies and powerful lyrics. The audience was completely mesmerised, singing along to every word and swaying to the rhythm of the music.

The night continued with the band bringing back some of their gentle songs, "Skalds and Shadows" and "The Bard's Song—In the Forest," much to the delight of the long-time fans. These nostalgic pieces brought some of us to tears. People's voices echoing through the venue in unison with the band were even more powerful than the songs themselves, unifying everyone as we were all sharing the same memory, the greatest of them all.

As the main set came to a close, the band left the stage only to return for an encore performance that included "Sacred Worlds," "Time Stands Still (At the Iron Hill)," "Valhalla," and "Mirror Mirror." The encore was a perfect blend of the band's journey through the years, leaving the audience singing and wanting more even after the last note faded away.

After we all kept singing “Valhalla, Deliverance... Why've you ever forgotten me?” for 2 long minutes despite the song being finished, the band couldn’t say no to another last song, treating us to "Majesty,” which left us breathless.

The God Machine Tour proved to be an unforgettable experience, a testament to Blind Guardian's enduring appeal and their ability to continuously evolve while staying true to their unique sound. Whether you're a new listener or a long-time fan, this tour is a must-see for any lover of their music.

We'll definitely hope to catch them again in Wacken this summer!

Words by Sabrina Schiavinato, photos courtesy of Peterson Marti

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