Blind Guardian

Imaginations Through the Looking Glass

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Blind Guardian are so utterly enamored with The Lord of the Rings that they've patterned almost their entire career on its stories; and now that Tolkien's trilogy has been made silver screen reality, they seem intent to follow suit with this double-DVD set. And what better location to film one's first live concert DVD than a completely partisan German crowd attending the band's own Blind Guardian Festival! Unfortunately, their fans' unqualified adoration alone is not enough to make this a very watchable show for anyone not already converted to the group's cause. Freed from his bass-playing duties, singer Hansi Kürsch reveals himself a far from charismatic performer for such a large stage, lacking in animation and looking rather silly with his beer paunch, to boot. And while he stands there, dead-eye staring down the crowd or at best conversing with them in German (still better than in English -- that would just be cheesy), his bandmates generally also stand rooted to their positions. They may well flail and shred (particularly lead guitarist André Olbrich) away quite capably at their instruments, but when the boredom starts setting in after a few songs, one has to wonder why actual hobbits, dwarves, and elves weren't hired to prance about the stage, or The Lord of the Rings itself simply screened behind the band? But, most remarkable of all is the realization that, as is often the case with power metal bands such as this, the influence of Iron Maiden is so prevalent as to be almost uncomfortable. Here is an entire generation of European metal bands for whom Maiden's World Piece or World Slavery tours obviously provided the first and most lasting concert experience -- such is the level to which they have since patterned their every in-concert decision on the '80s metal heroes. Anyway, what's left to remark is that this is a predictably and Teutonically precise two-hour set, complete with pyrotechnics and other arena show favors, and comprising 20 songs meticulously selected to represent every single release of Blind Guardian's near-two-decade career (yawn). Disk two is only marginally better, with its four bonus song performances, band interview, photo slideshow, and two-hour "making of" documentaries (in German with English subtitles) barely registering a pulse. Or, as the band themselves eventually admit while watching playbacks of their show, "We didn't even have to try." And that about sums it up for this whole package: a technically and lavishly assembled four hours of video that will nevertheless ring absolutely hollow for all but the blindly (pun intended) preconverted; they will certainly buy tickets to the second and third Blind Guardian Festivals, if only to ensure that the trilogy be completed.

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