This concert almost went the way of Epica: if I’d had a choice in the matter, I would’ve blown it off to write instead. Thankfully, I have friends who kept me from making that mistake. And so, on Monday night, we went to have stories sung to us.
|Blind Guardian, Showbox at the Market, December 6th 2010|
Blind Guardian, you see, is the metal equivalent of a bard. They tell fantastic tales. When I went to see them with Leaves’ Eyes all those years ago in Phoenix, I’d been startled by the fact that Hansi Kursch didn’t do the normal front-man thing and just babble platitudes to the crowd and introduce songs. No, he wove everything into a tale we became part of. Became something of a novel, that night did. This night, it was a short story collection.
And I knew it would be a good night when Hansi gave his bandmates some gentle ribbing over their World of Warcraft obsessions, got the crowd roaring, and then turned aside to one of his mates and said, “I know how to motivate people” in an arch-comic tone that brought the house down.
Then they reminded me why they are one of my most favorite bands.
Cameron Lee’s the one what done it. Many years ago, he introduced me to Blind Guardian by way of an album called Nightfall in Middle Earth. Back in those days, I couldn’t stand Tolkien, hadn’t even heard of the Silmarillion, and barely knew good heavy metal existed, much less mythic, epic, relentless German power metal that could transport you to other worlds.
There are some albums that harrow the soul. They become your spirit and purpose, cycle endlessly through your brain, transport you to a different realm at odd times of day, and refuse to let you go even after you’re left sweating, shaking, changed. This was that album for me. They’d written the soundtrack for my novels. My main character moved to this album. I wore out the mylar on that tape before I’d even had a chance to pick up the CD for myself. I’d never heard anything so intense in all my life.
|Hansi getting intense.|
Nightfall In Middle Earth even changed my perception of Tolkien. Up till then, I’d considered him a pretentious bore whose books were impossibly dense. After, I decided there had to be something to him. I picked up a copy of the Silmarillion illustrated by Ted Nasmith, and gave it pride of place on my shelves. So what if I wasn’t yet prepared to truly enjoy Tolkien? I was starting to get it, and thanks to Blind Guardian, I had an excellent sense of the story. (The Silmarillion’s still a desperately difficult read, but if you read it out loud, you’ll discover just why Tolkien’s a master of language. It flows in a way nothing else does.)
I played that album once a week for years. And it’s been my guide as I’ve stumbled my way through a very complex several years of worldbuilding. When it comes down to it, the theme of carrying on when all hope is gone is very much the theme of my series.
I have this habit of pulling lyrics to use as title quotes, guide chapters, outline stories, and encapsulate characters. Everything that ever needs to be said about the character who is at the center of most every story I tell is captured in this quote from “The Curse of Feanor:”
I will always remember their cries
Like a shadow they’ll cover my life
But I’ll also remember mine
And after all I’m still alive
They’ve been one of my most steadfast guides as I’ve stumbled through the dark. So you can understand why they mean a little something to me.
|A steady hand|
So, there I was, a Blind Guardian fan, and this a time when they didn’t come out with an album for a while. During that time, I got to know their older stuff and got to know my stories better. Along the line, somewhere, I figured out that who I’d thought was my main character was actually just the main character for the final three books – the person who the whole story arc was about turned out to be someone quite different. I’m not sure I would have realized that without Blind Guardian, to be quite honest. They came out with his soundtrack about the time I was ready for the revelation. A Night at the Opera contained the lyrics that helped me understand him, and understanding him led me to the realization that it’s really been about him all along.*
He’s not just all about A Night at the Opera, though. It turns out that one of his favorite songs is “The Bard’s Song,” which rather startled me a bit. But it’s a beautiful song, and a good one for someone who’s lost very nearly everything but still managed to survive it all, and so it became something of a theme. That’s one of the reasons I’m delighted Blind Guardian plays it nearly every concert.
|Relatively sure this is Marcus Siepen, playing Bard’s Song|
|Bard’s Song Too|
Years have passed. Other musicians have come along to inspire me: I got addicted to Roger Clyne and the Peacemakers, which led to a story about Mexico; there’s Epica and Kamelot and Leaves’ Eyes and Nightwish and too many others to name, all of whom have had something to contribute to the stories. Blind Guardian will always hold pride o’ place, though, for being true epic storytellers. Without them, I doubt I could tell the stories I do now. They influenced my thinking hugely at a critical juncture.
I’ll always be grateful for that.
But enough o’ my babble. Here are the final few photos I wanted to share:
|Got a groove on|
Truly a night to remember.
Now, some of you may not yet be Blind Guardian fans but may wish to become so after all this. So let me provide you a few songs. First, if you ever plan to attend a concert, you will need to have one song memorized so that you can sing along. Here’s “Bard’s Song.”
Works its way right into your brain and stays there, doesn’t it just?
Here is the song that quickly became my theme: “Nightfall.”
When I heard that song the first time, I knew Cameron Lee had given me something special.
And, finally, my favorite Blind Guardian song of all time, “Thorn.”
Now, go thee and see them in concert. You won’t regret it.