Moscow, Druzhba Sports Hall
May 25, 2002

They came from far beyond our reality… There are very few bands that were awaited by Russian fans as eagerly as Blind Guardian. Their first appearance in Moscow after 15 years of a successful career made a sensation in the metal underground (unfortunately, major media outlets ignored the event completely), and tickets for the floor were unavailable already two weeks before the gig. I personally was looking forward to see Blind Guardian as well, even though their latest album did not seem convincing to me and though I was extremely concerned over the acoustics of the hall. Now I am glad to admit that all my worries were groundless, that Blind Guardian are very nice people, that their performance was excellent and that there is a possibility that a gig in Moscow can be organized properly.

As usually, let me start my story with the report from the news conference as usually hosted by a record store of the Soyuz chain in downtown Moscow. The event attracted a record number of reporters who soon left their chairs, surrounded a small table at which the musicians were sitting and bombarded the band with all kinds of questions for more than an hour. Most of the answers were provided by singer Hansi Kuersch, who is usually pictured at photographs as a rather fat dude with an unpleasant face, but in reality he's a very nice looking person and a very interesting interlocutor.

- Why did you name your latest album "A Night At The Opera"? There is an album of Queen of the same name, have you considered doing a Queen cover for this record, something like "Bohemian Rhapsody"? -

Well, "Bohemian Rhapsody" is a masterpiece and we would not dare to copy or cover that one, so that was out of the question from the beginning. Of course, we had that "A Night At The Opera" album in mind when we finally chose the title "A Night At The Opera" for our album. We're Queen fans, every one of us, and we just felt that it was the best fitting title, and we also felt that it would be a little offending to some people. It is a funny title, but overall it's the best fitting title, because Blind Guardian music has been very orchestral, has that operating feeling and all that together made the decision rather easy.

- "Harvest Of Sorrow", the bonus track for "A Night At The Opera", has been released with Spanish and Italian lyrics. Do you speak all these languages or did you have someone to translate it? By the way, why didn't you make the German version of it? I think it would be logical.

- First of all, it has been recorded in Spanish, Italian and French. Some of the languages I do know, and as to languages I do not know, I had some companions providing me with the right lyrics. They are rather close to the German language, so it wasn't too difficult to accomplish these ones. We haven't done the German one because we felt that the language would have been too harsh for that song, and the quality we would demand from the German translation of "Harvest Of Sorrow" would have taken too much time. As we were running out of time, we decided not to do it in German.

- Are there any plans to record "Harvest Of Sorrow" in Russian?

- Why not? That's a good question. It depends a little bit on the time, but we definitely have in mind to come up with some more versions of "Harvest Of Sorrow". Probably we could distribute them through our homepage, so they won't be on an album, but whoever wants to get them can download them, and Russian is definitely on our list.

- What will you do with the material that you wrote for the "Lord Of The Rings" movie? Do you like the music that finally made it to the movie?

- I think the score music for the soundtrack is good, but not spectacular. I think it fits very well to the movie, but unfortunately the conductor and composer forgot to bring in new elements, all the stuff there seems to be taken from somewhere else, that's how I feel. The "Lord Of The Rings" music we have written so far and are hoping to complete one day is very classical and musical-oriented. We surely will release it one day but the question is whether we get a permission of the Tolkien family who owns the right for his work.

- Hansi, are you going to continue with Demons & Wizards, and when can we expect a new album?

- We surely will continue with the project one day, but the question mark is when, because right now both of us are focused on our main projects, which are Blind Guardian and Iced Earth. I hope that we can find some time somewhere in 2003 to at least come up with new songs, but as the time is running fast and schedules are tight, that's questionable. So I would not expect a new Demons & Wizards album before the end of 2004.

- How did you get to know Tobias Sammet of Edguy and why did you decide to help him record his album "Vain Glory Opera"?

- I am in a good relationship with the president of the record company which holds the rights for Edguy. He one day mentioned that he has a very talented band, he provided me the stuff and I said, "Wow! They are rather interesting, I would like to see how far they can get." He said, "they are going to release another album rather soon, and they need some support in the choir arrangement," that was with "Vain Glory Opera". And I said, "just send me the stuff and I'll try to compose some vocal layers for two songs," that was it.

- Your bass player Oliver Holzwarth is a session musician, but he's been playing with you for a long time. Why don't you make him a permanent band member? By the way, is Hansi ever going to play bass again?

- First of all, right now I cannot say whether I will play bass again one day or not, because that's the question of time and a question of talent. The Blind Guardian music is very demanding, and to be honest, the skills in playing the bass that I could provide the band with are not good enough right now, so I would have to spend a lot of time rehearsing bass properly and I doubt that I will find the time. It is open, but I myself don't feel like having to play bass again. Oliver is a good friend, I have to say that because he's sitting there, so it's difficult to say something else. I hope that he feels comfortable with the position he's in, he likes to play with Blind Guardian (laughter in the room). But he cannot become a permanent member of Blind Guardian because Blind Guardian is us four, that will remain the same, there's no discussion about that.

- Hansi, how did you happen to record a song with an Argentine band called Nepal (the band's guitarist later became famous with his project Beto Vazquez Infinity)?

- The story is almost the same as with Edguy. We have the same record company there, and the guy who is in charge of Nepal is in charge of Blind Guardian too. One day he asked me if I was willing to do some lines for them in Spanish, and as this was a kind of challenge for me I said, "Well, let's do it!" At that point I had never sung in another language but English, so I really enjoyed doing it. But it was pretty much a challenge, it was difficult.

- In the very beginning of your career when the band was still called Lucifer's Heritage, drummer Thomen Stauch left the band for a while but soon returned. What was the reason?

- Yes, I left the band because we had some problems in the beginning. I think it was a matter of age or something, I was the youngest one in the band, and there was some reason why we didn't understand each other so good anymore. Later we became good friends again and everything was fine.

After the news conference the four musicians were taken one floor higher for a signing session. Yet as we first approached the building to attend the news conference, we had to make our way through a huge crowd of long-haired people waiting to meet the band. It was clear from the beginning that there were too many of them, and as we expected, Blind Guardian did not have the time to sign all the stuff for all the people. Apparently this time the information on the signing session was available too widely or the choice of the location for the signing session was not quite correct… Still, those who came too late got a substantial compensation later in the day when they got to see their favorite band live.

As I have already mentioned, I was extremely concerned about the acoustics of the Druzhba Sports Hall. There had only been one concert there over the past 10 years, and those who attended the gig (Glenn Hughes was playing, by the way) said the sound was horrible. However when the opening band Catharsis hit the stage I noticed that they were sounding not that band. For Moscow-based Catharsis it was the very first live appearance with a new line-up and a totally new set of songs which are somewhat heavier than their earlier stuff and less keyboard-oriented. I enjoyed their 30-minute show more than I expected, but still Catharsis are now much less unique than they used to be.

It took Blind Guardian half an hour to get ready. When the intro "War Of Wrath" started playing from the speakers, the crowd went crazy instantly even though the band had not even appeared on the stage. And as the lights turned own and "Into The Storm" began, the entire floor turned into a swarming mass of people jumping, shouting and banging their head with such a joy in their eyes that the band was literally shocked. Indeed, the response was fantastic, it seemed that people were waiting all their lives to get to the show. And Blind Guardian couldn't but respond with an excellent performance. Their set was based on classic tunes, mostly from the albums "Somewhere Far Beyond", "Imaginations From The Other Side" and "Nightfall In Middle Earth", though there were some older tracks as well (the performance of "Traveler In Time" and "Lost In The Twilight Hall" is just beyond description, but I wish I could make it to the previous gig of their Russian tour in Nizhny Novgorod where they also played "Banish From Sanctuary" and "Run For The Night"). As to the controversial new album "A Night At The Opera", it was represented by just three tracks, which was quite surprising (I would have chosen three different tracks off that one), but worked just fine, for the new songs were unknown to a considerable share of the crowd. The highest point of the show was "The Bard's Song - In The Forest", the "ultimate Blind Guardian song" as introduced by Hansi. As usually, the audience did most of the singing, and it was an incredible example of unity between the artists and the fans which is seldom to be found at such large venues (the capacity of the hall is 3,000-plus and it was packed). The sound quality on the floor was excellent all through the gig, and the band's performance faultless. I was wondering how Hansi would cope with his vocal parts that are quite complicated in almost every Blind Guardian song, but he sang everything fine even though the microphone stand was too low for him. I must admit that Hansi is far from a good frontman - most of the time he was just standing in the middle of the stage - but he's an excellent singer, and Blind Guardian is an example of the band where music matters much more than the show. The work of other musicians needs no description, the entire band plus the session bass player and keyboardist played their parts flawlessly and sung the trademark backing vocals, though most of the choirs was done by the fans.

The warm response of the Moscow audience made Blind Guardian say "thank you" and "you're fantastic" after nearly each song. And as a special bonus, the fans got an extra song that was played for the second encore when the most impatient ones in the crowd were already on their way out. "Mirror Mirror" was a perfect tune to end the concert, one of the most impressive shows that Moscow has witnessed this year. Judging from opinions I have heard so far, only the Moonspell gig caused excitement of a similar scale among the audience. And I personally rate it among the five best shows I have seen in my life - I was waiting to see Blind Guardian for ages and finally got what I wanted and even more. Many of the people in the crowd felt the same, and that's the thing that made the May 25 gig so special. Blind Guardian rule!

Set list:
1. War Of Wrath (Intro)
2. Into The Storm
3. Welcome To Dying
4. Nightfall
5. The Script For My Requiem
6. Harvest Of Sorrow
7. Under The Ice
8. Time What Is Time
9. Valhalla
10. The Soulforged
11. Traveler In Time
12. Mordred's Song
13. Punishment Divine
14. The Bard's Song - In The Forest
15. Imaginations From The Other Side

Encore 1:
16. Lost In The Twilight Hall
17. Time Stands Still (At The Iron Hill)

Encore 2:
18. Mirror Mirror

Roman The Maniac

Thanks to Maxim Bylkin (Soyuz Music) and GO'ST Music International
for accreditation at the news conference and show

Special thanx to Kathy The Lucky for band pix


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