I tried to see Black Sabbath with Ozzy Osbourne on vocals on two different occasions. Now, I intended on writing about this in other blogs as I went through all the concerts I went to, but I feel that would take forever and it would make sense to write about it now since I’m about to discuss the show I just went to. When I went to see them at Ozzfest 2004 in Camden, NJ, drummer Bill Ward came out before the band was to play and announced that Ozzy was too sick to play and Rob Halford of Judas Priest was going to sing in his place. You couldn’t be there and complain much after that! The next year, before we even got in inside the PNC Bank Arts Center, the girl checking our tickets told my ex-guitarist Chad and I “No Black Sabbath tonight”. Why this time? “Because Ozzy’s sick.” Sure, Iron Maiden played an extended set that night but I was convinced that night that I’d never see Sabbath with Ozzy…and that Ozzy’s voice is just toast.
So when I got wind, a few weeks ago, that Sabbath had to cancel gigs in Canada because Ozzy lost his voice, the only thing I could assume was that my friend Frank was going to have to get a refund. Little did I know how wrong I would be…and some more. But I’ll get to that in a bit.
I arrived last night at Madison Square Garden with high expectations for the band and incredibly low expectations for Ozzy. Fuck, I really just wanted to see Tony Iommi anyway. But I was also looking very much forward to reuniting with my buddy Frank, who got us the tickets, as well as seeing the opening bands, Rival Sons. Rival Sons got on stage and goddamn they sound even more like Led Zeppelin live than on record! The most obvious sign of it on their albums is the John Bonham-like drum sound. But live, Jay Buchanan did some loud ass wailing while barefoot – that he at least had me convinced that Robert Plant found a way to defy age and join Rival Sons. At one point Frank and I were jokingly singing Zep song titles into two of their songs because they sounds THAT MUCH like Zep songs. I think the last time I heard anyone sound like Zep to the T was Billy Squier when he recorded “Lonely Is The Night”.
To our surprise we didn’t have to wait long for Sabbath to come on. The lights in the Garden went out at 8:45pm, definitely earlier than expected. As the sold out crowd was ROARING in excitement a video came up on the screen. We saw burning buildings that represented the artwork from their most recent album, 13. Then it got really weird, like something out of a fucking Final Fantasy game. But you can see part of it here:
So, as you can see and hear, they opened up with the title track to their self-titled debut. And from their the broke into the classic “Fairies Wear Boots”. Say what you want about Ozzy’s solo drummer, Tommy Clufetos, taking Bill Ward’s place for the last few years as well as the fact that his style is not as jazzy or loose as Bill’s. But he did a really good job emulating Bill’s parts and making him his own. Do I wish Bill was there? Hell fuck yeah I do! But I have to give Tommy respect for making it clear that he was paying his respects. His DW drum kit even looks like Bill’s Tama set to the T!
Geezer Butler, as usual, was on FIRE last night! He bass tone, even from where I was sitting in the nosebleed section, was so strong and crystal clear. HIs fingers were moving so fast on those strings. His playing, both wild with abandon yet perfectly arranged. There really is no one like him. No one.
Which brings me to Lita Ford’s favorite Superhero…as well as the main reason I even wanted to go: Tony Iommi. This is it for him. He’s sick, tired, stressed. No matter what the other guys want to do after this all ends I wouldn’t expect to see him out on the road again. The lymphoma treatments are clearly taking their toll on him. But he still put on probably the most amazing show I’ve ever seen from him and this was the fourth time I’ve seen Tony live overall. His playing was so fluid, so smooth yet so BRUTAL. His riffs – so horrifying, so scary, so BRUTAL. This motherfucker CREATED the style of music I love so much as is the primary reason I play guitar. There will NEVER be anyone like Tony Iommi ever again. Ever.
Then there was that big shocker of the night that I eluded to earlier. Ozzy Osbourne, not known to have had a great singing voice since the mid 9o’s…actually sounded good! I shit you not! I’m pretty sure the key was that the band played songs that Ozzy could handle, which meant not straying far from their first three albums much if at all. If you knew anything about how the guy destroyed his voice over the years you knew there was no way he was pulling out “Sabbath Blood Sabbath” or even “Megalomania” for that matter. Although I was surprised to hear them play “Snowblind” and even more surprised to hear Ozzy hit the high notes without struggle! He was shockingly on point last night…I guess the third time was the charm after all, eh?
Intro video/Black Sabbath
Jack The Stripper/Fairies Wear Boots
Into The Void (\m/\m/\m/\m/!!!!!!)
Behind The Wall Of Sleep/Bass Solo/NIB
Hand Of Doom
Rat Salad/Drum Solo
Children Of The Grave
Encore: Paranoid (well, duh!)
Like I said, the band pretty much hovered around the first three albums which the exceptions of “Snowblind” and especially “Dirty Women”. Not that Ozzy sang high in that song; but I doubt anyone expected them to pull out something off Technical Ecstacy, which was not their best album during the Ozzy years. Either way, it was incredibly effective. My head hurt so much from headbanging yet I refused to stop. After the show ended we witnessed some guy who was so drunk he nearly fell down the stairs and that would have been a fucking long way down. He instead fell on his ass and as he when to get his cigarette, which was already lit up, he mistakenly put the lit side in his mouth!
The show was in-fucking-credible, what a fitting way to say goodbye to the band that started it all. In fact, they are playing another show at the Garden tomorrow night and will be touring through September. Without them, and especially without Tony Iommi, there would be no heavy metal as we know it now. For that I’ll always be thankful.