The End: Black Sabbath live and SOLD OUT at Madison Square Garden February 25th, 2016

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?

THE SETLIST:

Intro video/Black Sabbath

Jack The Stripper/Fairies Wear Boots

After Forever

Into The Void (\m/\m/\m/\m/!!!!!!)

Snowblind

Wars Pigs

Behind The Wall Of Sleep/Bass Solo/NIB

Hand Of Doom

Rat Salad/Drum Solo

Iron Man

Dirty Women

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.

My First Taste of Pure Evil on Music

20130104_black_sabbath_paranoid_91 So, in the spirit of my recent rant on Black Sabbath’s final concert announcement, I couldn’t help recently but begin reminiscing about my first true taste of them…and that would obviously be their second album, Paranoid, released originally in 1970.  What an eye opener that was – and not just because the picture of the colorful looking, sword welding soldier on the cover made me think I was buying the soundtrack to some early 70’s low budget sci-fi movie!

I first heard of Ozzy Osbourne when he released Ozzmosis in 1995.  I was 11 at the time and MTV News did a story on him and then a week later  I saw his video for “Perry Mason”.  But it was two years later, when I somehow joined the “rocker clique” in my school, that my friend Elan Bochbot educated me on Ozzy’s beginnings.  What was ironic was this now was the year that Black Sabbath were to reunite (I think without Bill Ward) to headline Ozzfest.  But it wasn’t until a year later that I finally bought my first Sabbath CD – and this was AFTER I bought Blizzard of Ozz so I think you can imagine how thrown off I was bound to be when comparing Randy Rhoads’s playing to Tony Iommi’s!

Oh, I also had an obstacle or two when listening to Paranoid.  I was living with my dad when I got it back in the summer of 1998 and I didn’t have a radio in that bedroom so all I had was some shit CD walkman.  Yeah, about that shit walkman; it was so shitty that for whatever reason it would not read the CD.  And if it did read the CD I had to make sure not to skip tracks because it wouldn’t read and the fucking CD would just spin around aimlessly.  You can’t make this shit up!

Now for the music!  The first time my shitty CD player was able to read the CD I was smacked in the back of the head by the first low E strum and slow as fuck groove of “War Pigs”.  That groove, the unusual way Tony Iommi played his guitar – a far cry from Randy Rhoads and “I Don’t Know” for sure! – Geezer Butler’s walking bassline, Bill Ward’s loose drumming.  Those sirens!!  I already couldn’t help but anticipate what was to happen next because I knew it’d be a while before my CD player would be able to do this again!

Then it got quiet, all you could hear was Bill’s hi-hat.  Then it came.  “Generals gathered in their masseeeeeess!”  Whoa!  Is that really Ozzy?  Is that the same guy that I just heard a month earlier singing “Crazy Train”?  Oh yeah it was.  But this was a much rawer Ozzy.  At that moment I understood that this was going to be nothing like those other two Ozzy CD’s I had.  This shit was going to be fucking RAW.  This would be the first time I wouldn’t hear a rhythm guitar track during any solos, this would be the first time I’d hear the guitar and bass intertwining together as one, swinging drums in a much more aggressive environment.  I was listening to the origins of Heavy Metal – and it sounded pretty jazzy.

After being blown away by “War Pigs” “Paranoid” came next.  This is one of the simpler songs on the CD.  It’s perfect.  Short, fast paced, the lyrics fit perfectly and that gnarly, dissonant solo totally fucked with my head.  I can listen to it now and I can’t help but imagine the face of a crazy person.  “Planet Caravan”, the lone mellow track here.  This one threw me off for sure, especially with Ozzy’s voice going through a rotating speaker, which I wasn’t aware of at the time.  I didn’t even think it was him!  As he creepily spoke about sailing “through endless skies” as “stars shine like eyes”, I felt like I was watching a cartoon, and in it all four guys in the band when on some boat riding through space, then as Tony played the ending solo the four of them faded away in to the darkness.  As it turns out my interpretation of the song wasn’t too far off from what Geezer had in mind after all.  What makes me laugh is my rap loving brother heard this song the one time my dad let me play it in his truck and decided “You’re a poser and I’m gonna tell all ya friends!”.  Yeah…good luck there buddy.

Then came that bass drum, then came the bending E string…”I am Iron Man!”.  This was just fun as hell because while this wasn’t based on the comic book I read comics so this is another song where I couldn’t help but see a cartoon going on in my head, regardless that it turned out to be the ultimate rejection song and the same goes for “Electric Funeral ” too!  But Tony’s use of the wah pedal on “Electric Funeral” made the riff that much more fucked up sounding and I loved it.

“Hand of Doom”, that is just pure groove.  I wasn’t ready for that yet but I totally appreciate it now, especially when I gets faster in the middle before slowing down again.  It’s an exercise in jazz improv, but of course as evil as they could get.  Same thing goes for “Jack the Stripper/Fairies Wear Boots”.  Upon my first several listens the lyrics made absolutely no sense at all.  I didn’t think they were supposed to because I knew everybody and their mother did drugs like there was no tomorrow back then but later on I discovered the meaning behind it.  But Geezer, I’m sure that not all skinheads are afraid to fight bud – you just got lucky that night!

The album, or at least my version of it, ends with “Rat Salad”, or as I like to call it, the Bill Ward Special!  He is such an underrated drummer.  He was to Black Sabbath what Ringo was to the Beatles.  He had rhythm but he could swing to and it added such flavor to the groove.  But unlike Ringo he could do drum solos.  Was this John Bonham?  No.  But it fit perfectly with the tune.

And just like that not only was it over but I’d probably have to wait a while before the stupid CD player could read the CD again.  This was nothing like what I was listening to at the time.  Ozzy’s voice was raw and nasal as hell throughout the whole thing.  Tony’s guitar playing was primitive but he undeniably had such a huge sound and I could finally see where so many guys stole their tricks from – myself included.  It was filed with anger, it was dark, gloomy, nothing flashy or shrederrific about him.  What you heard was what you got but it was real and you FELT IT.  Geezer turned out to be such a player on that bass and Bill was more than an anchor.  He was the perfect jazz drummer – he knew when to keep it tight but he also knew when to let it fly.

In the end it was the perfect historical piece for metal historians, not just because of the music.  The artwork, the lyrical imagery, the themes of war, rejection, mental illness and again, how raw it all is.  Paranoid will always be the perfect introduction to the band that started it all.  I knew I was hooked and I wanted more.  Now.  Yesterday.  Then I found Master of Reality, which I consider to be THE heaviest album of all time.  But that’s another story.