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.

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Upcoming Show’s I’ll Be Attending

So here’s a short list of the next few show’s I’m going to in either New Jersey or Manhattan within the next week and again in February.

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King Diamond w/ Exodus live at PlayStation Theater, New York, NY  – Friday, November 20, 2015

This was very last minute.  I wasn’t counting on seeing this show because this date in particular is sold out but a co-worker of my girlfriend offered her his tickets.  Sucker!  This is going to be amazing.  I love King.  She can’t stand him but is willing to go see him out of respect, knowing that there’d probably never be bands like Metallica, Megadeth, Anthrax or Slayer had it not been for Mercyful Fate, King’s pre-solo band.  Being that this will be my first time seeing King, it’ll also be interesting to hear how he sounds after years away, having recovered from back AND heart surgeries.  I also know I’m absolutely going to jizz myself silly when I finally hear Andy LaRoque solo his brains out for the first time ever!  Not looking too forward to Exodus.  I’m probably one of the few would cannot stand Souza’s voice…at all.  What the fuck was Gary Holt thinking when he got rid of Rob Dukes?  Was he even thinking at all?!?!  You dumb fuck.

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Angel Vivaldi live at Dingbatz, Clifton, NJ – Sunday, November 22, 2015

Since I last wrote about Angel Vivaldi this YouTube sensation has been on the road for the last two months, promoting his most recent album, Away With Words, Pt.1.  This show will be his homecoming show, bringing that tour to an end.  If you haven’t heard him yet I suggest you go to Dingbatz on the 22nd to see why he gets namedropped by peers such as Alice Cooper guitarist Nita Strauss.

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Black Sabbath live at Madison Square Garden, New York, NY – Thursday, February 25, 2016

Well, here it is.  And more important than that, it’s for real this time.  Tony Iommi himself has gone on record saying that he finally cannot handle it anymore.  It’s incredible he was able to hang on for as long as he has, all things considered.  But it was going to happen eventually – I’m just grateful that their last show wasn’t an Ozzfest gig in Japan!  What really got me mad was finding out after I bought the tickets that they’re playing another show at the Garden two days later – on a Saturday.  But I honestly don’t mind taking a day off from work the next day – especially with the jackasses I deal with on a day to day basis!  They’ll also be playing throughout the summer including dates at the PNC Bank Arts Center in Holmdel, NJ.

I just hope that Ozzy doesn’t fuck this up.  The two times I tried to see Sabbath he was sick, but I’ll definitely get into those times in future blogs, trust me.  I know for a fucking fact that I’m not the only one who’d LOVE for Bill Ward to be a part of this last tour.  But I guess it’s up to Bill in the end; but hell, he should be a part of this, if not even for us at least for himself!  I’d love to see the classic line up that started it all just once.  C’mon Bill!  Ozzy fucked it up for me twice – don’t you be the one to fuck it up this time!

Iron Maiden Live at Madison Square Garden July 30th, 2003

This was my second concert ever, just a few months after seeing Superjoint Ritual at L’Amour in Brooklyn just two months earlier, but this was my first ever arena concert – and goddamn what a way to start!  A few months earlier my cousin Mike asked me if I wanted to see Motorhead, Dio and Iron Maiden at Madison Square Garden in July.  Now…I understood Maiden and even Dio playing at the Garden.  But Motorhead?  Yeah they have such a loyal following but they never held the stature of Maiden in ticket or even album sales.  Either way I knew it would be amazing to hear a band THAT LOUD in the Garden.  So do I want to go?  Um…yeah!

I don’t really remember off the top of my head what my day was like leading into heading out to my cousin’s apartment but I do remember just thinking to myself “holy shit I’m seeing Iron Fucking Maiden tonight!”  I’d been a growing fan since my senior year of high school, probably being the only one in my high school that even liked Maiden, or any real metal for that matter.  I had heard “The Number Of The Beast” and “Run To The Hills” but once I heard “The Trooper” on WSOU one afternoon I was sold!  Then Mike called me to let me know that he’d need an extra $50 when I got to his place because he was able to upgrade our seats and we’d now be right at the second row.  How the hell did do that?  Well…he wouldn’t tell me.  Whatever.  So I got to his place in the Superjoint Ritual t-shirt I bought at their L’Amour show, green cargo shorts and my boots, gave him the $50 and to the bus we went.

We got there and the place was the best mix of scalpers and some of the sickest battle jackets I’ve ever seen.  When we walked inside my old friend Joe was doing security, and he definitely came in handy later.  Motorhead were already playing when Mike and I got to our seats.  Come to think of it I now get mixed emotions when thinking of any Motorhead show I’ve seen, mostly because of Lemmy’s health these days.  Between him and Keith Richards why the hell is it that Keith was the one that did heroin and he appears to be doing better than Lemmy?  Loud?  Yeah…ok.  Imagine their volume…especially Lemmy’s bass…but now it’s in an arena where you’re now blasting the ears of over 20,000 people.  That whole set was an explosion.  And from where wee were seated we were right at Lemmy’s side to the stage – the way it should always be!  And Mikey Dee’s bassdrums went right through me and my cousin like a second heartbeat.  Mike was not really a Motorhead fan but at that moment he definitely got a rush from the sensation of Mikey’s bassdrums.  Their set list was filled with songs ranging from their entire catalog, from their biggest songs to their least known.  It was my first time hearing their Ramones tribute song, simply called “Ramones”, “Sacrifice”, “Over The Top”, which Lemmy appropriately dedicated to himself, and then I finally heard them play “Overkill”.  I’d heard Metallica’s cover of it five years earlier as did everybody else in the world but to hear THEM do it was the single greatest point in the setlist.  After they got off stage I almost didn’t care about Maiden!

Dio was next.  They were still on tour for their most recent CD, Killing The Dragon, the title track of which they even opened up with.  This was to be my first of three times seeing Ronnie James Dio in concert – all three times with my cousin Mike no less! – and my first impression of the guy made me laugh so hard.  I mean I never realized how short this guy was, first off.  He came out wearing this black silk outfit, I mean black pants flaring out at the bottom and this black short sleeve shirt, decorated with a glitter cross.  Now don’t get me wrong, he was amazing!  His voice was so powerful on this night, just a few years before being diagnosed with the stomach cancer that eventually took him from us.  I still miss him so much.  But I know I wasn’t the only one that night wondering if he took dance lessons from a stripper either!  In fact when I began my second year in college a little over a month later THAT was what my other friends who were there and I were talking about more so than even the music!  He shook his ass and swiveled his hips way too good here.

Craig Goldy was back on guitar, replacing Doug Aldrich who left after Killing The Dragon to join Whitesnake…yeah I was confused about that myself.  Why would anyone leave ANY band for Whitesnake??  I sure wouldn’t!  Craig was damn good on guitar as he played through this setlist, which Ronnie himself dubbed “Title Track Night”, even though they still brought out “Rainbow In The Dark”.  So while we were obviously going to hear “Holy Diver” and “The Last In Line” at some point they band also broke into “Heaven and Hell” to close his set.

Maiden…oh, Maiden.  When the time came for the band to come on the lights went out and you almost immediately heard those now-infamous lines from Vincent Price about the number of the beast.  We were about halfway through it when nearly everyone in the band minus Bruce Dickinson ran on stage ready to go.  I just knew he was behind that crazy ass elaborate stage they had going on, and I predicted he’d probably not show himself until the band kicked in.  After Vincent Price finished speaking Dave Murray started chugging away at the beginning of “The Number of The Beast”.  You heard Bruce hit that scream….still no sign of him..the next verse kicks in…there he is!!  In pure Michael Jackson style he was catapulted from beneath a platform on the stage and right away began jumping down the step with the energy of someone half his age.  The whole band are playing away like their lives depended on it and this motherfucker is doing Olympic style hurdles over the onstage monitors while singing and not even screwing up a single note.  He was in his mid-forties at this point – show me a younger front man from this time period that could do that shit too!

Oh right – the music!  It was a trip hearing THREE guitarists playing an assload of classics originally performed by just two.  Right after the first song finished Bruce just yells out in his high pitched wail “THE TROOPEEEEEERRRRRRRRRR!!!!!!!!” and all three guitarists broke in to the song that made me a Maiden fan for good.  Bruce goes away for a minute while the crowd of 20,000 hears Janick, Dave and Adrian pull off a sick three part harmony before he comes back out in an army outfit.  NICE!  I really wish I could find footage of this show but I can’t because they did a bunch of classics, “Die With Your Boots On”, “Revelations”, “The Clairvoyant” (not one of my favorites).  Then Bruce gave a speech about how the band didn’t give a shit about record sales our how we heard their music so long as we heard it, before playing “Wildest Dreams” off of their then-forth coming CD Dance Of Death, telling everyone to take it “…and download it to all your friends!”.  Oh Bruce, you funny guy, you.  The show ended with the encore, “Run To The Hills”, which I really wanted to do for other reasons when the show was done.  But I cane say that this was one of THE best concerts I’ve ever been to.

After the show was done Mike and I waited for my friend Joe to get out so we could go home on the ferry together.  I’d love to know how the fuck we wound up walking to the train with this weird looking gay couple, one of the two guys talking to me, randomly switching subjects from why James Hetfield had to go to rehab to how his boyfriend’s family was the cause of his ulcers.  Right… While on the train I saw some in shape looking guy with this nasty looking chubby chick with John Lennon’s signature tattooed on the back of her neck.   Once we got off the ferry Joe drove us both home, which was a hell of a lot better than possibly taking the bus that late at night.  That next morning I felt fuckin’ pumped!  I woke up a lot earlier than I should’ve and hit the gym before going to work.  Getting of the bus from work I recognized this chick with a John Lennon tattoo on her neck – it was the chubby chick from the train.  “You were at the show last night”, I said.  So we spoke for a minute until she said the words that made me think she lost her fuckin’ mind: “Motorhead SSSUCKED!”  WHAT?!?!  Bitch have lost your fuckin’ mind?!?!?!  Oh it gets better: “Lemmy looked like he was sucking a dick the way he had his microphone positioned too!”.  I have to admit, I did find that part a bit funny…but sucked??  I can happily say I haven’t seen her since!

Five Years Gone

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Has it really been five years, man?  Five years since we lost you, the great Ronnie James Dio??  I sadly still remember it like it was yesterday, the day my friend over a Comic Book Jones gave me the news… “Dude, Dio died today” “Dude don’t lie to me like that!” and then he turned about the computer so I could see the Blabbermouth report for myself.  I’ll never forget how sad I was at that very moment; and I’m still a bit sad any time I listen to your stuff Ronnie.

The first time I ever heard of you or saw you was a parody on South Park back in 1998.  But it was over 2 years later when I heard you singing “Neon Knights” with Black Sabbath that I became hooked.  Man did you have a set of pipes on you or what??  I wanted more and I eventually bought the entire Heaven and Hell album.  It was then that I discovered that you pretty much were responsible for pretty much all of Metal’s fantastical themes: the dragons, the medieval themes of knights and kings, and of course…rainbows,a recurring theme from your days in the band Rainbow – thank you for ditching Blackmore’s dumb ass by the way!

Then there’s one more important piece of the puzzle you gave us – the horns.  So much debate on who first used them, the origins of them with some people suggesting they were first used in India in the 14th century…India.  There’s even debate on who used them on stage first.  According to what you said your grandmother used to do that to “ward off the Evil Eye or to give the Evil Eye”, of course depending on how you do it.  But regardless of who did what first it was ultimately you who made something so seemingly evil such a popular staple at shows everywhere – I know I’m not the only one and for that I thank you!

But I can’t finish this without talking about Dio the MUSICIAN.  Oh yeah, until I bought your first solo album, Holy Diver, I was unaware of your ability to write more than just lyrics.  Just listening to “Stand Up And Shout” I was instantly blown away at the fresh feeling of the song, the speed, the aggression(!!), the attitude, Vivian Campbell’s intense, frenzied solo.  It was a pure breath of fresh air, a nice kick in the balls that almost made the three CDs you did with Sabbath sounds almost tame!  There was also that voice, again.  You could do anything with your voice and it’d sound amazing; you could sing softly, yell with power, snarl, growl, scream – you could do it all!

I’ll have to admit though, you were a bit funny when I saw you perform live for the first time.  It was 2003 and you  along with Motorhead were opening up for Iron Maiden at Madison Square Garden – what a bill!  You came out and your pipes were in full power that night bro, and I was at 2nd row for this.  But, Ronnie, dude, the way you moved on stage that night in your silk pants and shirt with your glitter cross, I wasn’t sure if I was watching Dio or a stripper!  But I couldn’t make to many jokes, you killed it that night.

I saw you two more times years later with Heaven and Hell (bullshit.  This will always be Black Sabbath!) at Radio City in 2007 and a year later at Metal Masters in New Jersey.  If someone told me that that New Jersey show was to be the last time I ever saw you I’d tell them to eat shit and die but sadly that was the case.  How empty the world seems without you Ronnie.  You were truly one of a kind as a vocalist.  But more than even that you were the total package as a frontman and a musician.  Also, by most accounts you were also one of the coolest guys ever.

Here’s a quick story.  My friend Rick called me up to tell me that his girlfriend, of all people, had been approached by you, Tony, Geezer and Vinny at a deli across the street from Vintage Vinyl, were I guess you all were doing a signing for The Devil You Know.  I think you guys actually talked to her because she was the only one who wasn’t running after you guys.  According to Rick as soon as you all finally said goodbye to her several girls ran to her asking her if she realized who she just spoke to and when they told her she frantically called Rick right away – and of course Rick called me right away!

Thank you Ronnie, for the impact you left on the Metal community, on several aspiring singers, and on me.  There will never be anyone like you again; but I’d like to think that one day soon someone will come along with a passion of metal the at least matches yours.  I’m going to leave off here with one of my favorite deep cuts from Holy Diver, because playing that title track alone would be too predictable.  Rest in Peace Ronnie, and thank you again.  \m/\m/