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?


Intro video/Black Sabbath

Jack The Stripper/Fairies Wear Boots

After Forever

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


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.

Five Years Gone


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/