Black Sabbath Live In Adelaide
(Review - Ian Bell, Photos - Ross Halfin)
There is a moment half way through the show where Ozzy Osbourne is leading the capacity crowd in waving their arms from side to side, when I thought "here is a golden opportunity for a metal style exercise TV show- Aerobics Ozzy Style".
Black Sabbath brought their farewell tour (unambiguously called "The End") to Adelaide on Sunday night, and the huge audience revelled in their last chance to get their Satan on for the last time with the Kings of dark metal. Sabbath have always been tarred with the 'satanic rock' label. But truth be told they were a blues-based rock band that helped define what is now known as Heavy Metal, by toughening up the drum sound and using lyrics that, while certainly incorporating the occult, also talked about war, dystopian futures, mental health issues, drugs, social and political instability. The 'satanic' imagery was more Halloween Frankenstein monster dress-up than any invitation to join a coven.
The chance to see (almost the full) original line-up of such an iconic band, is for many here tonight like getting to see Led Zeppelin or The Beatles. Guitarist and main songwriter Tony Iommi, bass player Geezer Butler and the legendary (for many reasons) Ozzy Osbourne on vocals. Sadly there is no Bill Ward on drums due to a parting of the ways a few years ago, but the drum stool is filled with the epically talented Tommy Clufetos who beats the bejeebus out of his kit all night long. The audience is a sea of black clothing and anticipation as the impressive computer graphics announce the arrival of the band to the stage. They are straight into the eponymous song, Black Sabbath from their 1970 debut album Black Sabbath (played by Black Sabbath on a Sunday, which is of course, the Sabbath) and right from the start the sound is immaculate. The band are playing beautifully, the mix is amazing and Ozzy in fine voice. In fact apart from one song the entire set list is from the band's classic first four albums, Black Sabbath, Paranoid, Masters of Reality and Vol 4. Which means there are a few surprise omissions (Sabbath Bloody Sabbath immediately springs to mind), but those early albums are what most people are here to hear. Fairies Wear Boots (from Paranoid) and After Forever (Masters) are smouldering mid paced rockers and serve as a reminder that for the most part their best known song Paranoid, was easily twice the pace of most of their catalogue.
"I remember being here in 2003.." says Ozzy before correcting himself, "..I mean 1973" the audience laughs at the very Ozzy-ness of his statement. There is a hilarious moment during the band introductions when Ozzy intros Adam Wakeman on keyboards. Wait, keyboards? I can't see any keyboards? Wakeman sticks his head out of a curtained tent on the left of the stage and gives a comic wave. "He's too ugly to have on stage so we stuck him in a tent!" quips Osbourne.
Snowblind is the only inclusion from Vol. 4 from '72 and huge favourite with tonight's audience. There is little interaction with the audience other that Ozzy asking if we are having a good time or asking us to "Go Crazy". But I wasn't really expecting much 'banter' from the self-proclaimed Prince of Darkness. Ozzy is sixty seven years old and he still gets round the stage a fair bit, throwing his hands above his head and coaxing us to make more noise. Into the Void still sounds majestic forty-five years after it was released and so does the incredible War Pigs.
Throughout the show the use of the screens and lighting is exemplary. If there are flames enhancing the shots of the band, the lighting is orange and red, complementing and enhancing the video screen. They also have a great line-in video effects which include a sort of 'rusting' effect that takes the incoming images of the band and makes it looks like they are rusting and corroding before our eyes; and later a fantastic effect that turns guitar solo footage of Iommi into shimmering visuals that looks like a supernova playing guitar. Looked amazing, and I have never seen it used before.
And that's how it went all night, one of the greatest rock bands in history cranking out near perfect versions of their most beloved rock classics. Behind The Wall of Sleep, N.I.B. (complete with Geezer Butler bass solo intro) and Hand of Doom are all tippity tops! Rat Salad turns into that most dreaded part of any 'classic' rock concert - the drum solo. Often signalling a good time to pop off to the loo or head to the bar for a fortifying drink, the drum solo is a usually tedious show of 'dexterity' which serves as a handy tea break for the rest of the band. For those of us who remember the excruciating torture that was the classic twenty minute rhythmic 'self-love' showing off drum solos in the seventies and eighties, the very idea can fill us with dread. Or is that just me? However in the hands of a guy like Tommy Clufetos, the drum solo turns into a highly entertaining, breath taking display of speed, accuracy and prowess.
Clufetos has played with Ozzy as a solo act, crazed gun-toting right-wing guitarist Ted Nugent and shock rockers Alice Cooper and Rob Zombie. With his shoulder length hair and low rider leather flares, he even looks like he has been hired by Ozzy going back in time to 1971, using Dr Evil's time machine. Tonight's drum solo was among the best I have ever seen.
It's easy to forget that Sabbath have been a going concern for almost the entire time since they started in 1968. After they sacked Ozzy in 1979 (for alleged substance abuse) they replaced him with Ronnie James Dio with some success. Dio was replaced by Deep Purple's Ian Gillan, who was replaced by Deep Purple's Glenn Hughes, and then by Tony Martin. Dio and Ozzy both returned at various points and at one stage Black Sabbath was just Tony Iommi and some trench diggers from the Job Centre. People will have their favourite line-ups of course, but tonight is proof in the pudding that the (nearly) full classic line-up can do little wrong.
The set ends with a great double hitter of Dirty Women and Children of the Grave (awesome visuals). Before Children there is an hilarious statement from Ozzy, explaining this is the last song and if we go "crazy" they might come back for more. Like a kindy teacher explaining what an 'encore' is to stadium full of children.
Not surprisingly then, we stamp and cheer, and yell for more. A golden opportunity is missed when nobody starts a chant of "OZZY OZZY OSBOURNE OI OI OI". If only I had a loud hailer!
No prizes for guessing what the one song encore is. Paranoid was released in 1970 and has to be one of the best, most riff-tastic, mammoth sounding slabs of utterly perfect rock'n'roll ever created. From the opening riff (dan dan dan dan-nan-na-nan-na-na) to the chugging riffage in the middle (da-na-na-na-na-na-na-na-dan-ana-na-na -pause-dan-na-na).
Ozzy is wailing.
"Finished with my woman,
coz she couldn't help me with my mind
People think I'm insane,
Because I'm frowning all the time."
The tempo and temperature in the room has escalated, and heads are banging faster than they have all night. It is a gargantuan sound, and magnificent song and the most fantastic end to The End tour. Sabbath were never as sexy as Zeppelin, Deep Purple probably had more hits, but tonight there is no doubting that Black Sabbath are one of the true greats of rock'n'roll history. The show was a fantastic and fitting farewell that we should be extremely grateful for the opportunity to witness.
Black Sabbath (Black Sabbath 1970)
Fairies Wear Boots (Paranoid 1971)
After Forever (Master of Reality 1971)
Snowblind (Vol 4 1972)
Into The Void (Master of Reality 1971)
War Pigs (Paranoid 1971)
Behind The Wall of Sleep (Black Sabbath 1970)
N.I.B. (Black Sabbath 1970)
Hand of Doom (Paranoid 1971)
Rat Salad (Paranoid 1971)
Iron Man (Paranoid 1971)
Dirty Women (Technical Ecstasy 1976)
Children of the Grave (Master of Reality 1971)
Paranoid (Paranoid 1971)