BLACK SABBATH — THE END
Date: February 21, 2016
Venue: FirstOntario Centre
Location: Hamilton, Ontario, Canada
We got to our seats after scoring my copy of the new Black Sabbath‘s The End CD which I previously reviewed for Sleaze Roxx. I had been told to get there early by fellow Sleaze Roxx writer and blogger Deke.
Deke also told me that the opening band Rival Sons‘ track “Electric Man” is friggin’ sick (I agree), and that the group’s guitarist Scott Holiday is a beast on guitar. The Rival Sons took the stage and they lit it up. They are a great band. They really are not an opening act by any means, but this is Black Sabbath we’re talking about. Deke was right. Scott Holiday is a beast on guitar. The entire band was great, but the other star for me was their part-time touring keyboardist Todd Ogren-Brooks. This guy is intense, and his style and playing add great character to the band that sets it apart. He looks like a young Billy Gibbons with his extra long beard, but when it’s his turn to play, his arms raise up like dual King Cobras and suddenly lunge at the keys as if striking prey.
I find the Rival Sons to be an interesting choice as an opener for Black Sabbath. Perhaps Ozzy Osbourne and crew felt a great current band that might draw in a different crowd was the way to go. Don’t get me wrong. I thought they were great, and they deserve this as much as any band. I guess I just perceived a metal band opening for the Godfathers of Metal. There would have been a line up a mile long for any number of stoner rock bands that would give up their first born to open for their heroes. I have seen a ton of concerts with a poorly thought out opening act that did not suit the headliner. This was not the case. Rival Sons got the crowd pumped. The place was over half full for the opener, which is unusually high in my experience, so they did their job, and did it well.
During intermission, I entered a river of people that resembled a tunnel of ants. Just a bit of anxiety swept over me. I got separated from my wife, and I figured we wouldn’t meet again until we were back in our seats. I finally found her in a drink line about a mile long. We slowly shuffled our way up to the front of the line to find out they had no beer in this line. That was the other mile long line. The lack of signs was frustrating. The worst part was my fear of missing the entrance of Black Sabbath while waiting in line. We got close to the front when I heard the audience start to cheer. We got her drink and got back to our seat just as the music began.
Now I will begin the review of Black Sabbath‘s show in Hamilton with a preface. The band had to cancel/postpone a few shows recently due to Ozzy‘s sinusitis. Ozzy tells the crowd “I feel like shit.” The singer was obviously still feeling the effects of his illness. I felt awful for him, but I was happy the show I was at was not cancelled. I just hoped it would not affect his singing.
I looked at the setlist from previous shows and was surprised and a little disappointed in the song selections. Firstly, I would prefer to have a little variety in the songs played, but it looks as if the same 14 songs have been played for the last number of dates on the tour. I was shocked that none of the songs off of the newest album 13 were included. That album went to number 1 in Canada a few years ago. Nothing from Sabbath Bloody Sabbath, Sabotage or Never Say Die! Earlier in the tour, they played “God Is Dead?” but for whatever reason, it was dropped. “Under The Sun/Every Day Comes And Goes” was also dropped from the setlist. Some venues got 16 songs and we got 14. I wonder if Ozzy‘s illness caused this decision. If this truly is the end of Black Sabbath, I wanted more songs, not less. I would have preferred three to four hours of only Black Sabbath with 35 songs from all of the Ozzy era albums. Before the tour started, the band was interviewed and they explained a bit of why the songs were selected.
“Black Sabbath” — This song began the Sabbath part of the show with a video played on giant curtains. The church bells ring, the thunder claps and the curtains rise to reveal the band behind. Ozzy asked “How you doing?” Well since we are at a Sabbath concert, I would say pretty freaking good. The ominous sound of the song tried to set the mood as dark and foreboding, but we were all too elated to get down. It could also be because everyone there had a contact high. The place was basically a giant bong with no water. I had never, ever seen so much weed passed around. I was thinking at any moment Gerry Garcia and Bob Marley were going to appear. Ozzy started his clapping and hand swaying during this song, which he continued most of the night. Unfortunately, so did the juice monkey in front of me with hands the size of boxing gloves. Since it was tiered seating, his hands were right in front of my face. Oh well. At least he had about a pound of weed to keep his hands partially occupied.
“Fairies Wear Boots” — Tony Iommi and Tommy Clufetos really shined here. The drums and the guitar were the best parts of this song on this night.
“After Forever” — This song made a comeback after not being in the Sabbath setlist for many years. It was a welcome addition, and a song in which Geezer Butler let us know why he is considered one of the best bassists of all time.
“Into The Void” — That Tony Iommi signature sound that has influenced millions of wannabe shredders began this song, and Ozzy did his best headbanging geisha impersonation.
“Snowblind” — Ozzy engaged the audience and introduced the band members in what can best be described as English-ish. I mostly got what he was saying, and I guessed the rest. This song is about Ozzy‘s favourite ’70s pastime — cocaine. This was a real band collaboration. They all did a great job.
“War Pigs” — Air raid sirens and audience members screaming started this song off. Ozzy told us we were “number one.” Hand clapping chimed along with ticking cymbals. Ozzy sang every lead out of every line in the song, and the audience filled in the lyrics. This was a really fun sing-along. Kind of like a Black Sabbath campfire. Except much more awesome than Kumbaya.
“Wasp/Behind The Wall Of Sleep” — The huge video screen was covered in weird eyeballs. I had no idea why, then it zoomed in on Tony Iommi doing what he does best — laying down some wicked riffs.
“Bassically/NIB” — “Bassically” is usually a typo, but not here. The bass riff here is possibly one of, if not the most famous riff in the history of metal. Geezer plays his bass through a wah pedal as if it were a guitar. To anyone wanting to play bass, this is how it is done.
“Hand Of Doom” — Age has caught up with all of us. In Ozzy‘s case, his voice has a deeper tone than it used to. On the studio version, his voice is sharper and higher pitched than now. Also, the studio version has Tony‘s guitar turned up louder than all else in this song. Not so in this live setting. This is another song that hadn’t been played in a long time, and it was a welcome addition.
“Rat Salad” — What once was a nice tag along at the end of “Hand Of Doom” is now the cue for the drum solo. Don’t get me wrong. I love Tommy Clufetos. His drumming is amazing. But it kind of takes away from the real reason I, and 15,000 of my friends are here. That is to see Black Sabbath, not watch a fill-in for Bill Ward for six minutes. They could have played another Sabbath song instead. There were lots of people cheering so I guess many liked it, but I saw Sabbath twice on the 13 tour, so I’ve seen it all before. Oh, and I’ve seen Rush‘s Neil Peart many times, so anyone else trying a drum solo comes off as second rate.
“Iron Man” — At least after the break during the drum solo, the rest of the band will come out refreshed. Well, that was the thought. Ozzy seemed to have a little spring in his step, but his voice was slow and groggy sounding. I assume age, illness and fatigue all contributed.
“Dirty Women” — A good song. Not my favourite Sabbath song, but not bad. Perhaps a strange choice when so many others were left off. However, this song suits Ozzy‘s voice, and he sounded better than on the previous song. As well, Tony played some sweet riffs that made it all worthwhile.
“Children Of The Grave” — The playing here was stupendous — brilliant in fact. The vocals were again the downfall, but Ozzy did warn us numerous times throughout the night that he was sick.
After this song Ozzy got the audience to yell out “One More Song” because those in the crowd not aware of this thing called the Internet did not have access to the setlist.
“Paranoid” — a spirited rendition of this song brought the night to a close. The video screen showed a still shot with two words on it: “THE END”. Unfortunately, it is.
In a purely selfish way, I wish Ozzy had never gotten sick. I saw footage of his shows at the very start of this tour and he was fresher and his voice was much more crisp. I remember how he was two to three years ago on the 13 tour and his voice was great. On this night, it was fair to good. The drum solo was too much for me, and the song selection left a lot to be desired.
I will add bonus points for the Rival Sons and also for the amazing musicianship of Tony, Geezer and Tommy. The show was worth attending not only to score the exclusive CD, but to say goodbye to the Godfathers of Metal. I can not blame Ozzy for being sick, and I commend him for even showing up. I also give him bonus points for making me laugh. All I can say is when he shuffled around the stage, it reminded me of what an old man trying to get the last chocolate pudding at the old age home might look like.