Concert review: Black Sabbath

By Scott Kara

Ozzy Osbourne, lead singer of rock band Black Sabbath, performs with the group at Auckland's Vector Arena. Photo / Neville Marriner
Ozzy Osbourne, lead singer of rock band Black Sabbath, performs with the group at Auckland's Vector Arena. Photo / Neville Marriner

Black Sabbath and Shihad
Vector Arena

Ozzy Osbourne may walk, totter, and occasionally run around the stage like a cross between a senior citizen and a mischievous toddler, but the music legend is still in fine voice these days.

Sure, his famously haunting yowl isn't quite as unnerving as it once was, and the 64-year-old heavy metal legend got tired towards the end of Black Sabbath's two-hour, sold-out Vector Arena show.

But with his battle cry of, "Generals gathered in their masses..." echoing out amidst the slamming and bullish onslaught of opener Warpigs, there was no doubt this would be a real deal Sabbath show with the classic line up back together again.

Guitarist Tony Iommi - "The real Iron Man. Nothing can stop this guy," said Ozzy of his old mate who last year was struck down by lymphoma - looked gentlemanly and dapper in his leather jacket, as he effortlessly peeled off riff after classic riff.

Then there's bass player Geezer Butler who somehow manages to defy the bounds of finger dexterity while still keeping a pummeling and heavy groove throughout. And although original drummer Bill Ward is not part of this reunion, man machine Tommy Clufetos is a formidable fill in.

This concert, the opening show of the band's world tour in support of up coming album 13, is their first time in New Zealand together since 1973 when they headlined the Great Ngaruawahia Music Festival.

Back then they burned a cross on stage at midnight, and while there were no such antics this time, they sure look chuffed to be back on stage together.

And Ozzy - who also does his traditional running on the spot routine and cooling off by dunking his head in a bucket of water - even managed to get a grin out of staunch and grumpy Geezer at one point.

Earlier, Sabbath fanboys Shihad - "It is a f***ing honour and a childhood dream come true to support Black Sabbath," said frontman Jon Toogood. - played a brief but brutal half hour set that was perfectly composed for this devout, metal loving crowd.

It was hard, fast and heavy, starting with Factory and Screwtop, off their 1993 debut Churn, and also included the sniping You Again from Killjoy and The General Electric, which incited raised fists and a sing-a-long.

"I get to tell my grandkids that we supported Black Sabbath," said Toogood as he signed off.

And there was a vast spread of generations at the show, with original fans from the band's 70s heyday alongside metal fans old and new who turned out in black band t-shirts ranging from Sabbath and Led Zeppelin to Iron Maiden and Slayer.

They were treated to a classic Sabbath set - with a couple of new songs thrown in - that took in imposing doom metal masterpiece Electric Funeral and screwy psychedelic highlight Fairies Wear Boots (both off 1970's classic, Paranoid).

And then following a wild and thunderous drum solo (which also acted as a well deserved breather for Ozzy), the band returned to launch into scything sludge anthem, Iron Man.

During new songs End of the Beginning and God Is Dead? there was a noticeable deflating of the crowd. But with much of the new album inspired by the band's early work, the songs stood up reasonably well alongside tracks like N.I.B. (with it's "Oh yeah" catch cry) and Fairies Wear Boots.

During a slow dark segment of God Is Dead? Ozzy shrieked, "Let me see your cellphone's light this place up." But sorry Oz, this is New Zealand and we still do cigarette lighters with real flames almost outnumbering cellphone screens.

Other highlights included Black Sabbath, with the great line "Is it the end, my friend? Satan's coming round the bend ..." before it escalated into a jump around, hands-in-the-air heavy metal rave down, and main set closer Children of the Grave, was a thumper that left the masses baying for more.

Of course, the encore was Paranoid, although a fancied up, spit-polished version of the band's most famous song. It could have been darker, more menacing, but then again it's a party tune these days - and a celebration of Sabbath, which is just what this long awaited concert was.

Black Sabbath also play Vector Arena on Monday night.

- NZ Herald

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