Let it be known Black Sabbath went out on their own terms. Only playing material from 1969-1974 – the sound that made them infamous, re-visiting their infancy in music if you will. Over the years Black Sabbath has modernized but clearly for this show they wanted to stay true to their sound from the 70’s. Tonight’s show was like getting into a time machine and traveling back to the band’s earliest days. They recaptured that era precisely; the hippie vibe coupled with heavy music, the background screens that liquidated psychedelic montages into one another. Even Mr. Iommi played his vintage original serial #1 JD guitar issued to him in the late 80’s, complete with original soap bar pickups during the entire show to recreate his legendary tone. As they took the stage and the first notes of “Black Sabbath” began to ring out you knew instantly this wasn’t going to be like any other concert – this was a moment in music history and you were a witness.
Most of the songs played were off the Black Sabbath, Technical Ecstasy, Master of Reality and Paranoid albums. Notably missing was material from Sabbath Bloody Sabbath and Sabotage. Having said that when your band’s career spans over 48 years, how could you possibly play the entire repertoire? “Snowblind,” “Iron Man,” “Paranoid,” and shockingly “Dirty Women” (from 1976’s Technical Ecstasy release) all made the set list. It has been said that the guitar riff in “Dirty Women” was the heaviest riff of that time period, which only stands to reason since Black Sabbath is, after all, credited for creating heavy metal. Decidedly missing from tonight’s set was “Changes” a fan favorite from the Vol.4 album. Although not usually played live, somehow it felt like it would have been appropriate for the finale tour. The absolute climax of the night was the show’s midway point, when the familiar beat of “War Pigs” began – instantly the crowd erupted, every audience member jumping to their feet. Ozzy would sing the first line, then the audience at the top of their collective lungs would belt out the second line. And so on. In this timeless moment of history Osbourne literally held 20,000 people squarely in the palm of his hand. It was mesmerizing to watch, and quite intoxicating to be part of.
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Ozzy, 67 years old, at first was a bit pitchy and off time. It’s nice to see that even a legend gets nervous after all these years of performing. But once he dialed in it, it was clear his voice is still phenomenal and he is a true metal god in the industry. Hearing and seeing the man sing during this momentous occasion was in fact a religious experience of the most metal kind.
At 68, Tony Iommi is the only member of Black Sabbath to play on every single album and to have never left the band (although he did leave Earth to tour with Jethro Tull for a brief time). Many members have traveled through this legendary band but Tony has withstood the test of time. You could say he is the foundation of Black Sabbath. The fundamentals of his guitar playing are flavored with Santana, and Clapton, but it is his heavy tone that truly defines the Sabbath sound. Tony has been the glue holding Black Sabbath together musically because he has always believed in the music they create. And that creativity has continued to flow through his veins to produce some of the most iconic music of our generation, running for more than 4 decades to date.
Geezer Butler at 67 years old is one of the greatest heavy metal bass players of all time. It is rumored that Cliff Burton once said he wanted to be Butler. If you have only one guitarist in the band then the bass player has to be better than great to fill the holes left vacant by the absence of a rhythm guitar player. If you pay close attention you will notice that some of the Black Sabbath’s percussion sounds are in fact coming from Butler and not the drums.
Tommy Clufetos had some big shoes to fill on this tour. Make no mistake, he did not come unprepared for the job. His resume includes the likes of Alice Cooper; Rob Zombie; Ted Nugent as well as Ozzy’s recent solo tours. Some drummers are pocket players like AC/DC’s former skinsman Phil Rudd while others are groove drummers like Chad Smith from the Red Hot chili Peppers. Clufetos is what’s known as a hybrid drummer, bringing both pocket and groove skills into the picture – and his solo was fantastic, displaying precisely how accomplished of a player he truly is.
Was Bill Ward missed? There were times that it felt like ¾ of a pie, but that was for nostalgic reasons, not because Tommy wasn’t measuring up musically. Not only did he measure up, but his cup over flowed with genuine quality musicianship.
The night took us back to a time of our youth, a time of the Vietnam War, free love and the “give peace a chance” hippie culture. A time where rock music was evolving and heavy metal was just being born. Many of us, much older now, brought our adult kids with us to share this momentous occasion. Tonight a memory was made that will be shared through generations: that we were present and accounted for for Black Sabbath’s last tour.
The marriage of blues, heavy guitars, the hippie vibe and dark imagery all rolled into one package that we have come to know and love as Black Sabbath is done.
Yes, this is really The End.
Goodbye our friends, we thank you for the music, the memories, and for sharing the last 48 years of our lives. We cannot imagine our lives had your music not been a part of it.
– Phoenix Romero
(All photos by Scott Adams at Sic Pic Photography)