Review by Joe Sullivan
Black Sabbath invented heavy metal in the late 1960s, all metalheads know the story of Tony Iommi’s chopped off fingertips which caused him to play the guitar differently, producing a low tuned grinding sound that no one had ever heard before. Add in John “Ozzy” Osbourne’s ghostly wail, Terry “Geezer” Butler’s superb bass style, Bill Ward’s amazing fills, and some creepy subject matter and there you have it. Now, 46 years since their debut album, the metal masters are doing one final tour, appropriately dubbed “The End”. As these Birminghamers approach the age of 70, they intend on giving us a lasting memory of their music. Tonight we are at the historic Madison Square Garden to witness metal history. COME ON YOU FUCKERS! LET’S GO!
The current version of Madison Square Garden was built in 1968. It’s hosted tens of thousands of concerts and sporting events over the years, including the famous Fight of the Century (Ali vs. Frazier I) on March 8, 1971, a year before I was born. The Garden is a cavernous building that holds close to 20,000 people. Used to be a shithole but they have put some money into the place since I was last here in 2009. Seats were new, flooring was new, and somebody took a paintbrush to the inside of arena. I was pleasantly surprised. Sound quality was good and loud, no distortion and no drop outs. Tonight and Sat night are sell outs, we are up in section 208 row 9, tickets were $95 apiece face value, $115 after the fucking service charge. What a racket! Floor seats were in the neighborhood of $250 apiece before service charges, just couldn’t do it. Crowd was a mix of young and old, mostly people 40-60 but some people in the 20s trying to catch Sabbath before it’s all over. I ran into some friends from home (Philly) that made the trek. With so many metal and rock stars dying recently (Lemmy, David Bowie, Glenn Frey, Jimmy Bain, Paul Kanter, etc) we were all wondering how much time does Ozzy have left and we’d better catch him before it’s too late. I have a soft spot for Ozzy and Sabbath as I’ve been a fan for 25 years and I just can’t image a world without Ozzy.
At 8:45 (these guys are old so have to start early!) the lights dimmed and on the screen we saw a big egg / cocoon thing, reminiscent of the movie ALIEN. Out of it comes this massive demon, breathing fire! The fire ignites the Black Sabbath logo, pyros on the stage ignite, and the ominous rain / bell intro for the song “Black Sabbath” starts! AWESOME! Ozzy, Tony, Geezer, and Tommy (Clufetos, on drums) took the stage and began the powerful, plodding riffs and drums that hit us like a raging storm! Ozzy sounded great, better than he did in 2013; his voice was strong and foreboding. Tony and Geezer were practically flawless and much maligned drummer Tommy Clufetos did a brilliant job filling Bill Ward’s spot. Hey we’d all love for Bill to be there, but we also know he couldn’t possibly tour anymore. One song in and we were all pretty damn impressed! Then we got “Fairies Wear Boots” and immediately the entire fucking building was singing along (BECAUSE SMOKING AND TRIPPING IS ALL THAT YOU DO!), Ozzy still clear above the crowd. It was at this point that I started uncontrollably breaking out in goosebumps! This would go on for the first 7 songs of the set, it has never happened to me before like that and I’ve seen a lot of shit, about 300 shows worth! Next came rare cut “After Forever” from MASTER OF REALITY and it was excellent! For brief moment I thought we were going to get 1 song from each album in order like Judas Priest did in 2011, but it wasn’t meant to be as “Into the Void” from the same album was up next. No complaints here, everything sounded amazing and the vibe was incredible!
Ozzy addressed the crowd a few times and used some colorful language as only Ozzy can but not as much as he would have in the past, I think he was trying to conserve energy. He did dump one bucket of water on the first few rows but outside of that he moved sparingly onstage. Most importantly, what Ozzy proved to me tonight was that he still has some magic left, there was some spring in his step that made me think he could be around for awhile. Geezer and Tony didn’t move a lot but they never really did so no major difference there. When Ozzy introduced the band, he showed us that behind a curtain on keyboards they had Adam Wakeman, the son of Yes keyboardist Rick Wakeman. How cool is that?!? Back in the day, Rick Wakeman played on SABBATH BLOODY SABBATH and was buddies with the band.
Set was chock full of classics and no material from “13” was played, unlike the 2013 tour. Besides the first three songs which blew my doors off, my favorites included “Into the Void” (sounded just like the album – BURNING METAL THROUGH THE ATMOSPHERE!), “Snowblind” (great crowd singing – DON”T YOU THINK I KNOW WHAT I’M DOING?), “War Pigs’ (crowd traded lines with Ozzy and it was cool, even though it’s been done that way countless times before), “Behind the Wall of Sleep” (CHILDREN NUMB FROM HEAD TO TOE!), “N.I.B.” (More crowd singing – OH YEAH!), and rare cut “Hand of Doom” (FIRST IT WAS THE BOMB, VIETNAM, NAPALM!). We got a drum solo during “Rat Salad” where the older guys got a breather while Tommy did his stuff, it was cool. Old Sabbath footage played on the screen, Ozzy’s white fringe jacket standing out! Then they came back out and did “Iron Man” which was a little slower than usual but that fits the song anyway so it was great! During “Dirty Women” a lot of guys got up to take a piss, TECHNICAL ECSTASY is not a popular album, but the band always plays this song and they do it well. Ozzy’s voice was fading a bit during “Children of the Grave”, but this is a fast song and the end of the set is near. Last was “Paranoid”, which Ozzy can do in his sleep, so it sounded fine. At the end Ozzy thanked the crowd for giving him the life he has, and I really believe he meant that from his heart.
My wife and I had a great night at the show! We got an hour and 45 minutes of great music and memoires, well worth the $$$ especially since this is the last tour. I think Sabbath gave us everything they had and I can honestly say it was awe inspiring. The Sabbath show was one of the best I have seen in years. Catch the Heavy Metal Godfathers on this tour, before it’s all over my friends. “Feel it slipping away, slipping in tomorrow.”
- Black Sabbath
- Fairies Wear Boots
- After Forever
- Into the Void
- War Pigs
- WASP / Behind the Wall of Sleep
- Bassically /N.I.B.
- Hand of Doom
- Rat Salad
(with drum solo)
- Iron Man
- Dirty Women
- Children of the Grave