Saturday, August 27, 2016

Black Sabbath @ Mohegan Sun, Uncasville, CT, USA - August 27th, 2016

This isn't Black Sabbath's first farewell tour, so I don't know how much credence we can give to their claim that this is "The End". But things are different now. The guys are nearing seventy, and Tony Iommi's health isn't what it used to be. So I couldn't really pass up this opportunity to see the venerable behemoth, nearly three years after their first Paris gig since the return of original singer Ozzy Osbourne.
Rival Sons played a good set, but sadly most of the crowd was too busy imbibing to care. Shame, as the Californians deserve better. When these guys inevitably become superstars in the next five years, all of the people that were waiting in the food court will pretend to have seen them.

The crowd was very socio-economically diverse. It was of course predominantly male, but age-wise it ran the gamut from teenagers to retirees, all of whom came to pay tribute to the inventors of heavy metal, presumably for the last time. Racially, it was obviously not as diverse, but then again this is Connecticut...

After the lights went down, we were treated (mistreated, actually) to a cheesy intro video of a demon wreaking havoc, laying eggs, destroying cities, breathing fire and what have you... Dreadful stuff. I hate these shitty intro videos. Everyone seems very fond of them: the Stones, Aerosmith, AC/DC, Guns N'Roses... It's tedious as fuck and does nothing to amp up the excitement.

But when the curtain drops, it's another story. No matter how many gigs I've seen, now matter how jaded I can get, no matter how goofy the entertainer may be (and let's face it, Ozzy can get pretty goofy...), no matter how terrible the performance may get after that, I always get awestruck the second a rock legend takes command of the stage. And again, when Sabbath appeared, like a black figure pointing at me, I lost my shit.

Because this isn't just any metal act. This is Black Sabbath. Black fucking Sabbath. They may have had their ups and downs, fights, lawsuits, line-up changes and tragedies but they are the first, the original heavy metal band. When the whole music scene was singing about flower power, they barged in with songs about drugs, death, war, skinheads, the apocalypse and all things evil. But they didn't just sing about evil. They played evil, too. Their creeping, distorted, heavy sound struck fear into the hearts of hippies everywhere.

Their setlist last night was very safe, but absolutely unfuckwithable. If you open a show with a song like Black Sabbath, you'd better have a whole bunch more great classics under your sleeve, and thankfully they do. Iron Man, War Pigs, Fairies Wear Boots, Under The Sun, N.I.B., Dirty Women... and of course they could only end with Paranoid.  

It's too bad that Ozzy's voice can't accommodate songs like Supernaut or Sabbath Bloody Sabbath anymore, and it's also too bad that they don't delve deeper into their repertoire. But those first four albums are the Tablets of Heavy Metal Law and you just can't go wrong with a setlist centred around those genre-defining compositions.

Tommy Clufetos, the drummer, is very ham-fisted. He has none of the subtleties Bill Ward injected into those grooves. He is a nu-metal style lumberjack, and no matter how much he is made to resemble the person he is replacing he will remain just that: a competent replacement. But, it's an arena rock show and subtleties would be lost anyway. He was fine.

Ozzy sang very well (for him...) but you could hear him struggle on some songs. Sometimes he was completely off. But again, it worked fine.

Geezer Butler is a beast. A real seventies-style bassist, who understands that his job is not to just pummel the root note.

And of course the Iron Man himself, Tony Iommi. The creator of all those demonic riffs, and such an underrated lead player as well. The man slays his licks with surgical precision, while looking effortlessly cool.

This is most likely the last time I ever get to see these guys, so it's a bittersweet occasion. But at least they are ending it on a high. Black Sabbath has been cool again for the past twenty years, but I remember a time when they were a joke. Their albums were mediocre at best, their concerts were barely attended and they Iommi was the sole recognisable name.

Now they have turned it all around and have reclaimed their dark crown, and as they are about to pull a black curtain over their career they can be finally be proud of their legacy.

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