Black Sabbath @ AllPhones Arena, 27 April, 2013

sabbath

The depth of influence that the original incarnation of Black Sabbath has had on hard rock and heavy metal over the last four decades can never really be understated. You only had to look at the wide variety of (predominantly black) band shirts worn by the multiple generations of devotees at the band’s first Sydney show in almost 40 years to know that almost anyone that has played heavy rock or metal has been inspired by the Godfathers of the genre – or been inspired by someone that was inspired by them.

In a band that’s had such a potted history of members, this reunion never seemed destined to be a civil affair, where everyone set aside their differences for the sake of the fans (and the income). Original drummer Bill Ward is not on this tour for reasons that differ depending on whose side of the dispute you’re hearing. In his place sits Tommy Clufetos, the current drummer in Ozzy Osbourne’s solo band. The three original members who are here–Osbourne, guitarist Tony Iommi and bassist Geezer Butler–are decked out head-to-toe in black. For their years, all three have enviously impressive heads of long hair.

If anyone was worried that Black Sabbath were just going to come on stage and go through the motions for two hours, the opening salvo of ‘War Pigs’ must have soon put those fears to rest. The unmistakable sound of Tony Iommi’s tuned-down guitar blasted out into the arena at a blisteringly loud volume as the crowd sang every word along with Osbourne, who acted as the maniacal master of ceremonies, goading and hyping up the crowd throughout the show. Occasionally he would dunk his head in a full bucket of water before chucking the contents out onto the front few rows. At certain points, he seemed to have problems getting his voice into the desired key but there were other points where he produced notes that singers half his age (and who have ingested far fewer intoxicants in their time) would be envious of.

While most of the show concentrated on the group’s early career (12 of the 16 songs played came from their first four albums), a couple of tracks from the forthcoming album 13 also got an airing. ‘God Is Dead’ and ‘End Of The Beginning’ didn’t feel outrageously out of place amongst the older material. Both featured Iommi’s distinctive riffage and some interesting changes. They certainly didn’t induce the sudden rush for the loo that some older artist’s newer material does.

Late in the set Clufetos was given a chance to show his chops off with a five-minute drum solo. Impressive as it was, it did feel a tad unnecessary. Perhaps its main function was to give the other band members a mid-set break.

The rest of Sabbath returned for a stellar rendition of ‘Iron Man’, the crowd singing along to the song’s signature riff. After several more tracks, they took another short break before returning to blast through an encore of ‘Paranoid’. The floor erupted, hands went up, and at one point about five crowd-surfers were being pulled down by security at a time. After two hours of power, the faithful piled out into the night – their spirits emboldened and their ears in search of a well-deserved rest.

Originally published in The Music Network.

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