Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Fairies Wear Boots

Black Sabbath
Shoreline Amphitheatre, Mountain View, California
August 26, 2013

I originally wasn't planning to see this tour due to all of the drama around this Sabbath "reunion" not including Bill Ward on the drum riser.  However, something clicked in my jaded old head when I thought how I'll never see Ronnie James Dio again.  I remembered how his final appearance in San Francisco with Heaven & Hell (aka Dio-era Black Sabbath) wasn't even sold out... which was fucking criminal when you think about it.  Then I reminded myself that Tony Iommi has always been my favorite guitarist.  My Inner Teenage Metalhead then chimed in that I needed to seize the moment and see my old heroes again since I might not have the chance again.  Dio never got his victory lap the way Ozzy is getting with this tour.  According to The Umlaut Archives, I've been in the same venue as Tony Iommi 12 times dating back to 1980.  The Hand of Iommi has guided me for so long, man.... so long.  I owed it to him to be at this concert.

At approximately 8:30pm Pacific Standard Time the piercing scream of an air raid siren blasted out of the PA to announce the arrival of Sabbath; the siren was like a call to arms and I got chills down my spine.  Yes, I'm a dork.  It was cool how understated Sabbath's arrival onstage was as they simply walked out to the wail of the siren and then lurched into 'War Pigs' and then kept steamrolling over The Bay Area with 'Into The Void' and then into... 'Under The Sun'!!?  Holy shite!  Even the most jaded hater could not possibly resist geeking out that they pulled that Vol. 4 deep cut out!  THEN then went into 'Snowblind' as Ozzy said "I don't do it anymore, man..".  COCAINE!

It's been very easy to be indifferent about Ozzy here in the 21st Century.  Back in The Day he was the Prince of Darkness but in recent years he's been the Court Jester.  However, maybe redemption is a real thing because Ozzy hasn't been this good in forever!  It was rather stunning to hear Ozzy sing so well.  I kept waiting for him to stumble into talking / mumbling the lyrics as he's done on past tours... but goddam if he didn't keep it together!  It was inspiring to hear Ozzy sing so well as he did his old man shuffle across the stage clapping his hands and flashing the peace sign like his younger self.  Oh Lord, yeah!

 [Photo courtesy of Cable Car]

Needless to say the rest of the band was spectacular and whoever is doing their sound on this tour should be considered a 5th member because the mix was the quintessential balance of pounding volume and clarity; the sound was absolutely perfect.   Geezer was as nimble and godlike on the 4-string bottom end as I've ever seen him... but I don't think I've ever seen Tony as engaged with the crowd as he was tonight.   Besides reaffirming himself as my favorite guitar player he was constantly smiling and playing at the lip of the stage.  Perhaps his brush with cancer has given him a renewed sense of purpose... and dog bless him for that!  Finally, and with no offense meant to Bill Ward, but Tommy Clufetos on drums absolutely killed it.  Although his drum solo (that began as part of an abbreviated version of 'Rat Salad') went on about 5 minutes too long.  Okay, you made your point Mr. Drummer... you are definitely heir to the Ward drum stool... but there's no need to beat Ward's memory to death with your 10+ minute solo spot.  Of course I understand that the solo was to give his aging bandmates a break, but 5 minutes would have gotten the point across.  Just saying.. but kudos to you Mr. Drummer. 

Also, aside from stylishly appropriate videos shown behind them, Sabbath played with minimum production and this no frills approach made the show even more amazing.  Without the standard pyro, inflatable props, or other distractions like confetti cannons the focus was entirely on the songs and the performance.   Other aging bands would wither under such naked scrutiny, but Black Sabbath seized their 2 hours onstage and made us all remember they were the first great Metal band and also how many bands basically copy their sound in one form or another even today.   My Inner Teenage Metalhead got all emo as he was reminded how much Sabbath meant to me as a kid and my adult Metalhead got all emo realizing how much Sabbath still means to me.

 [Photo courtesy of Tim Healy]

The setist included 3 songs off Sabbath's new 13 album... and they were alright... not terrible.. but the rest of the set was pretty unrelenting with ancient songs that have been seared into my soul and psyche since I was a teenager.  There was a stunning version of 'Black Sabbath'... Then another mind blowingly great deep cut with 'Behind The Wall Of Sleep'.. Then Geezer laying down his brief solo spot that slid straight into the eternal romance of 'N.I.B.'.. but it was 'Fairies Wear Boots' that crushed me the most tonight.  

I genuinely enjoyed the overplayed 'Iron Man' for the first time in ages and my Inner Teenage Metalhead was ready to fuck shit up to 'Children Of The Grave' all over again.  As on past "reunion" tours, 'Dirty Women' seemed like an odd song choice, but it still worked if only because it features one of Tony's longest guitar solos to end the song.  Sabbath teased with the intro of 'Sabbath Bloody Sabbath' before saying "Thankyougoodnight" with 'Paranoid'... and my Inner Teenage Metalhead banged his head to his original heroes to the song that I actually learned how to play on guitar once upon a time.

The last time I saw Ozzy with Sabbath (including Bill Ward) was at OzzFest 2005 when Iron Maiden completely blew them off the stage and on that night I left before their encore to beat the traffic because Sabbath were so listless and appeared to be going through the motions.   Fast forward to 8 years later and I wanted to stay until the final note of Sabbath's set rang into the night sky; I didn't care if I got caught in traffic afterwards.  This was also fueled by the realization that this might be the final time I would be seeing Black Sabbath ever again.  

[Photo courtesy of Cable Car]

I did get sad at one point during 'Paranoid' when I remembered that Dio-era Sabbath is now very much in the past.. and for a split second at the end of 'Paranoid' I half expected them to go into the 'Heaven & Hell' outro that they used to do when Dio sang with them.  Ozzy-era Sabbath was the soundtrack to when I first discovered Rock music.  Dio-era Sabbath was the Sabbath I actually grew up with and saw as it happened; it's always meant a little more to me.  Hell, I even saw the Ian Gillan-era Born Again lineup and the dubious Tony Martin-era Cross Purposes version of Sabbath.  I had also seen the first "reunion" tours with Ozzy (and Bill Ward) twice including the first time around in 1999.  However, after tonight's show I finally feel like I've seen Sabbath with Ozzy at their full power and glory together... and for that I'm eternally grateful.

If you bought one of every Sabbath merch item you would have paid around $600.  On the way back to the car, some pimply-faced teenagers called us fags.  As we made our way back to the car after the show I started to regret not bailing a little early to beat the traffic... but the Metal Godz work in mysterious ways... and it only took mere minutes to get out of the parking lot and onto Highway 101 back to Casa de Umlaut.  Oh Lord yeah!  Black Sabbath forever, man.  Forever.

"Fairies wear boots.. yeah.. you gotta believe... I saw it..  I saw it.. I won't tell you no lies!"

Then Sabbath posted this statement from Tony that confirmed what I felt watching them at Shoreline: