Saturday, September 17, 2016

The End

Oracle Arena, Oakland, California
September 15, 2016


Next to Motörhead the band that influenced me the most in this lifetime has been Black Sabbath.  In high school the jocks liked Zeppelin.  The normal kids liked The Beatles. I gravitated to Black Sabbath.  Sabbath pointed me towards the dark path, which hasn't been that bad at all.  This final Bay Area show tonight made me feel like that validated teenage misfit again.. In a good way.  Back in February I attended the band's show down in San Jose because it had been billed as "the final show"... but then they put this Oakland show onsale not long afterwards.  That kind of pissed me off and I didn't really think I wanted to see them again especially since the San Jose show had been amazing and perfect.  Oh Lord, yeah.

Casual Sabbath fans only focus on "Ozzy this" and "Ozzy that".  For me Sabbath has always been about the Hand of Iommi and tonight would be my 16th and final time being in the same room as him.  It should go without saying that Tony Iommi is my favorite guitarist.  Ironically the first time I saw Iommi live was only several hundred feet from tonight's venue in 1980 on the Heaven And Hell Tour.

Umlaut trips on full circle moments like this.  In 1980 I fell asleep in the stands during Journey.  Here in 2016 I was concerned about falling asleep on the BART train after the show.  Oh Lord, yeah.

Flashback to a couple of weeks ago and one thing led to another and the opportunity to attend this Oakland show with some veteran old Metal friends presented itself.  Sometimes the Metal Godz work in mysterious ways. First off, I was due to meet up with my concert buddies at Rosamunde in The Mission after work before heading to BART and heading under The Bay to Oakland.  I arrived early and one of the dudes who works there is a Metal guy who recognized me so we chatted, which was a nice way to start the night.  Then once my bros Chewy and Eric arrived we headed out.  However, I didn't get the memo because they were both wearing Thin Lizzy tees while I was flying Motörhead.  Awkward.  The BART ride was uneventful but I was inside the arena less than 5 minutes and miraculously ran into 6-7 old friends immediately.  METAL.  It was one of those shows that felt like a high school reunion more than a mere gig.

I've known these people since we were all teenagers going to Metal shows in San Francisco and the East Bay.  Oh Lord, yeah.

The final Bay Area performance of Black Sabbath started right around 8:45pm on this Thursday night on this fifteenth day of September in the year two thousand and sixteen.  The players known collectively as "the band" appeared onstage as the curtain fell with the unholy riff monster pounding darkness of the composition titled 'Black Sabbath'.. and for the next 2 hours or so we were given a final sermon by the band who started it all.

The San Jose show in February had been perfection with even the notoriously inconsistent Ozzy being strong of voice and not annoying at all between songs.  Tonight was almost a carbon copy of that show in the best possible way.  Having seen this final lineup twice before from up close it was actually a nice change to watch them from further back to appreciate the stage production and also the finer details of the great sound mix.  Oh Lord, yeah.

Tonight's setlist differed from January only by the exclusion of a song from that final new Sabbath album that I haven't bothered to listen to (yet).  So it was all old time songs performed in their original forms.  I still can't believe a Christian band hasn't covered 'After Forever' (yet).  'Hand Of Doom' was my favorite performance of the night.. but 'War Pigs' will always be my favorite song.  Watching the Hand of Iommi a final time in person was bittersweet but reminded me how music can be a time machine back and forth between moments in your life.  I know there are folks who crossed their arms and said "No Bill Ward, No Sabbath" which is unfortunate because the young gun drummer Tommy Clufetos plays like a young Bill Ward.  Geezer will always be the quintessential ying of Doom to Iommi's yang of Doom; the black vegan heart of Black Sabbath.  Ozzy is Ozzy.. Sometimes the worst example of Metal... but sometimes you're reminded how great he was and can still sort of echo.  Although he wasn't as chatty as at the past couple of shows, he was all business and his voice for this final Bay Area curtain call was strong.  Oh Lord, yeah.

Fourteen songs and then Sabbath said goodbye to The Bay Area (after) forever.  According to some Internets research the Ozzy-versions of Sabbath played 23 shows in The Bay Area (the 415, 510, and 408 area codes) between their first visit in 1970 to this year.  According to the Umlaut Archives I was fortunate to have witnessed 5 of these performances.  Given how good this final version of Ozzy Sabbath is it's hard to remember how profoundly Iron Maiden blew them off the stage at OzzFest 2005 even with Bill Ward in the lineup.  That being said it's awesome that Sabbath and the band's legacy is going to the finish line very strong.  Oh Lord, yeah.

[Photo courtesy of Timo's iPhone]

On the way back to my car via BART, some pimply-faced teenagers called me a fag.  Actually, a weird incident happened on the BART return trip when 2 other Sabbath fans and I were caught in a train that evidently was going out of service; I was still 2 stations from my final stop.   In typical BART customer service fashion no one responded to my intercom request when I pressed the button on 2 different "emergency" intercom speakers.  Finally one of the other trapped Sabbath fans simply pulled the emergency door release and we were freed.  Bizarre.. Then as I waited for the next train heading my way literally the only other person on the platform was a drunk guy who has a copy of Murder In The Front Row.  METAL.   Anyway, I eventually made it back to Casa de Umlaut safely.  Oh Lord, yeah.

Now I will say adieu and merci boucoup to Black Sabbath.  With Sabbath due to play their "final" show in December, who would have thought both Motörhead and Sabbath would cease to exist within a year of each other!?  My name is Lucifer.. Please take my hand.. one last time.

Oh Lord, yeah.