DATE: Tuesday, August 6, 2013
BAND: Black Sabbath
VENUE: DTE Energy Music Theatre, Clarkston, MI
TOUR: 13 World Tour
SUPPORT: Andrew W.K.
1. War Pigs
2. Into the Void
3. Under the Sun
5. Age of Reason
6. Black Sabbath
7. Behind the Wall of Sleep
9. End of the Beginning
10. Fairies Wear Boots
12. Rat Salad / Drum Solo
13. Iron Man
14. God is Dead?
15. Dirty Women
16. Children of the Grave
Black Sabbath live is about the closest thing to a religious experience I'll probably ever have.
This week was my fourth time seeing them, having seen them twice before with Ozzy (Ozzfest 2004 and Ozzfest 2005) as well as once with Dio (touring as Heaven & Hell in 2007.) It was about fucking time to see Black Sabbath with Ozzy do a proper headlining show and not the abbreviated Ozzfest sets from summers past.
Before Black Sabbath took the stage, Andrew W.K. did some DJ thing that was so utterly boring and forgettable that it's hardly worth talking about. He basically did nothing, and the crowd returned about the same to him. The only time the crowd reacted at all was when he played Dio's "Last in Line" - that elicited a cheer and was easily the highlight of a job that could've been done by an iPod.
The sun hadn't even set when Black Sabbath hit the stage with "War Pigs." We were in the closest right section to the stage, in row C, which effectively is about 4th/5th row at the DTE (there's a center section that is slightly more in front, but those rows weren't actually in front of us, and thankfully not blocking our view.) I was thrilled that our tickets put us on the right, because Tony Iommi is a god damn beast. When I was sixteen I started teaching myself how to play guitar for one reason: Tony Iommi. Experiencing his playing that up close was incredible. While his stage persona is to largely plant and attend to business, up close it becomes apparent just how animated he is while he's playing. He's constantly cracking grins at Ozzy, looking to the crowd, and nodding approval. His playing was flawless throughout the set. That this guy had cancer and is still in treatments is just amazing to me. Tony Iommi truly is Iron Man.
Ozzy Osbourne has never been a great vocalist, and at 64, it's practically a miracle that he can still walk, let alone take the stage and yell into a microphone. Vocally his performances have weakened. I last saw him in 2010 with his solo band. Ozzy has gotten noticeably worse since then. It seems like he struggles to hear and find the correct pitch sometimes. That said, during the show, he's still good enough that his mistakes don't detract from the overall show. Where Ozzy fails as vocalist, he really succeeds as an entertainer, however. While he doesn't exactly run around the stage and chuck water at people like in days past, he's still about as active as anyone could hope. I've never seen any performer that can work a crowd quite like Ozzy. His attitude on stage is also fantastic. He's enthusiastic, and humble. When the band launched into Iron Man, Ozzy pointed at Tony: "He is Iron Man!" At the end of the show, Ozzy got onto his knees and did a Wayne's World "we're not worthy" bow to the crowd. During the show, Ozzy constantly points to Tony and Geezer. He's basically a cheerleader for some of the greatest musicians rock's ever had. That's not such a bad thing.
Geezer Butler and Tommy Clufetos were a rock solid rhythm section. The band's mix, even this close, was crystal clear and beautiful. One advantage to a one-guitar band is that you don't get the sonic mud of a mix that other bands become prone to. Feeling Geezer's bass live is one of those feelings that's just
While I would've preferred Bill Ward on drums, at no point during the set was I actually thinking that. Clufetos is competent drummer and plays with far more energy than I witnessed from Bill in 2004 or 2005. While I still would've preferred Bill's involvement in some, even any capacity, I cannot say that his absence negatively impacted my enjoyment of the concert.
The band's set was a good mix of new and old. "Under the Sun" and "Behind the Wall of Sleep" were new for me, and incredibly welcome. Other classics, like "Into the Void" still seem fierce, and fresh. The new material fit into the set well. "Age of Reason" sounds like something that fell off of Volume 4
and was forgotten about until now. "End of the Beginning" borrows a little too heavily from Sabbath's catalog (e.g. "Black Sabbath" and "Dirty Women") but it still rocked. Ozzy struggles quite a bit on "Methademic" but I was glad it hasn't been cut from the set (yet.) It's a solid uptempo rocker. "God is Dead?" works well live, and is a good reminder of how much better the Rick Rubin produced 13
is compared to those new songs included a decade and a half ago on Reunion
It is probable that this will be Black Sabbath's last tour, and even more likely that 13 will be their last album. This made the tour somewhat of a "bucket list" event for me. Black Sabbath has been such an enduring influence for me, that to miss them coming around (with new material, no less) would be sacrilege. And if it is their last tour, it's a hell of a way to go out. This is a band that, musically, is tight. They're overwhelmingly enthusiastic about what they're doing. They can drop such serious songs on their legion of fans, but still while cracking a smile. When the guys were standing off stage about to come back on for the obligatory "Paranoid," Tony hit Ozzy over the head with his guitar strap and they both started laughing. When Tony is playing a somber riff, Ozzy strolls over and tries to break his composure.
This is the type of band where you wish you could take the experience, the music, the attitude, the atmosphere of the show, and just freeze it in time, and take it with you into the void.
(My friend filmed God is Dead?
from the show. I cleaned up the audio a bit in Pro Tools.)