Black Sabbath are the originators of heavy metal. There is no doubting that. Without their combination of doom, gloom, groove, and distortion, there would be so many fewer bands who explored and excelled in the genre. Many bands owe Sabbath a major debt of gratitude, for breaking down barriers for decades.
The original Princes of Darkness came to Rexall Place in Edmonton on April 22nd, and they left a loud crowd happy after a rousing set that incorporated most of their major songs, along with three of the newer ones.
While their latest reunion effort, 13, is a solid metal album, almost picking up where they left off with Ozzy Osbourne at the helm (while we continue to ignore the Dio days), playing only three songs from the album was the right choice. When you see a group of legends live, you want to hear the classics, not only the new ones. There was a noticeable difference in the audience when they would belt out something that has been around forever compared to a new one. The audience gobbled up the hits, like “Iron Man,” “N.I.B.,” “War Pigs,” and “Paranoid.”
To begin the show, crowds were met with incredible lineups outside of Rexall Place. Personally, when I arrived at the show at 8PM, the line was easily 4,000 people deep, spanning from the doors of the stadium, across the long foot bridge, into the adjoining parking lot, where it swerved for what seemed to be an endless line of black-clad, anxious, fans. This prevented us from even getting a glimpse of the opening act, Reign Wolf. He must have been playing to a nearly empty stadium, which is unfortunate, because he would have been worth checking out. Surprisingly, the line moved at a reasonable pace, but it still took 45 minutes to get inside. It was a surprise, as Rexall is home to many concerts, and having a line like that was a major failure on their part.
The plus side, is that once inside and seated, it wasn’t a long wait until Black Sabbath took the stage. They began with Ozzy shouting for some noise, before the gloomy, opening chords of “War Pigs” ran through the arena. And the show was on.
Personal highlights included the constant, heavy, and underrated riffing of the timeless legendary guitarist, Tony Iommi. He brought the thunder on every single song. The sound was perfectly balanced, which is rarely the case in Rexall, and all the elements of the band were easily heard. Too many times had it been difficult to hear the vocals there, or have the guitar be buried under too much low end. But this one was balanced perfectly, and the sonic gloom was resonating through the whole arena.
Most of the songs were hits, and there were very few misses by the band. While the drum solo could have been shorter, the quick bass solo leading into the beginning of “N.I.B.” was pretty cool. The slow, grinding, eponymous song “Black Sabbath” was one of the highlights, and led to a brief reflection on how advanced this band was back in the day. That song is some serious evil, and would have been unheard of for audiences of the early 70’s. Impressive.
As for the lead singer that I love to hate, Ozzy was on his game. Or, at least, on as much game as he has left. He is old. You can’t help but feel bad for him as he shuffles around the stage, hunchbacked and moving like an old woman. He has to be on his last legs, which really is another reason to see this band on this tour. I almost wanted him to stand at his mic stand, because it looked genuinely painful every time he moved.
But the old man can still command an audience. His banter with the crowd is repetitive and canned (it basically consists of yelling to see everybody’s hands, clapping in rhythm, chanting “hey” at the right times, and asking everyone how they are doing over and over), but they always managed to elicit a strong reaction from the crowd. People love Ozzy, seemingly forgetting the caricature he turned himself into on reality TV, and respecting him for what he has done for metal, and for music. While his voice was never very good, it is still the same now as it was decades ago. The songs still sound the same with him singing them. His voice has not disappeared after all of the years of abuse, which so many vocalists can’t say.
Once the band closed with their most famous song, “Paranoid,” balloons and confetti rained down from the ceiling, creating an impressive view from the 200 level, where I was sitting. It may have been a bit odd that such bad ass songsters, known for their darkness, had balloons and confetti, but it looked cool.
This was a fun show to watch. Black Sabbath has so many good songs, that it is worth going to the show. The new tunes may not be too well known, but they are good, and there is such an impressive catalogue, that there were few dull spots in the show. Very well done, by a very classic band.
A couple of quick notes: Sabbath took the stage at about 8:50 PM, and they played about 13 songs (I don’t remember exactly, but it was about that). They were on stage for approximately 2 hours.
See them while you still can.