Concert Review: Black Sabbath in Edmonton

Concert Review: Black Sabbath in Edmonton

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.

Black Sabbath play Rexall Place in EdmontonWhile 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.

Review: First Edmonton Oil Kings game

I have been to many, many Edmonton Oiler games over the years. Back in the day (when the team won games instead of simply embarrassed themselves during them), my family was lucky enough to split season tickets. It was always a good time.

The past few years, however, it has stopped being fun. Watching an inferior team makes for most contests to be quite boring, and the prices have spiraled so out of control, that seeing a game is unaffordable for the average person, like me. Now, seeing an Oilers game may be a once-in-a-season occurrence, most often tied into scoring some free tickets.

oil kingsTherefore, to satisfy our hockey needs, a friend and I went to our first Edmonton Oil Kings game last night, versus the Calgary Hitmen. I like WHL hockey, and the quality is good, so we figured to give it a try.

And it was excellent. Superior to an Oilers game on many levels.

Here are some notes (mainly positives):

  1. Nice to see a winning team! The Oil Kings took over first place with their 7-3 win last night.
  2. Those cool alternate jerseys. I am not a fan of the gaudy blue and reds they usually wear, but I like the black and neon green they are sporting. You can tell the fans reacted well to them as well, since there was a significant number of fans wearing the new colours. Not too sure about the logo, but the design is modern, bright, and fun.
  3. The price. Seats in row 14 nearer to one of the corners were $25 each. Those same tickets for an Oilers game would probably be $175.
  4. The lower price also contributes to a better environment. Tons of people decked out in Oil Kings gear, which is always great to see. I guess you don’t mind buying your kid a t-shirt or jersey when the games themselves aren’t costing you an arm and a leg.
  5. The quality of the hockey is strong. Again, it’s a winning team here. The Oil Kings went to the WHL finals last season and went o the Memorial Cup the year before. They are solid. And, to be fair, it’s not really that big of a drop off from the quality of Oiler games, aside from the opposition. The Oilers are terrible and make rookie mistakes. When the Oil Kings make those mistakes it is ok. This is junior.
  6. Family atmosphere. Tons of families there. And that was great to see. The Oilers have pretty much priced families out, so it is nice to see they still come out in droves to see good hockey in this town.
  7. Overall, much younger crowd.
  8. Great players. It was awesome to see New York Islander Griffin Reinhart play. Along with other future NHLers like Curtis Lazar. These kids are good.
  9. No drunken a$$holes. These are common at Oiler games. Not so much here.
  10. Leaner crowds. It is nice they block off part of the upper deck. Having fewer people in the arena makes the concourse area, washrooms, and concession lineups, much more pleasant to deal with.
  11. Only negative: concession and beer prices are the same. I thought maybe they would have dropped their beer prices a little for the Oil Kings, but they remained the astronomical $8.25 for a cup.

Great job by the Oil Kings. It was a fun game to watch, lots of good highlights. I will definitely be going back this season.

Because I can afford to.

Open Letter from Daryl Katz

Rejoice all Oiler fans, both first tiers and second tiers!

Your owner cares about you!

katzSo much so that he is willing to apologize mid-season for the terrible hockey product that he has put on the ice this season. Who does this? In the middle of the year? Sure, there is no chance the Oilers are going to make the post-season this year, for the eighth straight season, but does it make the fans feel any better that their owner believes there is no shot?

Daryl Katz wrote an open letter to Oiler fans today, begging them for more patience in their rebuild. More patience, but of course, make sure you don’t stop buying those tickets and merchandise.

I wonder what the real goal for Katz is in owning the Oilers. He says he was always a fan of the team, and that is good enough. But, what is his incentive to win? He is able to put an inferior product on the ice, run by a string of incompetent management, where the only thing poor results gets you is a promotion (looking at Kevin Lowe here), and the fans will still crawl all over themselves in order to get season tickets. There is still a three year waiting list in Edmonton for season tickets, and this is for a team that hasn’t made the playoffs since their miracle (read: fluke) run to the Cup finals in 2006.

’06!

Now, with the team in the gutter once again, and on their way to year another lottery pick, interest in the team is waning. It has got to the point where it is becoming tough to give tickets away to games, when someone can’t go. Sure, the ticket would be free, but people are saying no, because they know they are probably going to see a bad game from a bad team that will end up as a frustrating loss. That, plus, there is the general inconvenience of going to an Oilers game. The parking costs, the crowds, the horribly uncomfortable seating at Rexall Place, the overpriced food and drink…

I despise the Oilers, but love hockey, and I have already turned down free tickets on more than one occasion this year. I would never usually do that, at least because I would want to see the other team.

It is also at the point where there is a major social media movement called “Lowe Must Go.” People are speaking up. And people are angry.

A major problem is that the fans haven’t stopped supporting this team with their wallets. People will still pay $200 for a ticket to the game, plus another $100 for parking, beer, food, and merch. Stop it. If you aren’t paying for the product, maybe they will see that the fans require something worth watching in order to charge exorbitant prices for.

But no longer.

As hilarious as it is to listen to talk radio after yet another loss has piled up, I can tell that this town has had enough. We are upset, because we don’t see change. We see Kevin Lowe, a poor coach, become a poor GM, become a poor president. And we still think that everything is being run through him. I get it, he and Katz are friends. It would be hard to fire a friend. But the results have to be obvious. The wins aren’t there. Since Lowe has been in charge, the Oilers have the fewest points in the NHL over that time span. And it is a long time. There are a lot of bad teams and poor franchises that have been better than the Oilers. The Florida Panthers have been better than the Oilers over that span.

And a letter to fans is supposed to make that better?

It is just another shot to the face of the fans in this city, ones who want nothing more than to cheer to their team with a little hope.

But, the hope is gone.

Even your owner agrees.

Sabbath Bloody Sabbath

I had to debate a fair amount if I should get tickets to Black Sabbath or not. I am still a bit of a metal head, and love that these classic bands are still doing the rounds. I have to say that I was impressed with their latest album, 13, which still maintains a lot of the feel of their old music. But still I wondered if I should spend the money to go, plus endure the inconvenience of having to ever attend something at Rexall Place.

blacksabbathThe largest decision was weighing my dislike for Ozzy Osbourne with the fact that we may never get the chance to see this band again. I was never a fan of Ozzy’s solo career, and his voice is far and away the worst thing about Sabbath, in my opinion. Yes, he gave personality to the band, and he is definitely an iconic frontman, but I never really got on board with his voice or his consistent, follow-the-guitar, vocal rhythms. Plus, the fact that he ended up being little more than a reality show cartoon character really turned me off of him.

But, let’s be honest. This is Black Sabbath. A pioneer band, without whom we would not have seen so many great metal acts follow in their footsteps. They may never tour again, so I am glad to get a piece of it while I can.

Now, I just need to keep my fingers crossed, as they already have been since I developed a taste in music, that there will someday, somehow be a Led Zeppelin reunion tour.