At GM Place Stadium on Saturday, October 20
Those Ozzy fans sure are a rowdy bunch. I saw one inebriated dude in an Iron Maiden T-shirt attempting to get a mosh pit started right in front of a merch table along the GM Place promenade. Just two or three of his buddies joined in the fracas, though, and only briefly, as they were drawn away by the sound of wailing guitars inside the arena proper, where the singer of the opening band was bounding about in a frilly turquoise frock. What the hell? Had horror-obsessed hard-rocker Rob Zombie–better known for dressing like a dreadlocked, subway-dwelling bag man–been given a complete make-over?
Nah. Turns out the unannounced warm-up act was actually melodic Los Angeles metalcore band In This Moment, which is led by powerhouse howler Maria Brink. The peroxided and tattoed belter led her quintet through prog-tinged tunes from their debut CD, Beautiful Tragedy , though the majority of the assembled metalheads were still jostling for spots in the one-cup-per-person beer lineups. Those thirsty peeps missed the ponytailed Brink gingerly rearranging her bodice after abusing her vocal cords in a flailing headbanger crouch.
After In This Moment's short but hugely impressive set–they would prove to be the most musically compelling act of the night–hordes of black-shirted roadies swarmed the stage to prepare for Rob Zombie's multimedia assault. Seven video screens of different sizes were arranged amid an array of grinning gargoyles, glowing skulls, and–in keeping with Zombie's B-movie infatuation–a huge poster of the original Wolf Man. A mind-bending cartoon montage of marauding monsters, grisly ghouls, and naked chicks flashed across those screens as Zombie, in his favourite skeleton vest, sprinted around the stage to the churning strains of "American Witch". Two curvaceous go-go dancers kept a beat that was accentuated by continuous bursts of flame. With the price of fuel these days, Zombie's show must cost a mint to keep on the road, so you can't blame him for trying to recoup the expense by showcasing clips from his 2003 horror flick, House of 1000 Corpses . Gotta keep those special-edition DVDs moving somehow.
Zombie's live show is a riveting display of sight and sound, but it makes you wonder if all the eye-popping effects disguise a lack of potent tunes. The guy's been around for quite some time yet, apart from the odd hit like "Dragula", hasn't produced many standouts. Ozzy Osbourne, on the other hand, has an immense catalogue of killer tunes, most of them stemming from his time with heavy-metal godfathers Black Sabbath. But for some unholy reason he only performed one of those, 1970's "Paranoid", and made the crowd wait until the very last song to hear it. What a twisted old sot!
While the set list didn't thrill the old-school metalheads in their worn-out Sabbath T's, Ozzy did the next best thing by concentrating on his first two solo albums, which owed most of their success to the incendiary fretwork of virtuoso Randy Rhoads. Long-time guitarist Zakk Wylde did a commendable job of bringing the Marshall-powered noise on Rhoads-era tunes like "Crazy Train", "Suicide Solution", "Mr. Crowley", and "I Don't Know", while for his part the 58-year-old Ozzman made a valiant effort at singing. Unfortunately, Osbourne's vocals have never shone in concert–not that it matters to his legions of unquestioning fans. Whenever his voice falters, all he has to do is clap his hands over his head and shout "Let's go fuckin' crazy!" and the throngs respond as if they'd just watched Jesus Christ doing tequila shots with Anton LaVey. Such is the eternal and all-encompassing power of the metal god. Who else could get away with charging 25 bucks for men's undies with "I Don't Wanna Stop" emblazoned on the ass?