Black Sabbath's Vancouver show ruled by monster riffs

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      At Rogers Arena on Thursday, August 22

      Talk about a study in contrasts.

      Strolling past Science World on the way to see Black Sabbath last night, we happened upon quite an unusual sight. Hundreds of well-to-do-looking folk dressed all in white were converging on an area beside the big silver golf ball, many hauling along tables, chairs, and white tablecloths. It was one of those exclusive Le Dîner en Blanc events, where the beautiful people show up at a certain outdoor location at the last minute with everything they need for a big fancy feast.

      Not many of them appeared to be Sabbath fans.

      A minute or so later, though, we did enter the Land of Oz, where hundreds of not so well-to-do-looking folk dressed all in black were converging on Rogers Arena to see the originators of metal play their first Vancouver show since 1999. It wasn't exactly Heavy Metal Parking Lot, but there was definitely a little more wildness in the air than over at the hoity-toity affair.

      And from the looks of things Le Dîner en Noir was only offering up two courses: Budweiser 'n' weed.

      That was only outside the rink, of course. Inside you could buy all kinds of beer, as long as you were okay with dropping $8.75 for a cup of their cheapest swill. I tell ya, if Rogers Arena ever gets up the nerve to charge ten bucks for a lousy beer, I bet I'll complain about that too.

      Speaking of complaints, at this stage of the game I've decided there's not much point in whining about Ozzy Osbourne's famously lacking vocals. Lord knows I've done enough of that the last few times I've reviewed his shows--and even the first time, back in 1982. This time around I told myself I'd stick by the FATS principle—Forget About the Singing—and just try to focus on the great old Sabbath tunes and Tony Iommi's spellbinding riffs.

      That said, when Sabbath first hit the stage, Osbourne's vocals were-shockingly-not bad! As the band pounded through "War Pigs" and "Into the Void", there was a semblance of power in his voice. It wasn't until he got to the night's fourth selection, the cocaine-inspired "Snowblind", that he started to lose it big time.

      To his credit, though, Osbourne can still holler "Let's see some fucking hands!" with the best of them.  And his rabid followers still faithfully obey.

      The other three guys in the band were killer. Though 65 and battling cancer, Iommi has never sounded better, blasting out fierce, 40-year-old guitar licks that somehow still sound fresh. And bassist Geezer Butler, a year younger, is as rock-solid a bottom end as you'll find.

      There has been a lot of chatter recently from naysayers who feel that, without fourth original member Bill Ward in the lineup, it's not really Black Sabbath. They might have a point. But the group really did get the next best thing with 33-year-old drummer Tommy Clufetos, who Ozzy had stolen from Rob Zombie's band back in 2010. He sounded particularly impressive on the 1970 instrumental "Rat Salad", which sequed into an extended drum solo that left you thinking Neil Peart had better watch his back.

      The high point of the show came when Iommi cranked out the deathless opening riff to "Iron Man", which was followed by "God is Dead?", the first single off the band's new, Rick Rubin-produced album, 13. Up until that point the setlist had been identical to that used during the band's last few gigs, but for one reason or another Sabbath skipped two songs it had been playing after "God is Dead?"—"Dirty Women" and "Children of the Grave"—and went straight to "Paranoid", via an intro riff from "Sabbath Bloody Sabbath".

      And that was it. Sabbath left the stage and didn't return. At that point maybe it was sticking by the Sharon Osbourne-instilled OBOE principle: Ozzy's Bedtime Overrules Encore.

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      Aug 23, 2013 at 7:09am

      Too bad you missed Children of the Grave. The show in Toronto was bloody awesome. I was also amazed that Ozzy's got his voice back. Lucky for us it was the whole show. The rest of the band members for the TO show were awesome. I waited 20+ years to see these guys together. It is now a bucket list item I can cross off.


      Aug 23, 2013 at 8:09am

      they cut it short because Ozzy lost his voice. great show though.


      Aug 23, 2013 at 8:27am

      Great review. My first time seeing Sabbath and I fucking loved it!!! In a live setting those monster riffs were even more monstrous. Geezer Butler pummelled me with the low end. When he started the into to N.I.B. the crowd, including myself, went apeshit. Clufetos was so good I quickly forgave the band for axing Bill Ward. What a show!!


      Aug 23, 2013 at 11:04am

      Good and accurate review. In some ways, I thought Iommi with his power and composure was the real star of the show. Although I love Ozzy and just like to be in the same great big room with him and all the old stoners I used to go to school with 30 years ago. I saw Ozzy on his solo tour a few years ago in Edmonton, and I thought he definitely looked older, more tired, more desperate to keep his voice going.


      Aug 23, 2013 at 11:15am

      C'mon folks, Ozzy had pitch problems even when he was a young man. That's part of the alchemy that makes Sabbath one of the best bands EVER...and they certainly proved it last night. I'm a little bummed they cut Children of the Grave, but Fairies Wear Boots was worth the price of admission alone.


      Aug 23, 2013 at 12:42pm

      Yeah, fair review!
      Last saw Sabbath in 1973 at Birmingham Odeon (I'm from near Birmingham in the UK, home of some great rock bands). Back then,had to sleep on the pavement outside with my mates to make sure we got tickets. Those were the days. At least no Ticket Master fee!

      Great Gig:-) Old stuff the best for me. Fairies wear Boots, Paranoid, and Iron Man was simply sensational. They could have played that couple more times and everyone would've loved it.

      Yeah, Iommi is the star. Ozzy's voice did start off OK, then trailed on certain songs. The Bass wah, wah solo - nice touch, and that drummer's something else!

      Material from new Album, didn't hear enough of it. Although didn't excite me like old classics, I'll stick that in my collection soon! Loved every minute!!


      Aug 23, 2013 at 12:54pm

      Im not gonna criticize the Prince of Darkness' voice or appearance.....I loved every minute of it. I loved the four generations of fans........tres cool. Thanks Ozzy!!!!!!!!!!!!!!


      Aug 23, 2013 at 1:29pm

      common guys... the man's 65 yrs old... and has been hard after it for 40 + yrs. The imperfections of the raw primal dark sinister overpowering sound is what makes the Sabbath tunes so fcking awesome... pure, raw in your face droaning guitar licks.. bottom end for MILES, and now with the new drummer .. all i can say is WOW.. And Ozzy , even at his advance state of Decay, still gives me goose bumps and ready to walk through walls when he screams out O NO PLEASE GOD HELP ME...or COMMON !!!! I mean they are actualy playing REAL instruments, in a a way that noone before, or since ( OK maybe except for maybe Pantera and or Slayer if your 40 or under ... ) thanx to having hippy parents, these songs were my lulaby's.. and if i have it my way, i'll pass my love of fcking awesome music on to my kids the same way.... Keep it going boys, i'll never miss a show.. ever.

      Bernie dude

      Aug 23, 2013 at 5:35pm

      I felt the same as the above posters. I loved every second of it! I half expected Oz to lose his voice, he has done so for several years as the tours go on. But the incredible part of it was the crowd carried on with the lyrics! I was blown away how many people knew all the words, even the 65 yr old lady beside us. Everyone around us near our "seats" were estatic how good they sounded, and that we were really seeing Black Sabbath! Who ever thought they would ever tour again with all their aliments....
      The $150 tickets, $9 beers, $25 parking were well worth it! Thank you Tony, Ozzy, Geezer and Tommy for the great show! We love you all!


      Aug 23, 2013 at 5:41pm

      The show was amazing as expected until...Ozzy lost his voice during Fairies wear Boots you could see him hold his throat and even read his lips saying my voice is fucked to Geezer on the screen. To his credit he came out after Rat Salad and the drum solo and rocked Iron Man but he didn't even sing half the vocals for God Is Dead it wasn't a pitch problem his voice was gone!!!!Thus they cut it 3 songs shorter than any other gig they played this tour 62 minutes. I've been waiting 30 years to see them back together missed all the ozzfest stuff 10 years ago I love them to death but 60 minutes does not a show make. I wish them the best but come clean and tell the fans the truth reschedule the show!!!