When Black Sabbath were announced as headliners of Download 2012 I was gutted I could not attend due to exams, I thought I’d never see the masters in the flesh. But two years on from the announcement I am here, queuing at the O2 to see Ozzy Osbourne, Tony Iommi, Geezer Butler and Tommy Clufetos (replacing Bill Ward). One of the things I love about seeing bands who have been around for a while, are the stories of the older fans attending. One fan in the queue said to his friend “I remember when we always used to buy the shirt and programme, now I can barely afford the shirt. I’m only buying it as it may be the last time we see them.” With some T-shirts costing up to £25, hoodies costing £60 and signed CDs £50 and no tour programme in sight, times certainly have changed.
Seated right at the back on the top tier, I still had a good view of the stage. However before Black Sabbath started their UK tour, it was time for the support, Uncle Acid and the Deadbeats. The band, signed to Lee Dorrian of Cathedral‘s record label Rise Above were met with a large cheer walking onto the stage despite many in attendance not knowing who they were. Looking dashing in suits, they opened with ‘Mt. Abraxas’ from their recent critically acclaimed album, Mind Control. They wasted no time in unleashing their Sabbath inspired riffs. But it wasn’t truly until 2nd song, ‘Mind Crawler,’ that they hit their stride. Up next clapping started when the opening to ‘I’ll Cut You Down’ broke out. The band’s audience interaction was short and sweet, they didn’t speak much apart from introducing themselves and thanking the audience. They did though dedicate ‘Poison Apple’ to one of their inspirations, Charlie Manson. Uncle Acid may have been criticized for not doing enough to get the crowd motivated, but they’re not that type of band; it’s all about their music taking you on a journey. During set closer ‘Desert Ceremony’, I imagined myself on a journey through a desert similar to one found in Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, that’s the effect of the band’s music. Uncle Acid and the Deadbeats have become something of a phenomenon, going from obscurity, to sold out shows and as the support to Black Sabbath’s European tour and their eight song set proved it. It’s safe to say Uncle Acid and the Deadbeats won lots of new fans tonight.
1. Mt Abraxas
2. Mind Crawler
3. I’ll Cut You Down
4. Death’s Door
5. Poison Apple
6. Valley of the Dolls
7. Over and Over Again
8. Desert Ceremony
The curtain came down as the sound check begun. After twenty minutes, Ozzy’s voice blasted out the speakers, the audience went wild as he let out a ghostly laugh. The lights went out and sirens filled the air, as ‘War Pigs’ kicked in. The curtain was lifted up and there they were, Ozzy, Tony and Geezer. Ozzy went straight into frontman mode getting the audience to clap and sing along. This is one of the only times in a gig I got annoyed when people weren’t singing along, it’s Black Sabbath for God’s sake! If you’re sitting there motionless during “Generals gathered in their masses!” then there is something wrong with you. After a stellar ‘War Pigs’ it was time to go “Into the Void” from my favourite Sabbath album, Master of Reality. From then on it was anthem after anthem with the odd rarity and new song thrown in. ‘Snowblind’ was a treat to hear as images of cocaine and Al Pacino were broadcast behind the band, adding to the drug haze. It was genuinely chilling to hear ‘Black Sabbath,’ the song that arguably started heavy metal. ‘Behind the Wall of Sleep’ and ‘N.I.B’ followed.
43 years on, the material is still as influential and powerful as it was when first released. There were also some incredible solos, Geezer’s bass solo was mesmerizing and at 64, he is still one of the greatest bass players alive. After ‘Rat Salad,’ Tommy Clufetos unleashed a fantastic, if overlong drum solo which proved to all the doubters he was keeping Bill Ward’s legacy intact. Then they played a stellar ‘Iron Man’ and the comeback anthem ‘God is Dead?’ from 13, that topped the UK charts earlier this year. ‘Technical Ecstasy‘s ‘Dirty Women’ was played before finishing with my favourite Sabbath track ‘Children of the Grave’. However there was still time for an encore, and as the opening notes of ‘Sabbath Bloody Sabbath,’ turned into ‘Paranoid,’ the whole arena erupted into madness as Ozzy urged the audience to “Go fucking crazy!”
It was a fantastic gig and one of the best, but it was not perfect. One of my issues with the band was Ozzy himself, he unfortunately became rather annoying with his constant attempts to get the crowd’s arms waving and his constant requests to ‘go fucking crazy’ got repetitive. It didn’t ruin the gig at all, considering the amount of excess and drugs Ozzy has taken it is remarkable he is still able to run around the stage, jump and sing for an hour and 40 odd minutes. But there are only so many times you can hear “I can’t hear you. I said I can’t fucking hear you.” His voice though was magnificent apart from a few slip ups, but all can be excused because he’s the Ozzfather and I wouldn’t be writing this review if it weren’t for him (yes I am aware I am reviewing a live concert of his band, but I wouldn’t have started my MetalRecusants journey if it weren’t for the music of Ozzy and co and all the countless legions of bands it has influenced). Upon leaving the gig, a couple who sat next to me who last saw Sabbath in 1976 said “I’m surprised to see so many kids here, I thought it would just be us old people!” Looking around they were right, there were people of all ages there, from parents taking their children, teenagers, adults and people the same age as the band themselves. Sabbath is certainly a band to unite metalheads of all ages under one banner.
Ozzy ended the set by saying “Thank you, good night, have a good Christmas and I’ll see you in the New Year. God bless you all!” If you have a chance to see Sabbath in the new year, please take the chance to do so. For a group of 60 year olds, they are an inspiration not only for their stamina, but legacy as well. 40 years on, they’re still the Kings and will be for another 40 years.
Into the Void
Under the Sun/Every Day Comes and Goes
Age of Reason
Behind the Wall of Sleep
N.I.B. (with Geezer Butler bass solo)
End of the Beginning
Fairies Wear Boots
Rat Salad (with Tommy Clufetos drum solo)
God Is Dead?
Children of the Grave
(Sabbath Bloody Sabbath Intro)