Zakk Wylde has been Ozzy Osbourne‘s guitarist on and off for the past 30 years. Between shredding for the Sabbath frontman, his own band Black Label Society, and his solo material, he is now fronting his own Black Sabbath tribute band, Zakk Sabbath. Seeing as he’s the Ozzman’s axe-slayer, there is some legitimacy and credentials to this tribute act. Going for a second round across the U.S. this year, I had to check them out. Security was much tighter than usual at the venue following the Vegas shooting only a few days prior.
Opening for the Sabbath-playing power trio was another trio, Them Evils. I hadn’t heard them before, but I could see right away why they were picked to tour with Wylde. They have a hard blues rock/early 70s heavy metal vibe, somewhere in between Sabbath and AC/DC. They wear their influences on their sleeves as well, covering AC/DC’s “It’s a Long Way to the Top (If You Wanna Rock ‘n’ Roll)” and “Ace of Spades” by Mötorhead. Their sound is derivative, but well executed. Catchy hooks populate their tunes, and frontman Jordan Griffin‘s voice is like a smooth whiskey. Their set was a lot of fun, I will definitely be digging through their material.
Zakk & co. came on stage next. On bass was Blasko, also of Ozzy’s solo band. Joey Castillo (ex-Danzig, Queens of the Stone Age, Eagles of Death Metal) was on drums. The setlist was really solid, some of the best Sabbath has to offer: “Snowblind,” “Children of the Grave,” “Fairies Wear Boots,” “Into the Void,” “N.I.B.”. They did not play “Iron Man” or “Paranoid”. We’ve heard those songs a millions times and I’m sure Zakk has gotten tired of playing them live with Ozzy. I love how they played stuff that the original band haven’t played in a very long time like “Never Say Die,” “A National Acrobat,” and “Supernaut”. That’s a unique advantage of cover bands.
The three piece played really tight, knowing the Sabbath classics by heart. Zakk’s pinch harmonics were used somewhat sparingly, which was a nice touch, and thankfully not overused. Zakk’s gave his voice a certain Ozzy-esque twang that worked. He was a bit loose with his delivery, but I appreciated how they melodies flowed. From the proto-trashy riff of “Children of the Grave” to the trippy melodies of “Lord of This World,” you gotta love the Sabbath classics. The fans were really digging it too in this sold-out show.
Zakk went out a handful of times into the audience to solo. He went stage left and right, as well as playing right in the middle of the venue. I enjoyed the fan service, but the soloing got out of hand. There were some points where he was out for over five minutes in the audience playing the same kind of high-pitched stuff. At a certain point, it was just self-indulgent. They probably could have played at least two more Sabbath tracks if he just cut the solo time in half. I know that’s his shtick and a lot of people like that, but soloing doesn’t move me all that much. I’m a riff guy.
Since Black Sabbath is over (at least as far as we know), we’re going to need tribute acts like this to fill the void. Between Zakk Sabbath, Mac Sabbath, and all the other tributes around, we should be in good hands.