Black Sabbath @ The O2
January 19th 2017
Fast forward into 2017 and I (after many missed opportunities) thought that “The End” of Black Sabbath was a worthy tour to catch before they crumbled into the heavy rock and metal history books of which they authored many years ago.
Now a huge venue and a huge band needs a suitably big support act and rising hard rock and blues busters Rival Sons took this coveted slot. Having first seen them back in 2012 supporting Black Stone Cherry, apart from the elapse of 5 years, not a lot has changed. Sure they have polished up their professionalism and got better kit, but my opinion is still the same. Underwhelming. They have a lot of precious materials to work with showcasing a knack for retro styles blues riffs, swagger by the jagger-full and a vocalist whose range nearly blew the roof off this dome. Yet it all seems lazily patched together with the same mid tempo ploddy beats, riff, chorus, beats, riff chorus repeat… It’s just not inspiring seeing such a talent going through to motions and certainly the overkill on the retro effects do nothing to mask their tepid blues by numbers formula.
The tolls of the bells rang loud over the PA at tonight’s chosen church of heavy metal in anticipation at the eerily empty stage. The crunch of Tony Iommi’s darkly menacing Gibson SG finally signaled the entry of the forefathers of metal and all round darkness. Speaking of which, the “Prince of Darkness” Ozzy Osbourne himself swiftly…no gently…no shuffled slowly, onto stage centre to utter the immortal words “What is this that stands before me?”. 20,000 Heavy Metal fans was the correct answer and they immediately showed their captors for the night they can sing as loud as any crowd they’ve witnessed over their last 40+ years of touring.
Ozzy Osbourne & Tony Iommi
After such longevity, its clear they had their live stage craft honed to absolute perfection as they slothly pummeled their way through an outstanding set of career spanning metal monsters. They may not move as fast, but they still gracefully levitated between songs and evaded intense fire cannons proving their theatrics were not of this world. The show was a set piece masterclass in suspense, perfect timing, humongous riffs and often surprisingly up-tempo dynamic shifts, often many times within a single song (Exhibit A: War Pigs).
The highlights for me was witnessing the grandfather of metal Iommi chugging our deeply tuned riffs which sounded as earth shattering today as i’m sure they did way back when. He has lost nothing, deftly skulking around the fretboard for those huge chords before dexterously dancing through epic solos with ease. The setlist was drawn primarily from their early heyday and those first 4 albums which defined the landscape for all who followed in their wake. The riff-fests of Children Of The Grave, Iron Man, Fairies Wear Boots and Into The Void were all stunning and gloomily anthemic.
As could be expected, Paranoid played us out to allow everyone to say farewell to the Black Sabbath (Osbourne, Iommi & Butler) in fitting style… on stage doing what they have always done, rocking, shocking and rolling!