On Saturday night, aging but still devilish heavy metal pioneers Black Sabbath descended upon (or, perhaps more accurately, ascended to) Philadelphia’s Wells Fargo Center with their particular brand of evil sounds.
Lead singer Ozzy Osbourne was joined by his co-founding bandmates Tony Iommi (guitar) and Geezer Butler (bass), as well as thousands of their fans, young and old, though mostly on the AARP end of the spectrum or approaching it.
Once I managed to sit through the abominable opener, Andrew W.K., and also come to terms with the fact that the lead singer of the band I was there to see can’t hold a tune, I had a pretty terrific time.
Below, some thoughts from the evening.
1. Ozzy Osbourne cannot sing. Not even a little bit.
I’m not sure if the 64-year-old frontman was ever able to sing, but if he once had any vocal talent whatsoever, it is gone. If you don’t believe me, just watch my video from last night of the band performing their 1970 song “War Pigs”, easily my favorite of their compositions. Osbourne’s vocals enter at 1:10, and they don’t get any better from there. Clearly, none of Black Sabbath’s fans care about this little detail.
2. Long live the drum solo.
I don’t remember the last time I saw a good rock drum solo prior to the Sabbath show. Drummer Tommy Clufetos (he’s taken over for original drummer Bill Ward, whom Ozzy said is too fat to tour) is a maniac, and he performed a maniacal drum solo, which a fan was kind enough to catch on video. The ridiculous thing starts at around 1:00. Turn up your speakers and watch. It’s so, so good.
3. It turns out Black Sabbath performed at Live Aid.
I thought I knew all of the performances from the 1985 Live Aid concert, at least the portion that took place at JFK stadium in Philadelphia. So when I heard a guy in the Wells Fargo Center bathroom bragging that he had seen Ozzy and company at Live Aid, I thought he was B.S.’ing. But he wasn’t. Black Sabbath — with Osbourne at the microphone — did a three-song set at Live Aid, and fortunately it wasn’t longer. Somehow, Sabbath sounds better nearly 30 years later, in spite of Ozzy’s pitiful voice.
4. Ozzy Osbourne still throws buckets of water on people.
To the artists who complain about looking out into an audience and seeing a bunch of cell phones pointed at them, do what Osbourne does: throw buckets of water on everyone. Classic.
5. Black Sabbath wrote some of the best heavy metal songs ever.
And seeing them performed live by the men who conceived them, supported and energized by Clufetos’ insane talent, is something that shouldn’t be missed by any true metal fan. So if you’re reading this in any of the towns left on the tour, which wraps up on September 3rd in Los Angeles, you seriously need to buy your tickets now. And for any Philadelphia-based heavy metal fans looking to continue the madness, go see Serpent Throne at Johnny Brenda’s on Monday night. (Earplugs are available for sale at the bar, don’t worry.)
6. Andrew W.K. truly was the worst opener imaginable.
Apparently, Andrew W.K. is a talented pianist and producer, and he recently earned the world record for the longest continuous drumming session ever, at 24 hours. But all he did at the Sabbath show, which he opened, was play a bunch of digital music files while air-drumming and air-guitaring. So, so lame, and I wasn’t the only one who thought so:
— Amber King (@ClockworkAmber) August 10, 2013
— Tyler Loy (@WoopyJR77) August 11, 2013
“I think I played well tonight!” – Andrew WK as he unplugs his laptop and walks off the stage.
— Tom Whaley (@TomWhaley) August 11, 2013
Andrew wk, get the fuck off the stage.
— Derek Wisser (@Mister_Wisser) August 11, 2013
@AndrewWK get off the stage. you suck, you aren’t a dj
— no thanks (@Brokendesign) August 11, 2013
— Amber King (@ClockworkAmber) August 11, 2013
Thankfully if @AndrewWK gets sick they can replace him on this tour with a CD player.
— David Cook (@TheSubalternOne) August 10, 2013