For someone like me that isn’t a heavy metal fan at all, I was stunned by how talented these musicians are and how incredibly powerful their concert was on September 3rd at the Los Angeles Sports Arena. Yes, these 60-plus year old rockers brought the heat on an already hot summer night.
With everything that they have been through, it makes me even more impressed that they are back making music. Even as recently as a year or so ago, the idea of the band putting the right pieces together for a last hurrah seemed like a long shot. Guitarist, Tony Iommi was diagnosed with cancer, Ozzy Osbourne’s on-going battle with sobriety and their original drummer Bill Ward’s exit for contractual reasons. Indeed, the past few years have not been kind to these heavy metal pioneers.
This was the last show of Black Sabbath’s North American tour. It saw them run through their standard set list, but the band wasn’t just going through the motions. The show had punch. For a group that’s been together on-and-off for 45 crazy years, there is very little that the band has left to accomplish. Yet with the release of their latest album, 13, the group’s first LP with Osbourne since 1978, Black Sabbath accomplished something it never could pull off during their earlier days: a No. 1 album on the Billboard 200.
“I just want to thank you for helping us get our very first-ever No. 1 record in the United States,” a completely drenched Osbourne yelled while pointing to the crowd. “We couldn’t have done it without you!”
Beginning with the thunderous “War Pigs,” (which I knew the words to) Sabbath was on top of its game, sounding crisp and precise. They played in front of a gigantic backdrop with multiple screens. Black Sabbath powered through classics like “Iron Man” and “N.I.B.” They were of course well received, but it was during new songs that Sabbath showed its grit. Their new drummer, Tommy Clufetos, proved to be an agreeable substitute for their original drummer as he pounded his kit aggressively. He blew us all away with his intensity. With Iommi’s rich guitar and bassist Geezer Butler’s pulverizing bass lines, the band managed to make the notoriously unforgiving Sports Arena actually sound like a venue fit for a concert.
Ozzy was his usual wild self. Between dousing himself and hurling buckets of water into the first few rows, at 64, Osbourne was at his energetic best. If he wasn’t yelling, “I can’t fucking hear you!” or pleading with fans to wave their arms from side-to-side, the singer was sprinting around on stage riling the crowd.
The band closed the two hour set with “Paranoid,” and then stood together triumphantly saluting the crowd. In the midst of unseasonably warm weather, Black Sabbath proved that they still had the musical and entertaining chops to impress all who attended.