Black Sabbath @ Birmingham O2 Academy
Originally billed as the reuniting of the classic original four-piece, this was actually Butler/Iommi/Osbourne + A.N. Otherdrummer (Tommy Clufetos, to give him his actual name). With all the legal shenanigans between ‘the management’ and Bill Ward which meant the latter felt he could not take his place behind the tubs, expectations had been lowered significantly.
When you throw in the fact that Ozzy Osbourne has been a cartoon character with a shot voice for many years, while guitar hero Tony Iommi has been stricken with cancer of late, even the fact that my first experience of Sabbath live, twenty years after they first entered my record collection, would be a warm-up show in their home town in a venue far too small to accommodate demand, felt tinged by an sense of disappointment.
A few flat notes aside, Ozzy was in tremendous form, showing the benefits of working with a proper vocal coach and still heaving buckets of ice water into the front rows with the abandon of a teenager, albeit a teenager with heavy eyeliner, a frog-like paunch and who totters along like a goat operating only on its hind legs.
Geezer Butler, never one to steal focus, thundered along with understated heft. Most eyes, of course, were on Iommi and he was imperious, looking well despite his lymphoma treatments, humbly acknowledging the love of the room with several chants of his name breaking out. This was his bravery being celebrated, but also the fact that back in the late 60’s he, along with his bandmates, took the influence of the blues, jazz and Aston’s industrial environment to create something utterly unique, and which has influenced many since.
To my mind, the song that gave them their name is, as the first track on their debut LP (also titled Black Sabbath), about as astonishing a statement of intent as has ever been recorded.
To hear that, as well as other classics like Fairies Wear Boots, Children Of The Grave and a particularly sprightly take on The Wizard played live was certainly wish fulfilment after all this time; to finally see these inventors of a genre, despite their advancing years and recent setbacks, was a treat indeed.
Picture of Birmingham show taken from Birmingham Mail.